Except for Bob

Carrie's sister is having a tough time with her husband, who is also Carrie's X, and their mother is planning a fun family gathering. Carrie is haveng none of it... maybe.

The mail in her box was stuffed with bits of flyer sticking out of the little slot.  Carrie inserted her key and unlocked the mystery bundle.  Visa bill, new credit card offer, Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes, a Telus reminder, Canadian Student Loan Centre.  Her stomach cringed at that envelope, but there was still more.   A card addressed to everyone—do you want to sell your house?  How asinine was that.  This is a co-op, housing for those who have opted out of buying.  Carrie turned over the card, examined the shiny happy realtors on the front, the mediocre bungalow they just sold 50K over asking before she dropped it into the blue bin placed below the mailboxes.  Wedged behind the rest of the mail was an envelope, an honest to goodness hand written envelope—a card from her mother. 

She’d recognized the handwriting even before confirming the return address.  The envelope was also a give-away.  It was a 1956 original—just like the card inside.  Carrie’s mother was unable to discard anything of use, and her father had been unable to pass up a good buy; a collection of vintage stationary and assorted greeting cards were the natural conclusion.  Carrie had acquired a pair of nylon pantyhose in her last care package from home.  They were a pair of first generation pantyhose still in its original packaging.  The company’s logo stamped in white across one taupe thigh peeked through a small plastic window amid its cardboard frame.  The odour of her parent’s basement lingered on it.  It had been in a box down there from before she was born.  She’d decided to keep it as a novelty—unopened, in her bureau drawer.  She never wore pantyhose.

With the bulk of her mail pressed into her armpit, she fingered open her mother’s card and took a deep breath.  “Merry Christmas,” it said in embossed letters next to a glowing-nosed reindeer prancing over snow-topped roofs.  It’s October!  She’s either losing it entirely, or she’s run out of her autumnal greeting cards and dipped into her holiday stash early.

Dear Carrie,

I hope this letter finds you well.  And just so you know, I realize that this is not yet the Christmas season, but my cause for writing does, so I thought that a festive card would put us both in the seasonal mindset, the mood to share with those less fortunate—to put our hearts into the giving season.

I’m letting out your room this Christmas.  I’m sure you won’t mind, you still have that air mattress, don’t you?  The one that practically blows itself up.  It really was quite something when you showed me that.  I even told my lady friends at bridge—they’d never heard of such a thing.  ‘Imagine that?’ they said,-a mattress that blows itself up.’ You will b ring it with you?  I got the feeling that they thought I was putting them on.

Anyway, Francine and the kids are staying with us.  Seems that Bob has been a bit testy, even aggressive since he was let go from work. He’s been trying to kill them, Francine says, but she won’t say how.  I hate to pry; it’s such a personal thing.  Can’t really blame her for staying with us until he cools down, comes to his senses.  I knew you wouldn’t mind about your room if you knew the circumstances—you and Francine have had your differences, but surely that is well in the past. Bob wasn’t much of a husband to you either, if you recall.

Maybe you could give him a call and see how he’s making out on his own.  He’s always liked chatting with you better than me anyway. He always makes some silly comment about ‘mother-in-laws’, in the general sense. Then I feel compelled to say something in defence, but when he starts teasing about wanting to ‘have’ the third of the Clarence girls—fill in his dance card so to speak; well, I just feel all uncomfortable, and then I get flustered and then he laughs—then I say something that hurts his feelings and he takes it out on your poor sister.  So, I’d really appreciate your stepping in here.  You could practice those counselling- psych skills you’ve been studying all this time. 

Won’t it be great to have the whole family together for the holiday, all except for Bob, unless you can straighten him out so he won’t make a mess of things?  You know how much I love the holidays.  Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Lots of love,

Mother

Carrie let out her breath, and counted to five.  She turned the card over in her hands and examined the fine print crammed into the final lines on the back of the card—“please bring along your fancy air mattress; your cousin Jessica is sleeping on the sofa.  She’s seven months along; it wouldn’t be right to ask her to sleep on the floor, even with a mattress.”  There were a few more words, but they were so cramped that they were little more than a smudge that hinted at the idea of words.  She started to laugh but stopped herself half way through a healthy chortle, it was wrong to laugh at such things.  Carrie slipped the card back into its envelope and dropped it onto the faces of the shiny happy realtors in the blue box.  Then she opened the inner door to the building and paused.  She looked at the bin of recycling, her vintage letter.  She sighed, though she tried not to.  She gathered her letter from the box, and then she went into her quiet apartment.

The End

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