Eugene Buchanan: Mom for the holidays

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Eugene Buchanan, magazines editor

— She’s gone. There, I said it. While we all have moms and other relatives who visit for the holidays, staying in tight quarters can often be taxing. Especially if your mom’s more eccentric than most.

It started when we arrived home at 6 p.m. Christmas Eve to find her car parked in our driveway and her sitting on the couch inside in pitch darkness. “There you are...I couldn’t find a light switch!” she exclaimed after I opened the front door and flipped on the switch, right where it was supposed to be.

We were more than happy to have her for a few days over the holidays. Then the bombshell hit. “Oh, I’m staying until Thursday!” she enthused, doubling her expected stay.

That’s not to say we didn’t welcome her or she didn’t contribute. Among her food items: a half-full packet of wild rice that would feed two kindergarteners. My wife quickly noticed the expiration date of March 2010. “Rice doesn’t expire,” mom countered.

She controlled the pace of the next day’s present-opening as much as she did foodstuffs. “Don’t open that yet,” she admonished our youngest as she reached for her stocking.

Her own presents came straight from the heart. I got a complete John McPhee collection of eight books, well-used with other people’s markings in the margins. The highlight was a full-sized globe, which she ended up taking back to return for a cheaper model. It also led to an hour-long diatribe on Middle East history and policy. The crux came when she gave our oldest daughter an ankle-length Buchanan plaid skirt she made in the 1970s (a recipient since childhood of Buchanan plaid boxers and scarves, I was thankfully spared). Forget that it’s the ugliest plaid imaginable, a cacophony of yellow, greens and reds that matched our daughter’s puke from Christmas Eve. The mothball smell trumped all. “You can’t marry into plaid,” my wife said, holding her nose to both odor and design.

On night three she made salad and French Onion soup – just the bellyful I craved after playing in a hockey tournament all day – washed down with a bottle of “expensive” wine. Ever the suspect, earlier my wife noticed that she had put a Zip-lock bag of moldy bacon in the fridge. As she took her last bite, she whispered, “Is this that bacon?” Sure enough, at the bottom of her bowl lay three small strips of the Grinch-colored flesh.

It was coincidence, of course, that our nine-year-old hurled her guts out two nights earlier on Christmas Eve, desecrating four comforters. But when my wife felt post-pork nausea, we connected the dots as if playing my daughter’s Dollar Store stocking stuffer.

My mom, you see, has a garbage disposal for a stomach that’s less particular than most other digestive systems. I came home for lunch one day, ate an apple and threw the core in the trash, and she fished it out, wiped the coffee grinds off and chomped in – all in front of my wide-mouthed daughter. Despite her intestinal toughness, she is allergic to cats, which might be why we have two -- maybe next year our kids will find another one under the tree.

And like cats, at restaurants she feels a compelling need to lick everyone’s plate clean before the server can collect them. “She’s not done yet!” she exclaimed when our waiter tried to remove our daughter’s plate, a lone pea wobbling near the rim. I could only slink in my chair hoping I didn’t know him. And even when she treats, you have to sneak back to add in more of a tip.

Toward the end of her stay she actually received an invitation from someone else of the elderly persuasion to go to gathering. But she missed the opportunity because she couldn’t figure out how to answer our phone, fumbling with the TV remote instead.

While that might have gotten her out of our hair for a spell, she got back into it the final night when, in a moment of weakness, I agreed to let my 12-year-old play barber on me. It wouldn’t have been so bad were it not for my mom swooping in like the cavalry. “Oh, I can fix it!” she exclaimed. Soon both were doting around my head with scissors as I sat resigned to my fate (notice that there’s no mugshot with this column?). “Looks a little longer on skier’s left,” said a friend shortly afterward.

On the bright side, she didn’t get lost up on Emerald Mountain or slurp tomato juice off the counter like she has before, and she only forced us to watch one of her avant-garde DVDs. She might have micro-analyzed my investment portfolio, parked with her bumper overlapping our front step, and called a mem-stick of photos a joy-stick, but she also brought that same joy to our holidays. Despite her quirks, we love her tons and look forward to every visit. And next time, we’ll leave the light on...

Comments

kyle pietras 2 years, 11 months ago

Awesome....love the stories Eug...it just says Steamboat!

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Jeff_Kibler 2 years, 11 months ago

My Mom died too soon to annoy me in such a manner. Count your blessings.

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pitpoodle 2 years, 11 months ago

Mr. Buchanan, personally I was offended by your disrespect. I lost my Mom a few years ago and believe me once Mom is gone, she's gone. You have set a terrible example for your children. Now, you can only hope that when they become adults, they will have more respect and love for your wife than you have showed to your own mother. You should be ashamed of yourself. I hope you are, Mr. Mean.

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jerry carlton 2 years, 11 months ago

Humorous but painful to almost anyone whose Mother and Father are dead. "Honor your Father and your Mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you." Exodus 20:12

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snowbirds 2 years, 11 months ago

HORRIBLE article ! ! ! As the mother of adult children, I was GREATLY offended by your ramblings. Finally, I'm wondering WHY the newspaper printed it ? ? ?

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Guinevere 2 years, 11 months ago

Exactly.  Why would you write this and put it in the newspaper?  Why?  I didn't find it funny at all, only mean.  How will you feel if your mother reads it - will you care?  In your long list of complaints against her,  I didn't notice her doing anything mean, unlike you.  You were embarassed in the restaurant, hoping the waiter didn't know you?  Grow up, you sound like a self-centered teenager.  Your mother may not be around for that much longer.   And now you really have embarassed yourself.  The pilot should have saved you and never printed this.

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Cory Prager 2 years, 11 months ago

I think some people should work on their sense of humor for their new year’s resolution. Did Santa not bring enough presents for all you uptight bloggers ? Good article Eug

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pitpoodle 2 years, 11 months ago

Cory, this is not funny in any way. You must have a screw loose.

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Cory Prager 2 years, 11 months ago

I have so many screws loose you have no idea pitpoodle. Eug was being sarcastic and I thought it was entertaining. Thanks for the funny article!

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Jeff_Kibler 2 years, 11 months ago

Let's dump on Mom For the holidays That will surely bring us Christmas cheer

Don't let her get so nearest While we chant Mommie Dearest The family's dirty laundry Has been aired

Awe full Lee Embarrassing That's how the kids see GrandMum here

Her children are such prizes Their lack of love surmises So clueless unaware of How she cared

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Cory Prager 2 years, 11 months ago

Jeff You should be a rapper you have some skills buddy.

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Denise Buchanan 2 years, 11 months ago

Truth be told… the article is factual, and Eugene’s mother won’t deny it! In his defense – he truly loves and admires her. But in order to entertain, he mentioned only the weird stuff, and should’ve realized that some readers would be offended. In her defense - she’s amazing in many ways: intelligent, active, generous and so on… but also quirky! (You always have to take the good with the bad!) She is far from the average mom/grandmother, and we hope she comes every Christmas!

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spidermite 2 years, 11 months ago

Eugene, You have hit a "sore spot" for alot of people. Printing this article was a bad decision. Especially this time of year.

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Jeff_Kibler 2 years, 11 months ago

Thx Corey. I aspire to be a finalist in next year's "Bad Poetry Awards" ceremony.

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Jeff_Kibler 2 years, 11 months ago

Denise, that's all fine and good. The story wasn't framed well. Hell, I gift my Dad a tin of cat food every Christmas. Not generic cat food. Gourmet Cat Food. Every time the market tanks he cries "poverty!" "Send me back the .308," he says. "I can't afford Alpo." He gifts me Spam-Lite 'cause it's more healthy.

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sedgemo 2 years, 11 months ago

As a founding member of the APDL (Anti Plaid Defamation League) I hereby protest the biased, one-sided slandering of a perfectly honorable, traditional Scottish tartan plaid. I suggest the editors provide an equivalent column inch article espousing the glories of the culture and the plaid, especially in light of the pending holiday which itself is identified by horrifying insipid drunken droolers singing rounds of "Auld Lang Syne" sung incorrectly. HNY all ;-)

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Eugene Buchanan 2 years, 11 months ago

Okay everyone, time for me to chime in. First off, I apologize profusely to anyone offended. It certainly wasn't my intention, nor was it to denigrate my, or anyone else's, matriarchs of the family. I love my mom very much, she knows it, and we involve her in a lot of our holidays and activities. She's a strong personality and it can be tight quarters when she visits, and I guess I let the stress of the situation get the best of me. For that I'm truly sorry. At the end of the story, after an edited-out comment about her calling a memory stick a joy-stick, I did mention that she brings that same joy to our holidays year after year. In hindsight, I should have drilled that point home further and packaged the piece in a bigger, tidy bow. The holidays are all about family and everyone's is different, and I appreciate and love mine like all of the rest of you. And believe me, I've learned a valuable lesson from all of this, just like Scrooge and the Grinch...and maybe that's the best thing of all.

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addlip2U 2 years, 11 months ago

May your children treat you with as much disrespect as you show to your mother!
There must be kinder human beings to her than her own son and you certainly are not worth of her visit.

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rhys jones 2 years, 11 months ago

You should hear MY Mom, prattling on and on about the Sheriff's Auxiliary, and what coat she wears to escort the little brats across the street, however few show up at zero or less. Ha, she's 84, you'd think she's have gotten over it by now.

She's still sharp as a tack, however, and I think she poaches these forums too. Probably why she doesn't write more. Love ya, Mom!!

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 11 months ago

Emotions run so near the surface this time of year. Christmas with its intentions of wonderful sharing has brought us some of our best memories. For the same reason it is also a season of emotional reckoning, when lives do not match the happiness this holiday is supposed to be, or when the partners always there are now gone.

Jeff makes the right comment - Count your blessings.

But please allow room for imperfections in the Christmas experience. I understand the offense taken, based on your own experience or loss. That’s fair. But there are other, far messier stories in town this holiday season. Ask any counselor.

For someone struggling to understand how everyone but them could be so perfectly happy, Eugene, your story may have been just the grin they needed.

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MrTaiChi 2 years, 11 months ago

Regarding plaid:

Angus: "You know Archie that I'm getting married?

Archie: No Angus, That's brah, Angus, brah!

Angus: Yes, and I've done all the planning. I've hired a hall for the reception, arranged entertainment, scheduled with the priest, and got a caterer for the food. I even bought a new kilt.

Archie: What's the tartan?

Angus: Oh, I expect she'll be wearin' white."

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Neil O'Keeffe 2 years, 11 months ago

Brings to mind a wonderful read and memoir "Glass Castle" by Janette Walls. Puts things in perspective especially for those of us that think we have eccentric parents. HNY!

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bandmama 2 years, 11 months ago

I haven't seen my eccentric mother (or father) in over a year and a half. Would do anything to have spent Christmas with every single eccentric thing they do! Would have been thankful to have the time with them. It is a shame that some moments are taken for granted and them made fun of. Appreciate every moment you have with loved ones.

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heboprotagonist 2 years, 11 months ago

I don't know Eugene's mother, but she sounds a lot like mine. I thought it was hilarious.

The complainers sound like a bunch a momma's boys, for chrissakes he's talking about his own mother, not yours. Instead of being offended, perhaps you should just realize how good you had it/have it.

And for those that say "count your blessings", I say "how condescending". Not everyone's mother is the same, some are more tolerable than others.

I'm sure that everyone who finds the satire/entertainment lacking is free to pursue a journalism degree and apply for a job at the paper.

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Matt Helm 2 years, 11 months ago

Talk about no sense of humor! These complainers must have never cracked a smile watching Christmas Vacation!!! Keep up the good work Eug...

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1999 2 years, 11 months ago

Eug..as a plaid loving catholic school graduate and kilt enthusiast...I find your portrayal of good old fashioned plaid somewhat offensive.

Our chidren should be so lucky as to receive plaid for christmas. This country is going to hell in a hand basket when a child(and his ungrateful parents) scoff at a gift of plaid for the holidays.

shame on you.

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1999 2 years, 11 months ago

oh and .....just so we are clear...the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree Eug.

Happy New Year everyone!

May your days be merry and bright!!!!

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exduffer 2 years, 11 months ago

If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am now.

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Phoebe Hackman 2 years, 11 months ago

ex- If you do wake up tomorrow with your head sewn to the carpet ... please post pictures :-)

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Kristopher Hammond 2 years, 11 months ago

Eugene: many of your critics whine about everything in these blogs. All they do is whine. It is ironic that these professionals are now whining because they thought you were being too whiney.

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exduffer 2 years, 11 months ago

Thanks sled, I'll send you a can of non-nutritive cereal varnish.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 11 months ago

Any editor should have seen this was not ready to be published. It needed a greater theme to be developed. Maybe something like his mom being as much of a bother to him as he will be for his kids when they've grown. Or how he and his wife are determined to avoid that sort of eccentricity and stomps out any sign of individuality in his kids. Or whatever.

It needed to be more than a listing of bad mom incidents that reads like the diary of a self-absorbed teenager.

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Jeff_Kibler 2 years, 11 months ago

My New Year's Resolutions:

  1. Lose a Million Pounds

  2. Refrain from mind-altering substances

  3. No Red Meat

  4. (This sounds like Lent)

  5. A little forgiveness goes a long way (Auld Lang Syne and all that)

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JustSomeJoe 2 years, 11 months ago

Judge not, lest ye be judged yourself - or something like that.

Most of the folks that sit in judgement on these message boards, not just Eugene's article on his mom but seems like every article, feel their condenscending two cents are needed to keep the website up and running. I imagine they sit with their spouse, 2.5 kids and golden retriever in their Norman Rockwell themed house and discuss local issues, and run to their keyboards to spill forth pearls to the rest of the unwashed in the community.

How good it must make them feel to take a stand against someone else's family or belittle Denise. I'm sure these message boards provide a valuable service to someone like Yampa Valley Boy, helping him feel superior. That's what Christmas is all about, right?

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spidermite 2 years, 11 months ago

JustSomeJoe, It's not judgement it's a different opinion. BTW I have Rottweilers. They have their opinions as well. If you have a problem with YVB get in line.

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rhys jones 2 years, 11 months ago

I've got a theory about memories and the brain. I think the memories start building at a core layer and then build outward. How many layers you've got depends on how old you are, among other things.

I formulated this opinion in boot camp, during choke-holds week. They taught us several ways to bring your opponent to unconsciousness by cutting off the blood to the head. The recovery from being thus disabled is literally a natural trip, often involving very real flashbacks into your past. My theory is that the brain or consciousness receded into itself as a defense from oxygen deprivation, and the awareness moved outward as circulation was restored. One Drill Instructor who liked me carried a short length of rubber hose at all times, and he thought he was doing me a favor, as I got knocked out much more than the average private.

There are other ways to produce that hallucination, including the hyper-ventilation thing the kids are doing, and nitrous oxide, and that's all those are, oxygen deprivation.

I'm just saying, you've got to be patient with us old folks, because you never know what's in our layers, and how often we're jumping back and forth.

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spidermite 2 years, 11 months ago

Hwy, You need to write a book. Most likely it would be a best seller.

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Jeff_Kibler 2 years, 11 months ago

Is stainless steel the new avocado? For some of us, our childhoods were overwhelmed with appliances painted in that pukey green. Have we lost all sense of color?

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rhys jones 2 years, 11 months ago

spider -- Thanks for the positive review, but I'm just a hack. Why, my final composition in Comm II (not English) went from an A to a B just because I spelled judgment with two e's.

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rhys jones 2 years, 11 months ago

Oh yeah -- I had a dangling modifier too, but we'll speak no more of that.

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the_Lizard 2 years, 11 months ago

The unwashed in Routt County as well as those with their heads sewn to the carpet won't mind dangling participles in public. JMHO though.

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