Based On True Stories Collected From Real (French) People
Only two days left. You head to the cashier with that jar of sundried tomatoes in your hand. You get distracted with the gingerbread men staring at you from the end of each lane. You stop and consider making some. Bill Crosby’s White Christmas starts playing from the supermarket’s ceiling. Christmas decorations everywhere. A guy down the gluten-free lane is looking agitated. He is talking to himself.
Back home, you put the kettle on. Your Christmas tree looks nice this year. Your partner built a Nativity scene with odd pieces of Lego. The Rois Mages are built after some of the Village People, Mary looks queer and Jesus is black.
You pour yourself a cup of tea and throw a grim look at your living room. Suddenly — Merde ! — did you forget the wine? Oh! No you didn’t. Your father-in-law insisted on bringing the wine. Apparently, there was this amazing deal on Pinot gris at the mall — ranges and ranges of 6-bottle cardboard boxes.
After a few sips of Earl Grey, you start to relax. With a sense of helplessness, you can picture in disturbing details the incoming invasion.
Doorbell. You wake up in front of an army of dirty kitchen utensils. A box of Pinot is dropped on your kitchen counter. A soft squish notifies you of the loss of one canapé.
Your sister-in-law arrives early, right at the moment when you were supposed to take the lime and speculoos cheesecake out of the oven, to top it off with the last layer of crème fraîche. She is standing there with her boyfriend, and for a fleeting moment, you are conscious of:
#1 — the bit of sundried tomato in the hem of your jeans,
#2 — your selective memory loss regarding her boyfriend’s name,
#3 — the fact that you shouldn’t have made a cheesecake in the first place, because last year someone smirked at the foreign-looking cake, and declined having a slice (“What, like a brie cake? No way.”)
Your mother insists on helping you. She’s out of her mind with happiness to see you, because, honestly, she practically never does. She’s filling you up on the recent news from her side of the family, which makes you forget to take the 19 canapés out of the oven — nevermind: you'll serve them the next day at brunch, as “seasoned toasts”.
You sit last at the dinner table and notice how your mother-in-law is discussing her own open-mindedness with your father (“Sure, there are good immigrants, but they shouldn’t be getting so much in terms of social benefits!”). Your father makes sure he nods at regular intervals, because he has mild hearing impairment.
Your brother-in-law says nothing, because he never does. He eats what you serve and smiles now and then. In his eyes, the dull certainty that it is a 4-hour drive back to his room — on dry roads.
Presents are exchanged over your brie cake in a cacophony of apologies for not having come up with a better idea of present. Joyeux Noël !
The conversation briefly switches to the absence of foie gras from the menu, and how vegetarians are giving the last blow to the already-plummetting French civilization.
You throw a desperate look at your partner, who is sipping on a glass of Chartreuse, surrounded with discarded bits and pieces of baguette and balled-up Christmas-y paper napkins — 7 euros for a pack of 10, at the local 24/7 superette you ran down to last night.
You close your eyes. It’s gonna be okay. Family time is important. Christmas is an important tradition. And you already know that by tomorrow night, all signs of invasion will be gone, with the notable exception of a mild headache and a flattened canapé.
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