It’s a beautiful, traditional, California Christmas morning, which is to say, it’s an even 60 degrees with no snow in sight. I open my eyes and my wife says, “Merry,” and I say, “Christmas, dear,” and she kisses me and I wonder how long it’s been since we’ve had sex. The thought of not “being physical” for the next three months makes me feel just as ill as the thought of actually attempting to.

Jade rolls out of bed and I stand up, hunched over, and we both walk into the living room where my mother is making coffee. She’s always up before us, dressed and ready to go with her day. She says, “MERRY CHRISTMAS, ONE AND ALL!” and I say, “Merry Christmas, Mother! I wonder what Santa brought me!” and then I look in my stocking and, already knowing that it’s completely empty I say, “Damn you, Santa! I’m not dead yet!” and my mom says, “John Lowell . . . ” and my wife says, “What do you want to do for breakfast?” And I say, “This morning . . . you know what we need to do?” and both women look at me and I say, “We need to do something really special. We need to make sure we remember this breakfast. We need to make sure that we never forget it,” and they both lean in and I say, “Mick . . . Donald’s . . . pancakes,” and smiles spread across both their faces and my wife says, “I can be persuaded to eat McDonald’s pancakes!” and my mother says, “Now we’re talking,” and I say, “With butter,” and my mother says, “And syrup!” and my wife says, “And those weird hash-brown cakes!” and I say, “You can have mine!” and my wife says, “SCORE!” and then she runs out the door and I rub my hands together, trying to decide my next course of action.

My mother says, “Honey . . . ” and I say, “Si, Madre?” and she says, “Do you need to . . . medicate?” and I say, “You betchya, I do!” and so my mother goes and gets my box filled with herbal supplements and she sits down at the table next to me and I watch her grind up various nugs and place them in the vaporizer. By the time Jade returns with the food I’m so full of energy and vigor that I meet her at the door, bow down very low and say, “Welcome, back, m’lady! How goes your sojourn?” and she says, “Food-food-food,” and we lay the plastic trays out on the table and I say, “I’m so excited, I’m so excited, I’m so excited right now.”

We open each tray and slather gobs of butter between the hotcakes and dump rivers of hot maple syrup all over the fluffy stacks and I tear in with my fork and start shoving piece after piece into my mouth, imagining my body putting on fat just as quickly as I’m losing it. I force down, three, four, five bites in a row and shout, “It’s so good!” and the three of us clink our pancake bites together and then I’m snapping and moon walking again.

This is Christmas morning 2008.

I will never forget it.


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