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New Years Day dawned brilliantly clear and bitingly cold, as if the world had become a giant cryogenic chamber. Bonnie Rasmussen-Peterson expected this from Minnesota winters. Her husband Anders occasionally suggested that they move somewhere more conducive to human habitation, but Bonnie refused. It was too important to stay near family, even if they did make her bat-shit crazy.
And she was about to get a dose of them, as she was hosting the annual Rasmussen Family Holiday. This New Year’s Day tradition had been going on ever since Bonnie could remember. And it had never once gone off without a hitch.
Her sister Samantha called as the coffee was brewing at 7. “Bad news. The kids have the flu. It’s not looking good.”
“What a shame. I’m sure everyone will miss you and Twee… I mean your kiddos.”
The fact is, no one would miss Samantha’s children, whom everyone quietly referred to as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. They were petulant brats who bickered and ate candy and threw tantrums. Ever since their deadbeat dad returned to his cult in Idaho, Samantha had tried to make up for his absence by spoiling them rotten.
The next call came at 7:30, before Bonnie was done with her first cup of coffee. She cleared the edge from her voice. “Happy New Year from the Rasmussen-Petersons!”
It was Sharon, her brother Peter’s expectant wife — a bizarre woman who seemed preternaturally focused on irritating others. “Good morning. This is Mrs. Clive-Rasmusson. What time did you say you were expecting us?”
Bonnie rolled her eyes. “I didn’t say, per se. I wrote five-thirty on the invitation.”
Sharon’s voice was sing-songy. “Oh! The invitation. Was I supposed to look at that? Well, we typically eat at three on holidays.”
“That’s really interesting. But it’s all set. We eat at six-thirty.”
“Oh. Well thank you for taking my family’s needs into consideration.”
“You’re welcome.” She hung up.
A knock at the door startled her. Still in her bathrobe, she glanced in the hallway mirror before looking through the window. Her cousin Patricia, ensconced in a heavy winter coat and Mukluks stood holding a large cardboard box, her breath choo-chooing from her mouth like a locomotive.
Bonnie opened the door, letting Patricia in along with an arctic blast of cold air.
“Good morning, hon!” Patricia planted an icy kiss on Bonnie’s cheek. “I’ve brought over the two pecan pies I promised. One is gluten free.”
Bonnie looked at the pies. They looked identical. Was someone in the family not eating gluten? She attempted to take the box, but Patricia marched with it into the kitchen, set it down and poured herself a cup of coffee. “You know Todd’s new girlfriend is gluten-free, right? Also, no dairy, meat, sugar or processed foods.”
Bonnie blinked. “I can serve her a bowl of lettuce, I suppose.” Evidently her brother Todd couldn’t read invitations either. It clearly said to inform her of any food restrictions.
Patricia looked over the top of her glasses. “Well, I must be off. See you at five thirty.”
Bonnie escorted her to the foyer which still held its crypt-like cold from when the door was open. “Bye now!” She surveyed the long teak sideboard in the entranceway, which was covered with a holiday garland and a few family pictures from years past.
She gasped. The most prominent picture was one she loved from several years ago. She was in a fabulous turquoise dress, with her hair done just right, and the angle of the light was flattering. The trouble was, that picture also included people who were no longer members of the Rasmussen clan. Her brother Todd had his arm slung around the shoulders of an ex-girlfriend whose name seemed to have evaporated with her. And her older brother Peter was pictured with his ex-girlfriend Tiffany, who looked like an escort in net stockings and a black choker necklace. This would not do.
She selected a photo in which neither Peter nor Todd had a girlfriend du-jour at all. Unfortunately, both of Samantha’s boys wore striped t-shirts and had bowl haircuts, fully justifying their Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum monikers. But it couldn’t be helped. She made a note to make sure they had everyone pose for a new picture tonight.
At last she took time for a shower.
In mid-day, her cousin Brandy stopped by with a giant jello salad. There was no place for it but the garage, which was actually colder than a refrigerator.
“Well if that’s the only option,” Brandy huffed.
“If you want it to be cold, yes.”
Anders passed through the kitchen, on occasion, taking a snack or a cup of coffee, mystified and overwhelmed by the amount of activity involved in hosting a party for 25 people.
She knew she was a chump for taking all this on. And yet some part of her enjoyed it. With the elder Rasmussens in an assisted living facility, she had graduated to matron status, and her house was now the unequivocal gathering place for the Rasmussen clan. She felt a bit like a presiding queen.
At four o’clock the Clive-Rasmussens arrived — a full hour and a half early. Peter looked at Bonnie apologetically and hung up their coats.
Sharon walked around the house, sniffing the air and sampling appetizers from various bowls and platters. “Is that a pine-scented candle I smell? I’m allergic to pine.”
Bonnie pointed to the Christmas tree, glowing in the living room. “No, it’s a pine-scented pine tree.”
Patricia and her husband Jerry appeared an hour early as well. Bonnie had forgotten that in a world where normal people understood that “fashionably late” was a sign of respect, her family was annoyingly early.
It seemed the doorbell rang every three minutes after that. Anders and Peter emerged from the pool room and poured cocktails while Bonnie greeted, kissed, put away coats and pointed guests to the appetizers. Peter offered each new guest a drink with the expression, “Happy New Year! Hair of the dog?”
The crowd now milled about, drinks in hands, catching up and boasting about how the year had gone. Nell and Mikey Nice-Rasmussen were disturbingly tanned and talked endlessly of their two weeks in Maui between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Nell barked, “We saw whales beaching!”
Mikey smiled with unnaturally white teeth. “Breaching, honey.”
Something was missing, though. Todd had not arrived, and no one seemed to have heard from him. But at 6:30 it was time, and she and Anders set out hot dishes on the tables and had everyone take their places. Then the doorbell rang again. It was Samantha along with her boys, who burst in and dropped their coats on the foyer floor, shouting “What’s to eat?”
Samantha dashed to the kitchen, announcing she was going to cook macaroni and cheese while the boys ran to the appetizer plates. Bonnie set up a card table for the boys and urged everyone to start.
Suddenly Samantha screamed. Bonnie and Anders ran to find the kitchen on fire. Or at any rate, a few of their kitchen towels were aflame. It appeared Samantha had set a dish towel on a hot burner and it caught fire. Then she used a second one to try to douse the first, and it also burst into flames. Samantha looked at them in panic. “Help!”
Anders deftly put out the fire with a pan lid, as Bonnie fanned the blaring smoke alarm.
“The jello salad!” Brandy ran in, blinked, and dashed to the garage. “Oh, it’s ruined! My jello froze!”
Bonnie stifled laughter. “Sorry hon.” Just then she looked out the window to see Todd and his girlfriend Natalie pushing some sort of large wheeled parcels up the walkway. “What now?”
She opened the door to find that Todd had brought their parents from their care facility. They were in wheelchairs, and so bundled up they looked like giant balls of yarn. Unearthing them from their layers, she found them smiling, cheeks aglow. Only their noses appeared cold. “Momma! Daddy!” She had not expected they would ever make it to a Rasmussen Family Holiday again.
She hugged Todd. “Thank you! This is wonderful.”
Where a shocked silence had fallen over the guests due to the fire, the jello crisis and the new arrivals, now everyone erupted into activity. The senior Rasmussens were settled into seats and everyone wanted to help serve them drinks and plates of food. Even Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum hugged them gently and said how glad they were to see them.
Bonnie blinked back tears. The Rasmussens may be crazy, but they were family. Finally, everyone settled down to eat.
“Wait!” Patricia ran from the room and came back with a large shopping bag and began distributing decorative Christmas poppers. “I nearly forgot!”
Everyone cheered and a moment later, poppers exploded all around. Curly confetti rained down on the festivities and Bonnie raised a toast. Another Rasmussen Family Holiday was in full swing.
I admit that I was extremely intimidated by this contest as it calls for some laugh-out-loud humor, which is definitely outside my skill set. I'm more of a subtle humor type. The contest also calls for an international, multi-cultural component. And somehow my muse interpreted this in the form of Swedish descendants living in Minnesota.
So there you have it. My random set of disclaimers! I hope you enjoyed the story, and of course your feedback is welcome.
Posted from my blog with SteemPress : https://jaynalocke.com/2018/12/31/a-rasmussen-family-holiday-short-story/