An absurd little Christmas-story that took place last year
|Mom and I were hyper.
In the afternoon we'd visited my Grandma who had invited us for coffee. My uncle had brought several cakes from the local cake shop and made pot of coffee himself. Real coffee, not that decaffeinated stuff. While my dad and granny drank that, uncle Ernie, mom and I drank the "real" stuff. Contrary to all expectations we stayed almost three hours. You have to know that Granny is very... special. I guess that's the best word. Mom and Granny often clashed with each other, since my mom takes after her father and can't stand Granny's dramatic nature. That doesn't mean that mom doesn't love her mom, it's just... two totally different characters colliding. That day Granny had a god day and our meeting was peaceful... and mom and I drank each four and three cups of coffee respectively - really STRONG coffee. Uncle Ernie doesn't do things by halves.
It was a bad idea. I drink coffee perhaps twice a year and mom just a cup for breakfast - as a liquid wake-up call. We doesn't even like coffee most times. We didn't notice it at first, our evening went by normal. But now it was 2.30 AM and we were beyond good and evil.
We had talked until now: about what went on in our hometown, how our friends back there were doing, about my college and friends, about her college times and life back there. Since a few minutes we sat there in silence, seemingly had talked everything over. We were bored... but couldn't sleep, because we were full of caffeine.
Mom's outcry almost scared me to death. She'd jumped up and looked at me with sparkling eyes.
"What? Figured out a method to kill me and keep my inheritance?", I asked sarcastically.
"No, stupid." She rolled her eyes. "Wanna hear my idea?"
"When I was as old as you (22) I moved in with Jürgen." Jürgen was her first husband. "We lived in an apartment in a multiple dwelling. It was much like here. In the cellar were washing machines, bike lots and a room with trash containers. When I couldn't sleep I sometimes went down to the cellar and rummaged around a bit in the containers. You wouldn't believe what people throw away." She shakes her head. "Wanna try?"
This proposal boggled my mind. First I thought the caffeine began eating up my little gray cells and I hallucinated. I needed that to be confirmed.
"Just to be sure: did you just propose we go down to the cellar and rummage around in the trash?"
"Yes!" Mom beamed.
She must have gone nuts! Don't get me wrong: I think my mom is a heroine. She is a housewife who worked as an interpreter for English and French and quit her beloved job for her family. She endured a (third) husband (my adoptive father Will) who worked as a manager for over thirty years and often treated her like she was his secretary (and still does!) and an extremely difficult and disturbed child (um, me as an adolescent). She survived a virus encephalitis ( there are two options: either you die or you go nuts - she did neither) and a bleeding in her brain after a fall on her head last year that cost her the senses of taste and smell. Maybe the fall on the head jumbled up some more things than just her senses...
What I finally said was: "Sounds like a cool idea."
"That's what I say!"
Mom grinned then we tiptoed like conspiring little girls into the bedroom where my father was already sawing since he went to bed two hours earlier. For a brief moment I admired what loud and weird noises a human being could produce and wondered briefly why my neighbors hadn't complained yet, before taking a pair of knee- length, woolen socks and jeans out of my wardrobe. Mom did the same, only she took it out of her bag.
We tiptoed out of the bedroom again and closed the door. Our Bouvier Mara - a Belgian shepherds dog - watched confused as mom and I giggling put on the socks, the jeans over our pajamas and our warm jackets. We bent down to her, cuddled her and made her promise not to tell dad. She grunted like she wanted to say "Leave me alone, you two nutcases!" and went back to sleep.
Mom and I took our own trash before we silently left the apartment and a few moments later pushed the button for the elevator.
"Hey, let's put this into the rubbish chute." She swung the garbage bag. On every floor was a rubbish chute, located next to the emergency stairs.
"Are you nuts, mom? These are mostly bottles and cans. Do you have an idea how loud it would be when we let them fall down 11 floors?" Not to mention the sign on which was to read in red letters that it was forbidden to throw these things into it.
Mom nodded with an evil spark in her eye. "I kno-how", she trilled.
"Nobody will know that we put it in. Don't be such a killjoy."
I couldn't believe my ears. The woman was fifty-eight years old and behaved like a little brat. Oh, how cool! I giggled. Mom put the bag into the chute. It made an infernal noise on its way down. We giggled and ran into the waiting elevator like students who played a trick on their teacher and wanted to escape their punishment.
"I admire you", Mom suddenly said after we began our ride from the tenth floor down.
"Um, thank you. What for?"
"How you could eat your cake quite cool while Granny was telling about her intestinal... problems. I've lost my appetite. How did you do it?"
"Maybe I could do it because of working at the morgue. After my first day in the autopsy room I ate pizza for lunch."
"Yes, have you thought I just showed off or wanted to scare you when I told you?"
"To be honest, yes."
"Well, it's true."
"I'm weird? Who suggested going trash-diving, huh?"
"Nice word", she grinned, "and who agreed to it, huh?"
"Thank you", I smiled back, "okay, you got me."
We stepped out of the elevator and unlocked the door to the cellar. We passed by little cellar boxes that were attached a number of the apartment they belonged to and turned to the right where was another door. We pulled it open and switched on the light.
"Ah!", Mom made happily and rubbed her hands. She literally looked like a little kid that sees all the presents under the Christmas tree and can't wait to unwrap them. All containers were full. I enjoyed it watching her behaving so childish and behaving childish myself.
"So what do we do?"
She looked at me as if I had grown a second head. "What you said, trash diving."
"You mean, like ‘I accidently dropped something in a container and must find it again'?"
"If you see it that way..."
"Hey, sorry, it never occurred to me nor was I ever invited to do that before!"
I turned to the container next to me and rummaged around a bit in it while mom turned to the one next to mine. I put aside garbage bags, cartons and broken kitchen appliances. Mom let out a disgusted grunt.
"These dirty pigs here don't know that rubbish had to be bagged. Ugh!"
"It was your idea, old lady."
I grinned and turned back to my proper container. I didn't believe that I'd find something valuable in there when I saw it. Something green that looked like ceramics stuck out between garbage bags. Excited I leaned deeper into the container and carefully pulled it out. It was a plate in form of an artichoke heart. Good work... I turned it around and was stunned. Words were carved into the bottom of it. "Angelika, Jan. '78; for Uta's kitchen" Damn that stuff was handmade.
"Look, Mom!", I gushed.
Mom came back from a container in the back of the room she'd chosen to examine closer.
"Super, Laura! Let's look if there's more!"
We bent down and put more trash bags aside. We found the artichoke belonging to the bottom, a matching but broken spoon that apparently served as a sauce spoon. Spread over the other containers we found a matching dinner service containing four plates, breakfast plates, saucers and pots each made from the same artist - apparently this Angelika - which were all miraculously intact (the spoon we repaired with glue later).
"Damn!", Mom exclaimed. "Who throws something like this away? She could have sold it at a flea market or given it to someone as a present. I don't understand it."
We looked at our careful piled up treasures.
"The friendship or love was over. This Uta must have really hated Angelika, otherwise she wouldn't have put it into the trash."
"I have such a smart child."
"What? It's true. Come on, let's take the stuff up."
We divided our treasures between us and carried them into the elevator. I giggled.
"What?", she asked.
"I just thought... if dad knew about our little adventure he'd immediately send us to Haar."
Haar is one of the largest psychiatric institutions in Germany and you directly look at it when you look out my kitchen window.
"You're always thinking and planning... can't you stop it for once?"
"No, always served me good. Besides I like thinking."
Apparently she found my comment quite comic, because she burst into laughter. I joined her - my mom has the worst laughter you can imagine. If mom would get a laughing fit in public all people within a radius of thirty meters would die of a combination of laughing their heads off and lack of oxygene. Once she erupted into a laughing fit directly next to me without a warning. I had just drank a sip of hot chocolate and simultaneously spat it over Mara and almost choked on it while laughing.
The elevator stopped and we to the right to my apartment at the end of the corridor.
"Shhh!", I tried to hush her, still giggling.
Mom shifted the weight of her baggage and took the key out of her pocket, she stuck in into the lock and...
"Damn", she hissed, "what's this rattling? It's annoying."
The rattling we had partly masked by our talking and laughing now sounded infernally loud in the silent corridor. The source was me. My hands shook like these of an eighty-year-old. Mom looked at me stunned.
"What's wrong, Laura?"
"Nothing, I'm just hyper. The caffeine."
I broke into sweat. That's one of the side effects caffeine has on me. Since the afternoon I constantly broke into sweat.
She was astonished. Then she opened the door. Mara already expected us and tilted her heavy head, panting. She looked as if she laughed at us. We quickly brought our treasures into the kitchen then I closed the front door and locked it. Mara followed me into the kitchen and lay down under the breakfast table to watch us. I put on the radio, not too loud so dad wouldn't wake up. Being given a sermon about our weird manners we needed as urgent as a corn or a goiter.
Mom's fall on her head had had an advantage: since then she could see and hear better and since I have an oversensitive sense of hearing - I really hear the slightest noises - that was fine with me. Ah, eighties-music, our favorite. We exchanged our knowledge about the interprets, the backgrounds of the songs and sang along.
We rinsed my new dinner service twice then dried it and rearranged the contents of my cupboards so everything found room in it.
Then we went into the living room we had left almost two hours before. We fell into a coma the moment our butts made contact with the couch.