Dad gives suspiciously long speech about loyalty at Christmas dinner
EDMONTON, AB — "There will be no kids' table this year," said Paul Hanson, 73, from the open door to the garage. "It's time we all take responsibility for the roles we play."
Anita Hanson, 70, squeezed three extra chairs around the dining room table for her grandchildren. She then ushered her children Ella, 38, and Allen, 36, into the study, turning up Frosty the Snowman to an uncomfortable volume.
"I trust you two not to unhinge Dad by inquiring about your brother," said Anita.
The three paused an extra moment amongst the old encyclopedias full of outdated information that their patriarch had once described as "none of our business anyway."
Paul emerged from the garage, his forehead damp with excitement, momentarily forgetting to conceal the lump of chew under his bottom lip. In his hand, an electric meat carver, useless even by the loose standards of the '90s.
"Dear," Anita said, "That thing makes an awful mess."
"We haven't used that in decades," said Allen.
"Abandonment also makes an awful mess," Paul replied. "Of course, it's a mess we don't have to look at. But this is the Christmas we look action and consequence dead in the eye."
In a subtle purse of Anita's lips, her children understood to keep their mouths shut. The oven timer broke the silence and Anita called the in-laws and children to the table.
Paul then unravelled an orange extension cord across the immaculate white carpet and took his seat at the head of the table. He plugged the electric carver into the socket and switched it on. The rattle of frivolous technology deepened as he cut into the roast beef.
"The family unit," he began, "is the bedrock of civilized society."
Tiny chunks of the animal sprayed across the neutral wallpaper, the smoked mirrors, the heavy drapes.
"And what is family if not a loyalty so deep, it is written in our DNA?" Paul continued behind a gentle mist of overcooked flesh.
The adult Hansons stared into the gleam of the good china as Paul paused introspectively at the phrase "pride in the lineage."
In the silence, grandson Joshy Hanson, 6, still so naive as to ask questions, inquired, "Where's uncle Henry?"
Rebecca Hanson-Gilchrist, 11, parroted what she'd heard Grandma say to the neighbours: "He's travelling."
Ella looked fondly at her child, so mature for her age.
As the last Hanson was served a jagged wedge of beef, Paul wrapped up his sermon. In an unprecedented display of emotion, his voice cracked on the word "legacy." Vulnerability cast a dark shadow over the table, an uncomfortable Christmas miracle that everyone dutifully ignored.