I grew up in a long line of drunks. And no, not that Russell Brand kind of drunk.
“Oh yeah, brilliant. Cheers. Let’s all drink Champagne. Oh, dance with me, PUPPET!” No. Charm is for the British and the rich.
I come from a clan called HUUUUFFFFFFF; the onomatopoeia serves my people well. We are prone to Old Milwaukee and sucker punches. We are the violent, loud kind of drunk. The best kind! My family is so drunk the police are “invited” to our reunions and weddings. My family is so drunk we have our own private cell in the small town jail of Richmond, Illinois. My grandma quilted a jail blanket, cross-stitched some throw pillows, real comfy. To my family, getting locked up is simply a very expensive slumber party!
Now, if you’re saying to yourself, “Kelsie, OK. So what? We all have drunk families. You’re exaggerating for this story. It can’t be that bad.”
Example! On New Year’s Eve 1997 (mind you I said 1997 not 1897. Make a note; it’s going to pay off later.) On New Year’s Eve 1997 my great-grandfather’s rented farmhouse was set ablaze from a bad batch of his bathtub raspberry gin.
That’s moonshine, you guys. For those of you who didn’t do well in history, Prohibition in these here United States ended in 1933.
In 1997 you could buy booze LEGALLY. ANYWHERE. From convenient stores. Easy purchase. It’s in the title. But why bother with all that convenience when you could whip up a batch a booze in your tub, SILLY GOOSES?
My great-grandpa made moonshine in 1997 that caught on fire and spread. Flaming home-made booze which my great-grandfather refused to leave behind, causing his rented farmhouse to burn to the ground and him to burn alive inside it. Happy Holidays …. Happy Holidays! (SING)
Now you may be thinking, ‘Kelsie OK, you’re right. That’s pretty bad.’ But that is just the tip of the alcoholic iceberg, my friends. My family is so drunk they ruined imagination. That’s right, they have the ability to enter a non-tangible plan of existence and destroy it.
EXAMPLE! In the balmy winter of the late-1980s, the Huff children, including myself, were sprawled on the thick shag carpet of my grandmother and father’s drafty country cabin (aka the “safe zone”). We were watching clay reindeer and animated elf dentists sing and dance on the TV while the adults drank in the parlor (aka “Thunder Dome”). They guzzled beer and discussed culturally relevant topics, like …
“Why the shit do they mention ALL the other reindeer in this fuckin’ song? It’s about Rudolph. Let him have the goddamn spot light for one goddamn minute. Who gives a shit about Blancer and Flancer and Blixin? Stupid fuckin’ … rein–”
On this night, the Christmas Eve of 1986 the topic of education did arise. Only once. My sixteen-year-old Aunt Abby (Yes, you can have ONE aunt who is thirty-seven and ONE aunt who is sixteen if you are a member called HUFF!) My sixteen-year-old Aunt Abby announced that she was no longer going to attend Richmond Burton High School. She was sixteen, she had a car, a few babysitting gigs. So, why go back to school? Dah-Doy.
Dropping out of school was not as shocking as you would think. Out of my seven aunts and uncles, my father was the only Huff to graduate from high school. The rest of them? ”Ahhh. Who needs it?”
For all my father’s faults, and there were many, my dad believed in education. My sister and I were to get $1,000 on our high school graduation day and we were going to college OR we were going to–and I quote, “Get your fucking teeth knocked down your fucking throat.” We both went to college. Because as it turns out, fear, is a great motivator.
But in the winter 1986 I didn’t have a crystal ball/snow globe to show me my bright shining future here at the Holiday Club. I couldn’t even see what was happening right in front of my face. I simply had the glow of the TV and bunch of singing misfit toys and Santa was coming and I was real good this year and man I hope I get Hungry Hungry Hippos! Those crazy hippos and their chomps! What could be better?
In retrospect: adoption.
In my excitement I left the safe zone and walked into Thunder Dome.
Like an idiot!
“Lar, Abby’ll be fine. I didn’t … I didn’t … I didn’t … I didn’t … I didn’t finish school and fuckin’ fine … I don’t know why you gotta make a big deal? Fuckin’ fine.”
“Hey Uncle Donnie, I wanna read you my Santa letter.
It’s Kelsie again. I know I’ve written a lot this year. But I just wanna say AGAIN that I have never been grounded and I also clean my plate and my room and I really really like hippos!
“You think you’re fucking better than all of us Larry … but you don’t … you don’t … know dick about dick. So, you should just leave Abby alone and let herrrrr fucking drop out if she want.”
“So, Uncle Donnie what do you think Santa is going to bring me this year? I think either Rock ’em Sock Robots or Hungry Hungry Hippos.”
“KELSIE SHUT UP ABOUT THOSE FUCKING HIPPOS.”
“DON’T YOU EVER YELL AT MY KID!!!”
“Oh yeah, Lar. What are you goin’ do about it? Whaaaaaaaarrree youuuu gonnnaaa daaaaaaaa?!”
My uncle awoke The BUMBLE. My six-foot, 290-pound father slams down his beer and raises his fists roaring like a drunken abominable snowman. And pounces.
He wrestles a plate of pumpkin pie out of my Uncle Donnie’s hands. Their bodies slam onto the kitchen table which is filled with empty beer cans and a half-eaten chunks of syrupy ham. Meat, gravy, and foamy beer fly through the air.
My mom tries to pull the two men apart (AMATEUR MOVE) because she failed to see my Uncle Donnie’s wife, hot apple pie in hand, ready to defend her man’s honor. My mom screams as the pie melts into the side of her face.
My grandma takes a long drag of her unfiltered Pall Mall, gets up and walks out the screen door, yelling into the cold dark winter night, “Get your kids in order!”
The kids are not in order. The grandkids, myself included, are trying to hide under the painfully spiky Christmas tree. The fight continues!
Silverware smashes on the vinyl floor, dishes crash, men grunt, women howl, the TV chants, “WHY AM I SUCH A MISFIT? I AM NOT JUST A NIT WIT.”
Suddenly, the small house shakes as a bone crunching thud reverberates through the saggy rafters. I look up, from under the tree, to see my Uncles’ head, covered in dust, limply hanging through a new hole in the dry wall. A hole made by his unconscious head. My dad threw my uncle, through the wall, on Christmas Eve.
Happy Holidays … Happy Holidays! (SING)
“Ho ho … what the …?
Santa’s here! I scurry out from under the tree, making sure all my letters are still in my pockets.
“I was good they were bad. I should still get presents.”
I scramble into the kitchen to find Santa holding a large red satchel over his shoulder, pulling my unconscious Uncle Donnie from the wreckage. My dad opens another beer, sways by the screen door and laughs. Santa’s face becomes as red as his overstuffed suit.
“You could’ve killed him, you asshole”
Whoa. Santa swears!
He swings the large red satchel toward my dad’s face. It connects and lifts my dad off his feet and through the screen door. Santa follows, and jumps on top of my dad punching him in the head and rib cage.
Santa! Dad! Who do you choose?! Who do you choose?!
“LARRY. WHAT. THE. FUCK. IS. WRONG. WITH. YOU. THIS. IS. FUCKING. CHRISTMAS!!!
Sprays of red fly from my dad’s mouth on to the crisp white snow that shines under the starry cold night. The sleeve of Santa’s red suit tears, exposing the tattoo my grandpa got while fighting in Korea. (Huh?) Santa’s beard slides down his face with each terrifying blow, revealing my grandpa’s wrinkled jaw line. (OOOHHHH.) My dad goes limp. My grandpa has won. There is no Santa.
“Stay out here until you sober up. You jerkoff.”
My grandfather rips off his Santa hat and beard and chucks them at my dad’s bloody face. They are to be used as medical gauze. Grandpa Santa marches back inside, out of breath but is still able to toss the broken screen door out of his way, as if it were a defiant elf. He picks up the red satchel of presents and looks at me.
“Hey, Kels. I think that hippo game is here somewhere. Take it, Merry Christmas.”
Ten minutes later we drive home, both my mom and dad’s face wrapped in holiday kitchen towels. My sister sleeps in the back seat of the minivan. I never open my hippo game. Hippos remind me of hate.
So this holiday, as you warm yourself by the fire, enjoy a nice class of red wine and give thanks for the family surrounding you … remember where I will be and pray for my safe return. Better yet, buy me a holiday present I can use.
Example! Brass fucking knuckles.
Kelsie Huff is a Chicago based comedian performing at venues such as Zanies, Chicago’s Laugh Factory, UP Comedy, Mayne Stage, Comedy on State (Madison) and throughout the suburbs. She has also performed at several comedy festivals including, New Orleans, North Carolina, Boston Women in Comedy Festival, Bridgetown Comedy Festival, and Chicago Funny Female Festival. Huff has written three one woman shows, teaches the all female stand-up class Feminine Comique, is a Live Lit and humor writing instructor at StoryStudio Chicago, and produces/hosts the kates – Live Lit with Laughs in Lincoln Square. www.kelsiehuff.com