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MAN OF THE HOUSE

Caution: Christmas

November 28, 2009|Chris Erskine

A few days before Thanksgiving, my wife actually tried to brine me. She filled the tub with water and salt and soaked me like a bird. Every few hours, she'd come in and flip me around. Fortunately, soccer was over and I didn't have that much else to do.

"You'll be more tender," she explained.

"Probably not," I warned.

"It works with Butterballs," Posh said.

"Well, I'm not him."

I'm telling you, these moms -- you've got to watch them. There's no telling what they'll try next.

They seem to amp up around the holidays. There is frosting in their fingernails, voodoo in their smiles. As Christmas nears, they remind me of deer about to attack -- circling, circling, braying.

Meanwhile, the kids do nothing but offer assistance and encouragement. They can't help themselves. It's just their nature.

"Hey, Mommy Gaga," one said the other day.

"Mommy Gaga?"

"Yeah, that's your new nickname," the little girl told her mother. "Mommy Gaga."

The reference -- very flattering -- is to Lady Gaga, a young singer of enormous talent who came out of nowhere to conquer the increasingly bizarre world of popular music. Sort of like Streisand, I guess.

"Mommy Gaga?" I say.

"Yes," my wife says sternly.

"Will you be performing any holiday shows?"

She just stares at me. At certain moments, a wife's eyes can be like Air Force weaponry. There are welts all over my forehead. I look like I was attacked by laser-carrying drones.

Yes, my dear wife is a little anxious. The kids, the soccer parties, the holiday madness. The little girl is back from college, a holiday in itself. I think they threw rose petals when she arrived. Up the driveway she walked, like a bride heading for a basilica.

"Do we do enough for our kids?" my buddy Eugene asked the other day.

Eugene has a freshman daughter at Lehigh. He is a doting, wonderful dad. I think he flies to Pennsylvania every morning to make her breakfast.

So, yeah. I think we do enough for our kids.

::

Posh/Mommy Gaga called me at work last week to complain that they were already playing Christmas music on the radio.

"Do you know," my wife said, "that they are actually playing 'Here Comes Santa Claus'?"

"No."

"Well, they are," she said. "There oughta be a law."

To her, it was a not-so-subliminal message -- to her in particular -- that she was already behind in her holiday preparations. It triggered in her a death spiral of fret and worry.

"It was not," I explained, "directed at you personally."

"Yes, it was," she said. "Yes, it was."

When a woman says things twice, you know she really means it. So I've tried to stay out of Mommy Gaga's path. I keep busy with the year-end soccer activities and the prep work for Christmas -- cleaning closets, painting doors. Judging from all the ads, Christmas comes early this year. Actually, it might be today.

By the way, I "killed" at the team soccer party last week. I am an eager though highly unpolished public speaker, and team parties are the only important gigs I can ever count on. My fee? Nothing. In fact, here's how it works: I pay them.

This one in particular was a comedic triumph, and I only wish more media had been present. Several people in the audience actually stayed awake for my entire presentation -- a first for me.

"I can't say enough about Matthew . . . " was a typical transition. So you can see why I'm in such high demand.

For us, it was an especially full day. At breakfast, we stopped for doughnuts. The little guy opened the box just so he could put his thumbprint in the chocolate coating. It's a nice touch, his thumbprint, his Zorro's sword. The little guy doesn't just deliver doughnuts, he personalizes them.

That's the little guy for you -- full of puppy. If you're the lucky parent of a 6-year-old boy, you won't be surprised to learn that -- four weeks after Halloween -- our son still has a little vampire paint in his hair. Not all over his hair, mind you, just a little on the starboard side. Couldn't get a comb through it, that's how I could tell.

"That's vampire paint, Dad," he explained when the comb snagged.

When I told Mommy Gaga about this she didn't seem concerned. I couldn't even tell for sure whether she heard me. She just went on chopping celery, ignoring the intrusion. It's like when I sneak little self-improvement tips onto her grocery lists: "Smiles are contagious" or "A good attitude costs you nothing." She realizes that if she reacts at all, I win.

"Did you hear me?" I said.

"You were speaking?"

"I said your son still has vampire paint in his hair."

Posh is nothing if not a problem solver. Next time it rains, she said, she will stick him out in the yard.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

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