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A New American Christmas / JD Clapp


We held an open house the Christmas after the great 2020 plague. Bring the family, bring a friend. Spend the night—plenty of room. The more the merrier. Bring a white elephant gift and nothing else. I’m buying, hosting this shindig like a baller.


And they came: The liberal side of the family, the Trumpers, the it’s Jesus’s Birthday contingent. My son invited a few straggler buddies who strutted in with a four-foot-tall bong decorated like a candy cane and a stash worthy of Cheech and Chong. My tweaker niece showed up, meth mumbling tidings of comfort and joy. She brought her boyfriend, Big G, fresh off a 27-year stretch in Folsom for shooting a fed. Big G brought his old man, Pops, Flava Flav’s doppelganger. Pops came in flying higher than a Space X rocket, and promptly hugged me like we were family. How long has it been my man? He asked. Um…just go with it…Too long, I answered.


Before dinner, outside on my back porch, Big G, my niece, my son and his buddies, and I alternated listening to my alt-country XMAS playlist and Big G’s rap and R/B XMAS selections. We all sang along when Christmas in Hollis played. Weed was smoked, drinks were passed. Pops held court, telling wild incoherent stories including one about falling off a navy ship near Catalina and swimming back to San Pedro. My niece laughed loudly and often, snuck out for bumps of meth with Pops, and chain-smoked Cools. I stoked the fire, sipped bourbon, lit a cigar, and enjoyed the festive fiasco of my own making all.


Inside the Jesus crew drank my expensive cabernet and peaked outback on us sinful miscreants enjoying ourselves; they prayed for the salvation of our misguided souls. And the family Trumpers—three angry white guys— sat apart, fingering their concealed carry Glocks, checking the extra clips tucked in their socks, hoping for the civil war to pop-off while lamenting the end of America as it never really was.


Eventually, we ate together at the big table. I cooked a huge Italian feast worthy of my grandma, God Bless her soul. There was no drama. And to my surprise and delight, people laughed and enjoyed the feast.

 

After dinner, we had a white elephant gift exchange. People laughed, chatted with each other, mingled. And for a precious hour or two we were just people, celebrating and having fun, prejudices on the back burner, our differences unnoticed, temporarily unimportant. Why is this so fucking hard?


Around midnight they all trickled off to bed or headed home. When Pops and Big G left, they each hugged me, told me they had never been to a house like mine or Christmas like this one. With tears in his eyes, Pops reached up, said "my new hat," took my new $100 hat from my head, put it on his own, and walked off into the clear, cold starry night. What the fuck, why not? Merry Christmas, Pops. Wear it well.



Alone at the end of the night I went back to watch the embers of the fire and enjoy the peace. I played Fairytale of New York one last time for the season, took the last swig of whisky in my glass and wondered, if he was still alive, how Norman Rockwell would portray this new American Christmas.


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JD CLAPP writes in San Diego, CA. His work has appeared in The Milk House, Rural Fiction Magazine, Wrong Turn Literary, Revolution John, The Whisky Blot, among several others. He has forthcoming work in A Common Well Journal, Fleas on the Dog, and Literally Stories. His story, One Last Drop, was a finalist in the 2023 Hemingway Shorts Literary Journal, Short Story Competition.

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