"Mommy, can I come home for Christmas?" I was asking for the first time in 12 years, and the silence at the other end of the phone was a trifle disconcerting, I admit. Granted, my mother and I weren't exactly close. In fact, every conversation between us since the night in seventh grade when I came home late from the Ted Nugent concert and vomited in the bathtub has degenerated into a shrieking crescendo of mutual loathing and resentment. Imagine tossing two chickens injected with avian rabies into one of those Plexiglas contraptions that shake up the numbered Ping-Pong balls for the lottery and you've got a pretty clear picture of life with my mom and me. But hey, nothing I can't blithely ignore with the assistance of a little eggnog-induced delusional psychosis, right?

"Well, it might snow," my mother answered in a tone noticeably lacking in zeal. "And then we'll have to drive in the snow to pick you up." By "we" she was referring to her fifth and hopefully final husband, the third she had unearthed from the depths of the personal ads in the back of The Weekly World News. "And I don't know if I really feel like baking cookies. Why don't you just come home for Easter?" Oh, yeah--that's a big traditional family get-together! We'll all dress like rabbits and open hard-boiled eggs around the bloody body of Christ impaled on a couple of two-by-fours propped up in the corner of the living room!

I managed to get through that Christmas without stringing a rope of colored lights around my neck and jumping out the window only with the numbing assistance of brandy and Theraflu, which I consumed in Big Gulp cups while eating soup out of a can and watching a video of a burning log, until once again the whole wretched holiday slipped blissfully into blackness and I was safe for one more year.