Unlike the previous 11 years, we didn't make the trek to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving. The cheapest flights, at roughly $600 apiece, included four-hour layovers on either end of our mid-week excursion. Now, I might be crazy, but I'm not insane: Anyone embedded with a 3-year-old knows that you fly direct or you fly off the handle trying to control a bored toddler while waiting in line at an airport Starbucks for a bitter, overly milked, overly priced cup of coffee. I'll spend $1,800 on a first-class plane ticket to Bali, but not for coach to Bellevue. So we stayed local and gave thanks with our chosen family.
Because I knew Ruby would be the only person under age 31 at our gathering—and because Burl Ives' voice is like a mug of hot cocoa with miniature marshmallows—I actually bought Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer even though it repeats all month long on television. I considered this purchase a preemptive strike against ill behavior caused by an absence of same-aged cousins. I'd hoped Ruby would like it; I didn't anticipate that she would adore it. I didn't expect that by the close of the weekend, I'd have rehearsed nine different excuses as to how the DVD had gone missing. I even fantasized about scratching the disc to bits with my potato masher.
Granted, this gem of a film offers important lessons about casting out the misfits of our society and the repercussions of forcing people (and reindeer) to be something they're not. I personally think the supporters of Proposition 8 could stand to pay close attention to the plight of Hermey and Rudolph and Yukon Cornelius. However, I have watched this “original Christmas classic!” more times in the last week than in all the Decembers of my life, and, to be honest, it started to grate.
What's worse than watching it over and over, though, is the special feature, which we've watched over and over.
While messing with the remote, Ruby discovered a claymation version of Destiny's Child singing the title song. That's right: B.E.Y.O.N.C.E.
Now, I've said before that I'd rather sit, walk, run, write, dance, drive and have sex in silence for the rest of my life than listen to Neil Diamond. If there is a hell—and as an atheist, I know there isn't, but for the sake of argument, if there is—I'm pretty sure the Satanic ear-buds with my name on them offer nothing but “Song Sung Blue” and “Sweet Caroline” looped and re-looped.
But along comes Beyoncé, and my eternal damnation soundtrack changes. (And let me just say that it's pure sacrilege she should be playing Etta James on the silver screen. That is wrong in about 50 different ways. It's wronger than taxpayers bailing out General Motors. Etta = Rad. Beyoncé = Bad.) If I had to choose between an eternity spent listening to Neil Diamond or Mrs. Jay-Z? Well then. As smokin' hot as she is—and she is serrano-chili hot—bring on The Jazz Singer. Beyoncé's look-at-me! vibrato and wild traversing of scales I didn't know existed makes me want to spearhead the Neil Diamond Fan Club.
It's not surprising, given my low tolerance for the self-declared “Sasha Fierce,” that I was ready to put my foot down where the special-features function was concerned. But only a fool would miss the look of joy that Beyoncé, her synthesizer and the revolving-door members of Destiny's Child brought to my little girl as they sang “Rudolph, we luh-uh-uv you bo-o-oy.” (Remember those lyrics? Yeah, neither do I.) When Ruby asked wide-eyed for the umpteenth time if she could watch “the princess ladies” again, I decided I could withstand the pain if it meant her happiness.
While she watched the princess ladies, I bought Destiny's Child's 8 Days of Christmas on iTunes and sprung it on her during our ride to school that morning. How bad could it be? I thought to myself.
Are you waiting for the other shoe to drop? If you're not, I failed in the set up.
Immediately following “Rudolph,” the title track began and Beyoncé went crashing through the bastardized melody like a Category 5 storm ripping through a trailer park.
On the eighth day of Christmas, my baby gave to me/A pair of Chloe shades and a diamond belly ring.
In the words of Dorothy Parker, “This wasn't just plain terrible; this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.” Suddenly, being trapped in an airport with a toddler didn't seem so horrendous.
I gasped and skipped to the next song, not because I'm a prude—we all know better—but because it was embarrassingly ridiculous. And sucky. I felt something oozing from my ears, and that something was gray matter. My brain had exploded, liquefied and curdled and was seeping from my head, which is especially bad because I need every last brain cell to successfully raise this child in a world of vile music.
“Mama! I like dat one!” Ruby chirped from the back seat when I skipped to the next song.
“Well, I don't,” I snapped back. Still, I let her listen to the more traditional tracks, if they could even be called that as they were completely unrelated to anything I'd ever identified as sound. Death metal is more bearable than what Beyoncé did to “Silent Night,” which is excruciating enough without the shrieking creative license.
Shockingly enough, 8 Days of Christmas mysteriously went missing while Ruby was at school, and in its place was the glorious First Lady of Song. “Now, this is singing,” I told Ruby as I turned up the volume on Ella Fitzgerald the next day.
“I not like it, Mama.” She said, in her best harrumph, to which I said, “Well, my love, you're going to learn to like it.”
When we got in the car today, Ruby said, “I want Ella.”
It was music to my ears.