That’s what my grandmother called it anyway. Although that’s never what I would call her. She went by one name and one name only: Big Mom. But, the name for the white Christmas trash she made was quite fitting as that’s exactly what it looked like: this sticky, white hodge-podge mound of trashy snacks thrown together.
In all reality, it was just a soupped-up Rice Krispy/Chex Mix treat, but in my little ten-year-old mind, it was so much more. When I saw that goodie on Big Mom’s kitchen table, I knew Christmas was here! And, when I look back on it, I think it truly did sum up how I spent some of the most memorable Christmases of my childhood: with a hodge-podge of people thrown together, and just the right amount of white trash.
I don’t know why they call it a “broken family” because most of the “non-broken” ones I’ve seen are still very much broken somehow, too. Who’s to say what’s “broke” or “working,” right? My family definitely wasn’t perfect, but it worked just fine for my brother and me. And, the best part about growing up with divorced/re-married parents was that John and I usually got four or five Christmases total! I’m talking five different Christmas dinners followed by five separate Christmas present-opening sessions.
We had Christmas with Mom and my stepdad, Christmas with Mom’s family, Christmas with my stepdad’s family, Christmas with my Dad and his girlfriend, and Christmas with Big Mom (my Dad’s mother) and my Aunt De. For our allegedly “broken home,” Christmas rocked! And, with that many Christmases to attend and that much family to see, you can bet there was plenty of white trash to enjoy. I won’t name names to protect the trashy, but these were just a few of my white Christmas trash icons:
My Aunt “Betty,” with her poofed-out eighties home-permed hair. She was a waitress at Foxy’s Deli for … decades, I’m sure of it. Aunt Betty smoked like a train and always brought two things to our Christmas dinner (in addition to her cigarettes): one can of jellied cranberry sauce and one can of black olives. And, for whatever reason—maybe to preserve her pretty sassy Foxy’s figure—Aunt Betty really only ate the olives. She would make a little plate, sure, but I saw her just push some food around and nibble here and there, consuming almost nothing but black olives.
I would put one on each of my fingers and nibble them off while I watched her bring one hand then the other to her mouth, cigarette, then olive, cigarette, then olive, and back again. “Olives help a gal watch her figure,” she would say to me as she saw me nibbling them off my fingers. “Cigarettes, too,” with wink, a long huff out, and a pat on my head.
My Cousin “DJ” with the sleeves hacked off of every button-down plaid shirt he owned. If the phrase “Get ‘er done” is coming to mind, you wouldn’t be too far off, except Larry the Cable Guy has about 102 pounds on Cousin DJ, who was rail thin. The guy had the kind of calves you find yourself staring at because they look like only bone. Just bone. No shape, meat, or muscle. And, to make matters worse, for some reason Cousin DJ must have thought this was an asset because he always paired his hacked-off Larry the Cable Guy shirt with khaki cargo shorts (yes, shorts, even in December!), then adorning his leg-sticks with socks, and combat boots.
I remember he always got socks as a gift from his mom, Aunt Betty. Never a new plaid shirt, new cargo shorts, or new boots. Just socks. It’s weird the things you remember looking back right? “Hey Squirt,” DJ would say to me, then try to grab one of the olives on my fingers which always ignited a chase-and-tackle ensemble around the house. I miss that cable guy.
Lastly, I would be sorely remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite Christmas white trash. We’ll just call her Jaquelyn. My Dad’s long-ago, one-time, wayward girlfriend. Thankfully they were only together for about five minutes, but those minutes fell on Christmas and culminated in a Christmas my brother, John, and I will never forget.
“Wake up kids!” she shouted, although we were not her kids. I started to blink my mind awake, remembering it was dark. Very dark. It’s too early for Christmas, I thought. It was literally pitch black outside. John and I were trying to get into the spirit, but that’s just hard to do at 3:25 a.m. I will never forget those were the numbers I saw on the digital clock in dad’s trailer when Jaquelyn woke us. She was fidgeting, scratching bloody streaks into her forearms, and blinking 40 times per minute. She was also thinner than DJ. My dad was clearly fuming, but trying to go merrily along with it.
Jacquelyn frantically shoved presents at us, helping us rip them to pieces in seconds. There wasn’t even time to process what we were getting or who it was from before another, half-open package was pushed into our laps. Jaquelyn flitted about in a frantic Christmas flurry until all of the presents were open and the clock showed 3:29 a.m.
Funny the things you remember.
“There,” Jaquelyn said as she slumped back on the couch, her chest rising and falling. “Christmas is done.” Then she popped up off the couch and went back to bed without another word, leaving John and I in a complete stupor. That was my first encounter with a “family” member who was … on something.
Christmas …. good times!
So, for Christmas this year, I encourage you all to embrace the white trash! Both the goodies that are so nostalgic, chock full of only memories (not calories because those don’t exist at Christmas. I’ve included a white Christmas trash recipe for you below—you’re welcome!), as well as the crazy, come-out-of-the-woodwork family members that you only see once a year.
Have a Merry White Trash Christmas y’all!