Hamburgers for New Year's

Fighting, screaming, kicking, yelling. The Summer of 2007. The family just moved from a small town to the big city and no one was happy. Dad hated his new job and even more, his new colleagues. Mom hated the new neighbours and couldn’t find any school that would hire her even after she built up such a reputable name in their old town. The two daughters, respectively aged 16 and 14 hated life in general and were too emotional and moody to figure out exactly what made them so upset. And so the family took it out on each other.

“You just don’t get me! You just don’t understand!” the girls would yell out at different intervals towards their parents. “How dare you speak to us that way!” the parents would reply in equally high-pitched yells. The family have lived in their new home in their new city for a few months. At first things were sunshine and roses and regular pool parties, however as things inched closer to the new year and end of holidays the stitches came loose into utter misery. “Why don’t you help your mother?!” the father would yell as his wife bent over pots and pans to make ready a Christmas feast. “She doesn’t want us there!” the girls would scream back which was promptly followed by the mother bursting into tears bawling, “No one wants to help me, I am struggling alone!”

Christmas itself was a relatively peaceful day with the family and the various extensions siting happily around the table saying each by turn how grateful they are to be there. The uncles and aunts ate until they were stuffed and the grandparents talked until their mouths were dry. It was a merry day, however everyone chose to disappear straight after lunch as though sensing the toxic airs floating around the house. Relieved and somewhat disappointed that the extensions were gone the family each also went their own ways reading, watching television, playing computer or washing the mountain of dishes even though there was a perfectly good working dishwasher in the kitchen. When evening came each member crawled out of their respective holes to dine on leftovers and each took a moment to comment what a lovely day it had been before disappearing to their various corners again. They made it through Christmas relatively happy, and everyone knew the worst part of the holidays was Christmas, the rest could only be a breeze.

Well, if only it was that easy. Boxing day woke up to a day of fighting quite as its name described. Dishes weren’t washed, the dishwasher was still not allowed to be used, the house needed vacuuming, dusting and cleaning and since no one felt up to the task of doing it themselves, the family rather screamed and banged doors about it. And so it went on for five more days. Everyone eventually pitched into the cleaning, however doing so at odd times, for example the one daughter only washed dishes at ten o’clock at night to prove a point that she would not do anything when told so, but would also not give her parents the satisfaction of not doing them at all. Or the mother would vacuum around the bedrooms at six o’clock in the morning making sure to wake everyone up in a mood and merely answering “I refuse to live in a dirty house any longer, so you better get working!” when she was greeted by frowns and scowls. Days were dark and friends were few for the family, so they decided to alienate each other even more.

When New Year's Eve showed, finally promising a fresh start, the family responded with an anti climax of having a massive fight over cleaning (again), and fell asleep before midnight missing the roar of fireworks and festivities from the bustling city.

In the morning, the family woke up exhausted even though they had much more than their recommended eight hours of sleep (on New Years Eve!). They woke up exhausted, tired of fighting, tired of hating each other. The past month was one of the most miserable they have ever experienced and now they were in a new year and were supposed to start new schools, jobs and challenges. But they were already so tired they had no fight left in them for those challenges. So for the first time in weeks, they all huddled together in one room and finally talked to one another. Each spoke of the feelings and emotions towards the others as well as their accumulating fears for the year ahead. They spent so much time hurting each other, no one realised how much they were hurting themselves.

So after tears and consolations, there was only one thing left to do for the recently reunited family, and that was to eat in the new year with a new zest. In driving around, looking for some cool city cafe or breakfast joints, the only open place was a fast food chain bellowing in the party-goers from the previous night. The family ordered four breakfast burgers with four double thick pink milkshakes. The shakes were runny, overly sweet and the dairy on the brink of going off, the buns were old, the patties greasy, the lettuce and tomato watery and the bacon burnt. The eggs, however, were golden and gooey with crisp fried edges and yellow nectar pouring over the wreck of the burger like a sunrise kissing a desolate desert, a jewelled crown on an otherwise failure of a meal. Somehow the eggs made everything whole and okay again. And to this day that pathetic excuse of a burger has been best burger I have eaten in my entire life jump starting one of the best years in my life. That was the day I realised food was indeed an emotion.

Cape Town – Vancouver