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December 10, 2010

Wade Rouse: Father Christmas

Posted by Anonymous
WadeRouse.jpgWade Rouse is the bestselling and critically acclaimed author of the memoirs AMERICA’S BOY, CONFESSIONS OF A PREP SCHOOL MOMMY HANDLER and AT LEAST IN THE CITY SOMEONE WOULD HEAR ME SCREAM: Misadventures in Search for a Simple Life --- as well as the author of the forthcoming holiday memoir IT’S ALL RELATIVE, which will be published by Crown on February 1st. Below, he sheds some light on why his next book is subtitled “Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays and 50 Boxes of Wine” and shares a heartwarming story about his very festive --- and hilariously funny --- father.
When I was a child, a drunken Santa Claus always chugged a six-pack of Hamm’s and proceeded to air out his jingle-balls at Christmas, and I realized my family holidays would always be more Martini and Rossi than Currier and Ives.
WadesParentsinSantaSuits2.jpgThe drum major of our family’s hideous holiday parade has always been my father --- a lifelong engineer --- who used to bury our Easter eggs in order to make the hunt “more of a challenge” for us kids.
Every Thanksgiving, my father still leaves a fully stuffed turkey on top of the refrigerator for hours --- until it reaches, as he likes to say, “room temp.” My partner, Gary, upon discovering said turkey our first Thanksgiving with my parents, screamed –-- as if he had just discovered a bomb in the cargo hold of a plane –-- “We’re all going to die!”
“Of course,” I said. “But not from the food.”
Ever since I can remember, my father, like the logical engineer he is, has always believed in a one-color Christmas, preferring that everything --- garland, ornaments, outdoor lights, candles, tree skirt --- be monochromatic. We always had to choose as children: All red, all green or all blue. My dad was partial to all blue, so every few years, our house was basked in an eery shade of Dodger blue, making our Christmas pictures look as if someone had spilled NyQuil over them --- our faces glowing, like Ozarkian Smurfs.
Except for Consumer Reports, my father has never been much of a reader. Reading books is too fanciful, too frivolous, too fun.
The fact that I am a full-time author continues to baffle him, almost as if his seed helped produce a unicorn, a magical creature that has no place in the real world. When he visits and I head upstairs to “work” at my laptop, he muses, “Can’t believe you make money staying at home.”
“I’m like a hooker, dad,” I try and explain.
“At least I know what they do,” he says. “And how they get paid.”
Trying to holiday shop for my father is equally aneurism-inducing. If I spend too much and indulge him, it’s seen as an extravagance. If I try to pick out a shirt, he says he’ll “never wear it to Wal-Mart.”
WadeGaryWithDogsAndSanta2.jpgSince my father hates to shop, after my mother’s passing Gary and I began to receive gift cards, yanked sans sentimentality from his wallet on Christmas morning, for odd amounts: $32.91 to Lowe’s, or $41.67 to Target. When asked why, he said, “I saw a ceiling fan you might like for that exact amount.”
This, as you can imagine, makes Christmas a challenge.
My mom was the life of the party, the fun one to shop for, the one who pacified our visits like a human Switzerland. My mom loved to read. She loved to read me, especially. The fact that she was able to live long enough to see my last memoir, AT LEAST IN THE CITY SOMEONE WOULD HEAR ME SCREAM, featured on NBC’s “Today Show” fulfilled her dreams.
This past year, in honor of my mom, I decided to give my father a couple of gifts from the heart, instead of the head. Among other things, I framed an old photo of the Rouse clan, my father and I being the only remaining survivors from our original family of four. And I gave him a copy of my latest memoir.
The morning after Christmas, my dad –-- as was his routine –-- rose early to make a pot of Folgers, forgoing my fabulous, free-trade, whole bean, Costa Rican dark espresso blend. And I rose, too, in order to light a fire in our knotty pine cottage’s woodburning stove, knowing I needed to keep my dad warm considering he would get chilly in hell.
We retrieved cups of coffee, and my father sat down next to me, holding my book and a pen.
“I get it,” he said softly, suddenly. “I get you.”
I looked up, and he was holding out my memoir. “Would you autograph it?”
“Dad,” I said, stunned, near tears. “Really, that’s not necessary.”
“No, it is,” he said. “I want to remember the best gift I’ve ever received … which is you.”
We sipped coffee in the quiet after-glow of Christmas –-- just the two of us –-- having survived not only the turkey from the day before and the holiday dysfunction, but also life itself, surviving long enough, thankfully, to finally be able to read one another clearly.
A humor columnist for Metrosource magazine, Wade lives near Saugatuck, Michigan with his partner, Gary, and their mutts, Marge and Mabel. To find out about scheduling Wade for readings and lectures, visit Or, to learn more about Wade and his books, you can check out
And be sure to visit the Holiday Author Blogs again tomorrow, as Margaret George gives the scoop on her long-lasting love affair with Ebenezer Scrooge.