Sara crosses her arms. Whatever, she says. My mom just sighs, and we continue to drive in silence, except for Charlies quiet singing of Rudolph, the Red- Nosed Reindeer in Dolls left ear. I lean my head against the window and watch the neighborhood houses swim by, wondering if all families are as frustrating to live with as mine.
When we get to the restaurant, my dad
hurries over to us with a huge grin on his face. Finally!
What took you so long? The photographer will be here
any minute. Quick, kids, put these on.
Were still in the parking lot as he hands us each a neon- colored T- shirt. I notice that hes careful not to unfold them so that we cant see the drawing on the front. I dont know why, since hes sporting his own neon- yellow T. As soon as he hands out all the shirts, his chest is in full view and so is the horrible design a huge dinosaur sitting on top of a badly drawn image of our restaurant. The dinosaur is eating an ice- cream cone, and drips are slipping down the front window. Little faces peek out the window around the drips. I think they are supposed to be ours.
Youve got to be kidding me, Sara says. Seriously, Dad?
My mom gives her a warning look.
What? my dad asks as he helps Charlie pull an electric-blue shirt over his head.
We all have dinosaurs? I ask.
Whats wrong with dinosaurs? Kids love em. Right, Charlie?
Charlie nods excitedly and roars.
What do dinosaurs have to do with Christmas? I ask. These are for the annual card, right?
Come on, come on, come on. We dont have time for dillydallying, my dad says, ignoring my question. I pull my own bright orange T over my head. It feels bulky over the T- shirt Im already wearing. Sara puts hers on inside out. My dad is so busy fussing with Charlie, he doesnt even notice.
I cant believe we have to do this, Holden says, stretching his neon-green T-shirt out in front of him. And why did I have to get green? It makes me look pale.
My mom clears her throat in this way she has that means were supposed to look over at her without making it obvious. We all look and watch as her right hand, which is in a fist, slowly unclenches and she stretches out five fingers.
Holden, Sara, and I exchange glances. We wait. My mom sighs and slowly unclenches her other fist. Five more fingers. Thats ten bucks each if we keep our mouths shut and cooperate.
I dont know when my mom turned to silent bribery to prevent family conflicts, but it seems to work. Its not that we want to disappoint my dad. We know he means well. But why do his ideas always have to be so lame and humiliating? And why does the humiliating part always have to include us?
We all follow my dad to the front of the restaurant, where he starts to position us under the window just as a van pulls into the parking lot blasting the Grateful Dead. Its Uncle Johns Band, Charlies favorite, and he immediately starts shaking his bum.
Theyre here! my dad yells.
Sara fidgets with her dreadlocks again. At least they have good taste in music.
Everyone, this is Eric, my dad says when the photographer walks over to us. And Sky, he says, gesturing to a woman wearing a head scarf.
I love your hair, Sky says to Sara.
Uh, thats not a regular camera, Holden points out when Eric lifts the camera to his shoulder. Thats the surprise! my dad yells. Surprise! Were making a commercial! Isnt that great?
Excerpted from See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles. Copyright © 2012 by Jo Knowles. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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