Rating: K This story is an homage to Jerry Seinfeld. It dances a little with the official canon, but it’s mostly my head canon.
“Neema, you simply must come,” Ellowyne implored. “Though we haven’t known you that long, you’re already part of our group. Please come!”
“You’re going to have a great time,” Rufus added. “We’ve been doing this every year for a long time.”
Neema scowled. “But I’ve never gone to a Festivus celebration. What happens at them?”
Rufus replied, “Well, there’s food. Always meatloaf, traditionally served on a bed of lettuce. Mashed potatoes, risotto, peas, and, since Amber’s hosting the festivities, paella, shrimp, and lobster! And champagne!”
“Honey, don’t forget the desserts,” Ellowyne said.
“Oh yeah, there’s chocolate babka, pineapple gelati, pecan pie, and a white Pepperidge Farm cake, with chocolate frosting and M & M’s on top,” Rufus said. “There’s also Jell-O with bananas in it.”
Neema raised one eyebrow in an expression of skepticism. “Is there anything else that happens at a Festivus celebration?”
Ellowyne hemmed and hawed. “Well, there are a couple of activities. But nothing too outrageous. Please come with us. It will be fun!”
Neema grabbed her coat and went off with Ellowyne and Rufus, settling in the back seat of his old red Subaru, which was held together with bumper stickers, duct tape, and prayer.
In a short time, they arrived at the Stanhope’s mansion. Amber was delighted to see her friends, especially Neema. “I’m so glad you could come, Neema! You’re going to have a great time!”
When she, Ellowyne, and Rufus entered the dining room, Neema noticed a plain rod in the corner. It seemed downright weird, but she didn’t ask anyone about why it was there.
Soon, Prudence, Lizette, and Penn arrived, so Amber offered some appetizers to her guests. Egg rolls. Mini-calzones. Cubes diced from a large block of cheese, served with thinly-sliced deli meat on crackers or pieces of marble rye. It wasn’t long before the Festivus feast was ready.
Once everyone was seated, Penn gently hit his spoon against his glass of champagne. “Everybody, today we celebrate Festivus, a celebration for the rest of us! But first, let’s toast our gracious hostess, Amber.”
Collectively, the friends clinked their glasses and said, “To Amber!”
Members of the wait staff started serving the food around the table. Amber smiled and said, “Now, I can’t take any credit for the food. Marisol did most of the cooking with the help of other staff. I made the Jell-O and defrosted the Pepperidge cake.” Then she and the rest of her friends, except Neema, laughed.
Ellowyne, who was sitting next to Neema, whispered, “Marisol is the Stanhope family’s cook. Her food is amazing.”
Neema cautiously eyed the meatloaf, peas, and mashed potatoes. Since she, too, came from a wealthy family, she hadn’t eaten that kind of food in years. Still, as pedestrian as it was, it certainly smelled good! And she bravely tried a bite, which was delicious.
The wait staff came around with paella, shrimp, and poached lobster. Neema was getting full but enjoyed the food so much she had to have just a little bit more. When the waitstaff came to clear the table, Amber stood up to make an announcement. “And now we will have the airing of the grievances.”
Excuse me? Grievances? Neema was confused.
Penn was first. “Rufus, my grievance toward you is that sometimes you realize you don’t have your wallet and I have to pay for your beer.”
Rufus laughed heartedly. “Well, let’s go out for a beer next week and I’ll pay.”
Prudence stood up and lifted her glass of champagne. She said, “It’s a Festivus miracle!”
Neema was totally confused.
Then Pru looked at Ellowyne and said, “I have a grievance toward you! I love you but you can be a ditz. Like when you were late when I introduced you to Neema!”
“Okay, you have a point,” Ellowyne admitted. “I know I can be flaky at times. I’m trying! My New Year’s resolution is to be on time for things.”
Pru laughed. “You said that this year.”
Ellowyne scrunched her nose and brows and laughed.
“I have a grievance toward you, Ellowyne,” Rufus said. ”You’re just too amazing. You’re beautiful and sweet and kind…”
“Ugh,” Prudence said. My grievance is that you and Ellowyne are way too kissy face. You have pet names for each other, and, well, you are THE annoying couple.”
Rufus and Ellowyne stood up, embraced, and exchanged long, sloppy kisses. Amber commanded, “Get a room!” which made everyone laugh.
Lizette shouted, “Look at them, how happy they are. It’s a Festivus miracle!”
After everyone but Neema aired some silly grievance against each other, Amber announced that it was time to demonstrate feats of strength. “Penn, I choose you, and you can choose your opponent.” He immediately looked at Rufus.
“Nope. Nope squared. Nope cubed,” Rufus said. “I learned my lesson last year. In high school, I was in the chess and math clubs. You were a football player and a wrestler. Plus, you were in the Army. No way it’s a fair fight.”
“Well, Penn,” Amber said. “Choose another opponent or you will win by default.”
“I’ll do it,” Prudence replied. “I’m on sports teams. Rugby, women’s hockey, even roller derby sometimes. I can take you on, buddy.”
The friends formed a circle surrounding Prudence and Penn. He chose a classic wrestling match, just like he did back in high school. Lizette whispered to Neema, “Prudence was on our high school wrestling team. The first girl to do it. She was the divisional champion in her weight class senior year. Penn’s going to have a tough fight.”
Lizette was so right. Prudence knew the best way to take Penn down, and she pinned him within minutes. When he was down, she kissed his lips, more than once.
Penn was a gracious loser and smiled at Pru. “You know, I had to take a personal day to attend this party,” he said. “But, other than suffering defeat, I’m so glad I did!”
Prudence called out, “Penn got the day off to be with us. It’s a Festivus miracle!”
Neema whispered to Lizette, “What’s this Festivus miracle business?”
Lizette said, “Whenever something ordinary happens, someone calls out, ‘It’s a Festivus miracle’. It’s part of the silliness associated with the celebration.”
Neema then spied the pole in the corner of the room. “So what’s that?”
Amber overheard her and said, “The Festivus pole is kind of an anti-Christmas tree, no adornments, no fuss. It’s supposed to be aluminum but I actually already had this pole—”
Ellowyne piped up, “It’s her stripper pole!”
Everyone but Neema laughed. Amber blushed a little and said, “Oh, hush, Ellowyne. You know I use it for exercise. And it works!”
Stripper poles, Festivus miracles, meatloaf, grievances, and feats of strength. Neema shook her head. What a weird bunch of people! Did she really want to be friends with them?
They went down to the Stanhope’s basement to watch TV. The waitstaff brought the desserts along with coffee or soft drinks. When everyone had settled into the comfortable, reclining seats, Amber put a disk into the blu-ray player and showed her friends the Seinfeld episode in which the characters celebrated Festivus.
“Oh, now I get it,” Neema exclaimed. I’ve never heard of Festivus or Seinfeld, for that matter of fact. To be honest, I thought that all of you were just—um—weird.”
“We are weird,” Rufus replied. “We have our quirks and eccentricities. But we support each other. It’s okay to be who we are.”
“And if we’re weird, well, so be it,” Ellowyne said.
“I think I speak for all of us that we’d love to have you as a friend,” Amber said. The others concurred.
Neema sat back in her chair, waiting for the next episode of Seinfeld to start. These people might seem very strange and odd, but their friendship seemed worthwhile.