By Danny Thomas
I usually write a piece at Christmastime…
it usually touches on the cognitive dissonance I carry
being an agnostic
who believes in magic
Usually there’s a bit of anti-consumerism…
Usually I get nostalgic
and pine for my youth…
all the while noting that
even as a kid Christmas brought up a lot of uncertainty for me
about religion, and Jesus, and miracles, and magic, and spiritualism
as well as some of those cynical anti-consumerism questions.
Well I didn’t write one this year.
I was in a slump.
I’m over it, and I am trying to write a little every day, with the hopes that I can prevent another slump…
But I have a cool Christmas story to share… It’s about an amazing gift I received this Christmas that no one meant to give me, that is not a material thing at all, but is more valuable than any thing I received…
We were 500 miles south of our home on Christmas,
Visiting Jen’s family. Most of them live within a few blocks of each other, or on the family homestead… this alone blows my mind… as my nuclear family was at least a thousand miles away from any relatives… but that’s a story for another blog…
On Christmas day we loaded up the girls and the snow gear and the presents to drive the 45 miles south to visit the family that is not right in town… as we got to the end of Grandma’s block we realized that the hot burning oil smell we smelled was coming from our car, because clouds of smoke were pouring out from under the hood.
So we turned around.
As we pulled back into Grandma’s driveway Jen started dialing her brother and my manhood shriveled… metaphorically.
Jennifer’s family is full of dudes who can fix cars, and motorcycles, and lawnmowers… guys who build stuff, who hunt and fish… guys who know which teams won Superbowls and World Series’ in certain years… (I didn’t even remember what the World Series was called… had to look that up, and I consider myself a baseball fan…)
I have some personal issues around these things. Most of the time I feel secure in my manhood, and my issues are less, I think, about that, about macho-ness or manliness, than usefulness… The fact that I have extremely limited knowledge about cars, and hate getting oil on my hands, and am not very good at building stuff… just makes me feel inadequate…
My dad could do it, I spent a lot of time helping him with projects like that, and a lot of time freezing my ass off in the carport next to the bus handing him wrenches while he swore in 7 languages at Volkswagen engineers… I feel like, after that, and to carry the torch, I should be able to, at least, find an oil leak, or build a square table…
I’m sure ego comes into play and I’m sure testosterone is a factor here, I wont deny that… but for me it’s less about proving I am a good man and more about proving I am a useful human… when my car breaks I feel helpless and that is not a good feeling, and, yes, it is emasculating…
So the car sat, and we borrowed the Uncletruck, with the deer rack in the back, and the buck call on the dash… and he generously crawled under our car, looked at the engine, swore a bit and gave us some ideas… in the hour we spent sorting things out and driving south, I did some research on-line to get some ideas about what might have happened… the car had just been in the shop for an oil change, I was suspicious… again, that’s a story for another blog…
So, we got to Grandpa and the other Grandma’s house, and my ability to contribute to the car conversation was some very geeky sounding information that “I looked up on the internet…” NERDBALL! (As is turns out the sleuthing I did paid off and my diagnosis was correct.. NERDPOINTS!)
As we were hanging out, Christmasing in their abode, it came to light that Grandma & Grandpa were having some troubles with their Wi-Fi… how it was hooked up, how to log in… a few oddball things…Well, I realized that troubleshooting that issue is something I can do… bear in mind, I didn’t, the issue is less about me proving my manhood or worthiness, than it is about me knowing my worth. In fact, Jen took on the Wi-Fi situation and had it squared away in short order… well, in long order, and after a couple beers…
Then, a little later Old Weird Uncle mentioned that he had been working on applying for new jobs… and that the application process and building a resume was annoying… He has been a machinist for nearly 30 years, his qualifications are tremendous and specific, his aptitudes have very little to do with writing or computers. Here is another thing I can do. Again, I stood down, keeping a low profile in a Nerf war or Barbie makeover situation with the kids, on the periphery… While Jen took on the resume… but again I was shown, thanks, in part, to the magic of Christmas, another measure of my worth… another skill I bring to the table…
I was so comforted by both of these incidences; here are skills that I can offer, that while maybe not as tough as car knowledge or carpentry, are skills nonetheless.
Beyond that I came away with this; I tend to think of usefulness in these terms: “What good will I be after the apocalypse… when we are struggling to survive, what will I be able to offer to the tribe?” But the thing is, what I was shown, this Christmas gift to me, was to see that these are things I bring to the table right now. And trying to anticipate how you will be useful after the day of reckoning is a little asinine anyway, because… who knows? How can we anticipate what that will look like, if it will come, and if we will survive? And while I believe it’s important to be prepared for emergencies, living life anticipating the end of the world just isn’t a great way to live… by any measure.
So thank you Christmas, for once again bringing a little magic into my life and showing me that, not only do I have things to offer, skills that are worthy, but that the important thing to focus on is how I can use them today rather than how they will be useful to me in a Hunger Games scenario…
By: Wendy Rhein
Christmas week is upon us – a season of love, family, joy and togetherness. Translation – 10 days of complete family togetherness. That’s a lot of days of nonstop togetherness. A lot. This year I’m taking that togetherness to the next level – driving 1,300 miles in a week with my 71-year-old mother, my 6 ½-year-old and my 2-year-old. Yep. That’s right. A family holiday road trip! Given our cast of characters, who needs Chevy Chase?
As we prepare for two very long (10+ hours) days in the car, everyone has their set of priorities. The boys need their laptop dvd players charged and ready to go with their own flip cases of painstakingly selected movies – Alvin and the Chipmunks for Nate, Sesame Street for Sam. They both need headphones (did I mention Alvin and the Chipmunks??) and they both need a special pillow or blanket to snuggle. Both having these same things may seem redundant, extravagant even, but if the little one doesn’t have exactly what the elder one has, mayhem and chaos ensue and frankly, I can’t deal with the drama while I’m driving 80 miles an hour down I-95 trying to get us there. Both kids need re-stocked travel bags – that backpack of treats, a new coloring book and crayons, a new car or other tchotchke that can be handed out when the “I’m boooreed, are we THERE yet?” starts.
The boys and I recently did a 7 hour ride for Thanksgiving and everyone survived unscathed, so I am confident we can do this one too. But things change when you alter the personality dynamics of the car and our dynamics are dramatically different when adding my mother. She is simultaneously excited and nervous about the long ride. This will be the first time she has left our new city since we moved in 18 months ago. A conversation last night went like this:
“I can’t wait until we go! I haven’t spent a night out of this apartment since we moved.”
“That’s true, unless you count those 5 weeks you were at the hospital and then the rehab center after your surgery this summer, Mom.”
“Oh. What? Oh, that’s right. I forgot. But that shouldn’t count.”
“Right, it shouldn’t count. This is better than a hospital bed.”
“I’ve already decided I’m not taking my blood pressure medicine while we’re traveling.”
“What? No, you have to. Driving 10 hours with two small kids would make anyone want to take blood pressure meds. Take it. I may want to take it.”
“No, then we’ll have to stop for a bathroom every two hours and I know you hate to stop. I will be fine. Really. If I have to spend the next day in bed, then I will do that.”
That’s not how I envisioned starting our vacation but I have learned when to stop talking and when to argue. At least I like to think I have.
“No, Mom, take the meds. It isn’t good to skip a day and if we have to stop, we stop. I’ll survive.”
“I know you, Wendy, and I know you want to drive all the way in one day and get there and be done, so we don’t need to stop. It is only 10 hours. We can do that.”
“Thank you Mom, but can we stop if I need to? I am going to need to stop sometimes just to scream.”
“Sure honey, whatever you want.”
So as we venture out on our holiday of family togetherness (that will surely involve a few scream breaks for me) we wish you all a good holiday with your own families and friends, filled with laughter and screams of joy.
In case you need one last holiday cookie batch for an office party or neighborhood gathering or even just to eat one handed while you finish wrapping gifts or lighting candles, here is a new family favorite: Christmas Biscotti!
Wendy’s Christmas Biscotti
Makes about 18, depending on how thick you cut them. Easy to double the batch
2T butter, softened
2t almond extract
1 2/3c flour
2t baking powder
3/4c dried cranberries or dried tart cherries
3/4c unsalted pistachios
Preheat the oven to 350. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, blend the butter, sugar, eggs, and almond extract until smooth. Add the dry ingredients (not fruit or nuts) until the dough is well blended. By hand, stir in the nuts and fruit. You don’t want to use the mixer or the nuts will be crushed. Once the dough is mixed, make two logs on the parchment paper, about 3 inches wide and an inch thick. (Cover your hands with a bit of water or butter to help shape the logs without walking away with half the dough stuck to your fingers.) Bake the logs at 350 for about 20-25 minutes, until the dough is a light golden brown and set. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut the baked logs into slices about ½ to ¾ inch thick and lay them on their sides. Reduce heat in the oven to 250 and bake the sliced cookies for 40-45 minutes, turning them over halfway through so they can brown evenly. You can serve them up just like this, or you can make them fancy by melting some white or dark chocolate or both, and either dipping the cooled cookies into the chocolate, or drizzling the chocolate over the cookies. This is another reason why the parchment paper comes in handy – much less to clean up if you go the chocolate drizzle route.
By: Danny Thomas
last Christmas I blogged about believing in Santa.
I still do.
St. Nicolas is the embodiment of faith, magic and giving…
Christmas is so much more than Santa tho, strange, I know…
I have such weird conflicting mixed feelings about Christmas
and the whole dogma, being a critically thinking, agnostic, capitalism/consumption-questioning, sustainabilitynik, buying in to Christmas can be hard…
having kids makes it easier…
being a magic-believing, faithist, helps too…
the other day the girls and I went for a walk
we passed a nativity set up in a neighbor’s yard…
luckily it was one that I could stand to look at.
clearly hand made, of wood and nails, hand painted, labored over in a garage.
Born of faith, devotion, exuberance, and probably ecstatic craftsmanship.
not one of these “Power Plastic Nativity” jobbees – I kid you not, I saw a nativity last Saturday that included Mr. and Mrs. Claus and Rudolph, now I don’t call myself a Christian and am in no position to be righteous, but I really hope those people were being ironic…
anyway, as we looked at the folks gathered around the swaddling in the manger, another one of those inevitable questions came up…
“who are they?”
I answered as plainly and honestly as I could, I find these kinds of religious questions tricky, I try to be objective… I also, oddly enough, happen to love the nativity story, it is another contradiction and strange aspect to my personality that I myself don’t understand…
“Mary and Joseph are in the middle there, and in between them is baby Jesus.
The men on the left are The Magi, and the lady up on the roof, well what do you think she is? “
I then proceeded to tell my agnostic interpretation of the nativity story to the girls… writing that, I don’t know how it’s even possible… really, but that’s what I did.
I just told them, in plain speech, about Mary and Joseph making the journey to Bethlehem, Lil’ Chaos asked why they went to Bethlehem, and I couldn’t remember, she speculated on a good doctor being there, I have since done my research and learned about Augustus Caesar’s decree about the tax and all that… not a detail that I think Lil’ Chaos is interested in at this point.
We talked about the angel and the star and the Magi (an aspect of the story that I think is extraordinarily fascinating… and woefully under-examined) Zilla asked if the wisemen brought the animals, which segued nicely to talking about the manger, and how Joseph and Mary should have called ahead to make a reservation…
at that point I was feeling pretty good about the conversation, but the hardest question was yet to pop out…
“Is he still alive?”
“Well kiddo, that is a really hard question to answer… nope his body is not still alive, but he has become more than… bigger than a person….”
Lil’ Chaos: “Like a giant?”
“Zilla: “Or a robot?”
“Nope… like an idea… that is why the angel showed the Magi where to go, they knew that Jesus being born was a big deal…”
And that was that, as far as the conversation went… we strolled on chasing squirrels and shadowdancing as we went.
but I sure kept thinking about it for a while…
And here is another great thing about Christmas…
because of that conversation, I feel closer to my kids, and closer to Jesus…
Still not calling myself a Christian… but that’s a blog for another time…
Just loving the numinous nature of Christmas time, the Christmas spirit and the magic of family…
By: Tanya Ward Goodman
I am coming up for air after my flurry of November writing. I finished the novel. It’s 50,436 words and seems to have some plot and some characters and even a little, tiny bit of writerly flair. But I’m leaving it alone for a while. Like a good cup of tea, it needs to steep.
Besides, it’s the holiday season and all kinds of tinsel decked heck is breaking loose.
My kids are in school for about two more weeks and almost every day there is some sort of festive event. They’re making candy houses out of mini-milk cartons covered first with tinfoil, later with icing and last with handfuls of gumdrops, sno-caps and starburst mints. When completed, the house will weigh just under five pounds. These sugar-encrusted cottages will decorate our dining room table for a few days before they slowly begin to disappear. Instead of copper wiring, thieves will steal away licorice ropes and chocolate wafer shingles.
What’s been dubbed the “International Sing and Dance” has set off a flurry of e-mail communications. Who has a line on dozens of top hats? Anyone know where we can find twelve sombreros? Can someone cut skirts and sew serapes? My daughter is singing in Spanish, my son is doing a Broadway medley. I’ve been told there are hip-hop dancers. No matter what they sing, I know I will weep through the whole thing from beginning to end. I can’t help it. Kids are singing about peace and love and Broadway. They’re wearing costumes. It’s the holidays.
We’ve got teachers’ gifts to buy, reports to finish, last minute shopping to do. School pictures will arrive and with them the addressing and posting of holiday cards. So much to do and so little time.
We don’t have snow in these parts. We get rain. And most recently, we got crazy winds. When the wind knocked out our power last week, it was a little like the snow days of my youth. The night was so dark and cold. The kids and I hunkered down around a few lit candles. We cuddled together in my bed and read stories and listened to the wind bash the trees around; listened to the rattling windows and the bump, bump in the night. We were safe and cozy and we had nothing to do except stay safe and cozy.
In all the whirl of the next few weeks, I’m hoping to find a few peaceful spots. I know it can happen even in the most violent of storms.
By: Ann Brown
Don’t panic, but I have dire news: We’ve been made.
The Neiman Marcus Christmas catalogue is offering a YURT this year. Made out of Sunbrella™, whatever the hell that is, but it sounds like something a top-notch commune would want their yurts to be made out of. (Also, it gives me the opportunity to use the ™ sign, which is my new favorite thing to do in the world.)
My first reaction to hearing about this $75,000.00 yurt was: I have a mole in my blogosphere. A mole who works for Neiman Marcus. And steals my big ideas. And then actually does something about them.
Oh wait. I mean, My Big Ideas.™ There. Now they’re all mine.
Trying to stake claim on an idea is pretty hard, at least legally. I offer as an example that my sister insists she came up with term, “No way, Jose.” She is tenacious on this issue – do not try to cite any facts that question it. Although, and I am just thinking of this now, “No way, Jose” might not be an expression a progressive liberal wants attached to her. I mean, it might carry a modicum of bigotry. Does it presume that if a person’s name is Jose, he will likely do something that he shouldn’t do? That the Joses of the world cannot be left alone to their own good judgment? Karen, I think you should let this one go.
But the yurt? The yurt is MINE. Mine. Mine™.
Oh, don’t talk to me about the Mongols of the Steppes of Asia inventing the yurt. Don’t even. Read your Bible – the yurt is part of Intelligent Design™. Intelligent home design. The Mongols just moved their shit in and got a page in The World Book. No one took the yurt idea and ran with it the way I have, blogging about the commune I am going to start in Sea Ranch, California. Where carbs have no calories. And Casual Sex Fridays means we get to just lie there on the bottom. And everyone works naked in our award-winning fields of heirloom tomatoes and medical marijuana. Yeah, I have big dreams, too. A bong in every pot.
Still, I have to concede that Neiman Marcus’ yurts come fully furnished, which is more than I can offer our commune. I can only offer a couple of Macy’s 20% off coupons that expire next month and some old Ikea dining room chairs I have stored in the garage. You’re gonna have to bring most of your own shit.
So I think I am going to do something radical. Because when NM occupies yurts, it’s time for me to put down the bong and run the freak flag back up the pole.
Therefore, yurts are out. Ptooey. Let the Neiman Marcus rich fuck commune have them. We are going to choose a new, super radical way to live. Treehouses, maybe. Or wickiups. No, wait, I’ve got it: treehouse wickiups! But on the ground. Because I don’t want to have to do stairs. And not circular, because I have some nice art I’d like to hang on walls. And air conditioned because, frankly, I am prone to heat rashes. In areas that are decidedly not communal.
Except on Fridays.
By: Wendy Rhein
It all started with the Elf on a Shelf. The supposedly endearing book and accompanying 1970s pixie-looking, Twiggy-skinny elf creature that is supposed to keep an eye on your kids and report back to Santa during the holiday season. Like this one:
This minx of a holiday decoration spends his days watching your child lovingly and then dashes off to the North Pole in the evening to tell Santa if they’ve been naughty or nice. He returns home to stay up all night and play tricks in your house while sugar plums are dancing over sleepy little heads. Like a frat boy who will promise to be responsible and careful while house sitting over spring break … and then you come home a day early. There are whole chat rooms and Facebook pages dedicated to the antics of elves, some playful and sweet like leaving trails of kisses from the front door to the child’s room; some who need some anger management training after TP’ing the entire front yard.
Nate wanted an elf to come and visit when he was 4. He couldn’t believe that elves came to other kids’ homes and not his. Did Santa not love him? Did Santa not want to see what he was doing in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas? GASP! Did Santa not know where he LIVED? The horror!
So I went to the store to get a damn elf. Elves were available, with the accompanying book, for $29.99. Fine. But the elves themselves? All pink-skinned and blue-eyed.
Next store. Pink-skinned and blue-eyed. Store after that. Pink and blue.
I went to 4 stores before I went online in my quest. I had gone from annoyed with this additional holiday obligation of coming up with a new trick or treat for the elf to provide every day to being outraged that the creator of this multi-million dollar holiday stunt only made elves that looked like Richie Cunningham. What about all the other ethnicities that celebrate Christmas? What about the brown kids, as Nate would say?
I finally found a brown elf, or as the retailers and publishers call it the “brown-eyed elf.” Because the rest of him is the same, except for the pale brown that covers his plastic face. I had to special order him. I told Nate that our elf had a vital, upper management job with Santa – sleigh logistics and operations – and he was going to be late because he had to measure the cubic feet of the toys that go to each continent to be sure that Santa packed in the most space efficient manner, avoiding those tedious return trips to reload at the North Pole. Time off for an elf of such high standing was hard to come by. He was going to be later than he had planned, but he was coming.
Three weeks later our elf, Jingle, arrived. I have since ordered a second (again, a special order and significantly more expensive than its blue-eyed counterpart) for Sam.
Where are the multiracial and multiethnic Christmas decorations? Why, when the 2010 census reports 49% of all infants under one year in the US are not white, and 1 in 20 births were reported to be two or more races, is it taking retailers and product creators so long to catch up to the this new normal?
Maybe it is because holidays are about nostalgia and tradition. Maybe that’s why we dash to the DVR to save “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” from 1964. But the effect is the increasing alienation of a generation of children who are multiracial or multiethnic who do not see themselves in the ornaments hanging in the card store window, in the “Twas the Night Before Christmas” storybook, or in the elves that surround Santa’s sleigh. I don’t want to have to shop some specialty store that has a choice of 3 ornaments with shades of brown faces on them. Don’t even get me started on finding ones with pink AND brown faces in the same family! And, I will not settle for the pink-faced dolls that have been tinted brown but still have straight light brown hair, either. Talk about adding insult to injury.
I look for multicultural holiday decorations, toys and holiday stories everywhere I go now. Relative to the holiday decorations that flood the market every year, I have found few. Cultures change. Families change. Holidays and traditions must change to keep up with the people, not the past. Retailers need to recognize this, acknowledge our new families and the buying power we possess, and come to the holiday table with more than a special order, hard to find, brown-eyed elf.
By: Joey Uva
When I was seventeen I had the loneliest and hardest Christmas of my life. I lived in a small town in Oklahoma and had moved away from home in my junior year of high school. After I moved out, my dad moved away with my younger brother. I was now pretty much alone and worked full time at night, went to school during the day, and had very little money. It was a godsend that my job allowed me to eat for free; it was one less expense I had to worry about.
Thanksgiving had just passed and l was lucky enough to get to spend it with a friend of mine; her mom and dad were always very kind to me. Christmas was now about two weeks away and I had no money for a Christmas tree or gifts and felt extremely lonely. I knew this Christmas was going to be very difficult for me and different than any other I had experienced. I can honestly say it was one of the saddest and loneliest times of my life.
I took what money I did have and bought a box of Christmas cards to give to those people who were in my life at the time. It was a cold and snowy December night and I had to go to the post office to mail out my Christmas cards. I bundled up, got my cards, got in the car and headed to the post office. I parked right in the front of the post office as I was the only person there so late at night. I went into the post office where the front entrance was always open so you could drop off mail. I got my stamps and sat at the counter placing the stamps on my envelopes so I could drop them in the slot. I finished up and headed back outside into the snowy cold night. I opened the door to the post office and started walking down the steps. As I approach my car I noticed something on the top of it. I got closer to my car and there sitting on top of it was a small Christmas tree. There was no note, no card, no sign of anyone. At first, I didn’t know what to feel; I began to cry as I realized that there was someone out there who knew where I was in life, what I was going through and valued me as a person. I took the Christmas tree home and the next day I bought a couple cheap boxes of Christmas ornaments and put them on the tree. It was still a lonely Christmas but this gesture from a loving and unknown person gave me hope and the glimmer of light I needed to make it through.
Today, every single year, some time at the beginning of the holiday season that memory floods my mind and I get a little emotional and tear up. I am not really sure when it will hit, it doesn’t last long and it can be anywhere. Today I decided to write this because that memory just hit me. The thing is, I don’t cry because I remember the loneliness, or the sadness, or the lack of money; I cry because that memory still gives me hope and shines as bright today. With all I have now –my partner, daughter, family and friends –that memory still means as much today as it did back then.
I have never been able to say thank you to that unknown person, to give them a hug or write them a thank you card. But, do know this: I think about that act of kindness every single year. It never fails. I love the holiday season so much and you, whoever you are, remind me of that every year. It may have seemed like a small act of kindness at the time but it was much more than just a Christmas tree. Thank You!
By: Heather Somaini
Christmas was upon us and the time was getting very close – to propose! I was all set – I had my puzzle pieces all divided up in Ziploc bags, the ring, the poem – everything. My friend Jill would visit with us when we got to New York, take all of the items from me and then make sure they made it to the right locations the next day. Everything was perfect…and about to fall apart.
Tere knew that I had something up my sleeve. She knew she was about to go on an adventure. She knew she was getting what she wanted – a commitment. What she didn’t know was that I wasn’t going to make it that easy for her.
Christmas morning came and we had an amazing day with my family. 3:00pm arrived and the “Heather Proposal Plan” was in full swing. We left for the airport on time, dropped off the rental car and headed to the terminal. We got to the gate, Tere realized we were going to New York and that’s when it started. A snowstorm had hit the northeast and our plane was delayed. I figured it wouldn’t be too long so we should wait and see what happened. Yep, no silly snowstorm was changing my plan.
Tick, tock, tick, tock…time passed. I wouldn’t give up. The customer service people kept giving me the slightest hope that they were going to let a plane go that night. I passed on the opportunity to get our bags back and a free hotel room. We ended up sleeping at the airport with those little blue airplane blankets. My fingernails turned blue. I kept waiting and was determined to make it to NY. It didn’t happen.
Around 3:00am, I finally gave up and agreed to go to a hotel room and get on the first flight in the morning. We had no clothes, no toothbrush, and my plan was crumbling. We got a few hours’ sleep and got back to the airport to get on a 9am flight. But then it turned into an 11am flight. Everything was a mess. I was tired and depressed. Tere knew my plan was ruined and tried to make me feel better. The 11am flight turned into a 1pm flight. The earliest we would get into New York was about 5 or 6pm, basically enough time to shower and go to dinner. No carriage ride in Central Park, no ice skating in Rockefeller Center, no Rainbow Room, no Richart Chocolates – nothing.
I decided to make the most of it. I gave Tere the first clue that she was supposed to get at breakfast in our fancy hotel. She was confused. I gave her the first set of puzzle pieces; she was more confused. It took awhile but she put the pieces together on a chair in between us. People around us started watching. I explained we were supposed to be on a scavenger hunt in New York and told her in great detail what we would have been doing right then. She got the next clue and the next section of the puzzle. We kept going like this – her putting the pieces together and me walking her through what we “would” be doing. She loved it and encouraged me to keep going. More people started watching. Everyone was quite curious. Kids started coming over to help with the puzzle.
There was a good bit of anticipation as Tere completed the entire puzzle. I think everyone thought what she was thinking, that I would pop the question right there. But as you know, I didn’t.
She got the wooden puzzle box – and it completely stumped her. I felt badly; she was getting upset. A woman sitting next to her asked if she could help and they ultimately got it open. And that’s when we finally got on the plane for New York – almost 24 hours late – and Tere was convinced she knew what was up. Luckily, I still had a couple tricks up my sleeve and was determined to salvage something of my magnificent plan.
Happy New Year!
I’m not very good with years. I’m not one of those people who says, Remember New Years ‘86 when we went to Lulu’s party and you got wasted and barfed Chinese food out of your nose? Or, remember in ‘04 when I wept for two days because Bush got re-elected? Or, remember in ‘90 when I didn’t graduate high school?
I remember things more in terms of food or songs. I remember events by the details, like the odd way someone held their hands or the way my mother’s sweater smelled after cooking latkes or the way that David Bowie looked onstage awash in blue light. I remember details well, but years lose their edges as soon as they pass. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t even tell you what year I met my husband.
I get a strange anxiety when looking at all of those end of the year lists and wrap up of the decade special features. But I know it’s important to mark time, to asses ourselves, to get a chance to start fresh. I was in Iran during the Persian New Year (a few years ago- I couldn’t tell you what year) and my group found ourselves on a beach in Bandar Kong, a town on the Persian Gulf where they construct traditional lenj Gulf boats by hand. As the sun went down, a few of the carpenters built a fire for us and taught us the traditional way of greeting the New Year, which involved taking a running leap over the fire while saying something that roughly translates to, “Take from me my yellow and give me your red.” Take my sickness away and give me health. Renewal, light.
The one commonality between all of the holidays that meet at the Solstice crossroads seems to be the ritual of bringing light into these dark days. And I can get with that. Also, I appreciate any opportunity to get crafty and to break out some vintage table linen.
In ‘08, I boycotted the holidays. I think about what Tariku’s room looked like this time last year. There were lists taped to every surface, open suitcases, every baby and adult medication known to mankind, piles of baby clothes in two different sizes, jars of baby food wrapped in baggies, cans of formula, hats, blankets, hiking shoes, “modest” clothes, water purification tablets, a first aid kit, boxes of donations from friends to take with us for the other kids at the care center etc etc etc. Blanketing our dining room table was incredibly important paperwork, which I examined and re-examined obsessively, trying to insure that no detail was out of place. Plus Scott was on tour and I was completely re-organizing the house to get ready for T’s arrival. I was a wreck.
Ten days later, we left for Africa. 2009 was a year when a couple of personal dreams I had for a long time were realized. And on a global scale I felt a glimmer of promise. Though I’ve subsequently been disappointed on that level, nothing can change the moment of sitting in the living room of the guest house in Addis Ababa and holding a sleeping Tariku in my arms while we watched Obama’s inauguration via satellite.
In 2010 I’m looking forward to the publication of my memoir, which is going to force me into a whole different level of honesty. It isn’t that I was particularly secretive before. I don’t think anyone was under the impression that I was a nun. But the level of vulnerability in the book is a different story. The thought of people reading it is scary, but it’s freeing at the same time. What are people going to say about me now that can hurt me? I’ve already said it all. So bring it on 2010.
Happy holidays, all. And thanks for reading.