Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Halfway Through and Halfway There






 
 
A small dusting of snow fell on the morning I started writing this.

Halfway through another December and halfway there to another Christmas, the snow was more atmosphere than nuisance,

Everyone’s dreaming of a white Christmas…just like the ones we used to know.

The carolers are out in force, now…the lights, the parties, the on-line shopping.

All under way in full go go go.

Even the guy down the street who walks his dog and leaves a greeting on my lawn every morning is less snarly, when he sneers at the mess I insist he pick up and remove.

So it’s a nice time of year.

And despite all the holiday hub bub and jingle jangle of holiday noise I kind of see it as a time when the world slows down a bit and crystalizes.

It’s a nice time for reflection…of not only the year, near done…but of years and Christmases, long gone.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Details Matter…obviously







 
Details matter.

At least some of them.

Not all….

Especially during the holidays.

Not that the time of year matters.

It doesn't...but I felt obligated to tie the  holidays in...you know...in order to keep the festive feel flowing.

So..as I was saying....

Details matter.

At least some of them.

Not all….

Like, what side of the top sheet is up and which is down.

Details….

Technically, the top should go on top…face up as it were.

But a lot of people—I won’t say who—say the top side of the top sheet, should face down.

So the person in the bed—I won’t say who—can enjoy the top side of the top sheet from inside the covers.

Which, in a way, makes sense…I suppose…in way that driveways and parkways make sense.

The exception would be in the summer, when a blanket isn’t needed, then you might want the top side of the top sheet to actually face up…so it can be seen by anyone standing outside your bed…you know, in case you have an intruder in your bedroom, in the middle of the night.

Things like what end of the comforter goes at the head of the bed matter too…apparently.

Don’t want your comforter to be upside down.

No comfort in that.

I don’t think it keeps the heat in as well.

Of course that’s nothing when it comes to linens and things…the actual linens and things, not the now defunct store.

Towels need to be folded

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Tree Waits in the Woods









Our annual Christmas Tree hunt went well this year…as usual, as one would expect.

I mean, why would one expect that it wouldn’t?

Unless one is listening to two, who clearly has an agenda and has been plotting with three for years to turn the whole Christmas Tree thing on its pointy little head.

But it’s not gonna happen. One is much too smart, let alone perceptive, to allow oneself to be manipulated by the likes of two, with or without three.

So it went as planned.

The same plan Z and I have been employing for the past 14 tree trips.

The last 3, of which, have been chronicled on these pages.

Because to chronicle them on some other pages would be presumptuous, at best…and possibly something altogether illegal, at worst….especially if three got involved.

One thing we didn't plan on was the rainy forecast...but we decided to go for it, anyway, despite the dire predictions.

Z prepared a nice hearty Woodsman breakfast, as she does every year on Tree Day…and once the Woodsman was done I was able to make myself a waffle.

The Woodsman, as is his Woodsman way, of course, drank all the coffee and the OJ so I had to content myself with an open can of diet coke, I found under the sink, next to the Brillo pads.

Hey, I wasn’t about to complain; at least there was a waffle left.  Besides, Woodsmen routinely require a hearty breakfast, on most days, let alone Tree Day.

Afterwards, once all our tummies were filled and December’s sleep rubbed from our eyes, along with the near-winter chill that had permeated the house—mostly because the Woodsman, left the door open when he let himself in, earlier that morning—we wrapped ourselves in snuggled layers, set to take on the northern chill...except for the Woodsman who was dressed in that inappropriate Woodsman way of a mere red flannel shirt, forearms exposed to the ripping wind, and a silly little wool cap attached to the top of his head.

Show off....

All he needed was the Ox to complete the Paul Bunyan routine, but—much to the Woodsman’s dismay—I put my foot down on that a few years back because the Ox took up too much room in the back of the Hyundai, which made storing the tree, for the return trip, difficult…not to mention that one year the Ox ate a good portion of the trees nether region, which made for an unusually squat looking…and disgruntled tree, since even a tree is self-conscious about its shape…apparently.
 
Anyway, once we arrived at our woodsy destination, we made the long muddy trek to the top of the hill to commence our search. In years past, we would avail ourselves of the festive hay wagon provided for both customer convenience and yuletide ambience to make the climb…but the Woodsman was banned from the Hay Wagon a few seasons back, for reasons better left to another time, preferably when the lawyers are available. 
As I’ve said in the past, Z and I are very meticulous when it comes to our Christmas Tree hunting and have been known to scour the fields—all the fields—well after we’ve found what we perceive to be the perfect specimen.    Hey, you never know what might be waiting, just around the corner unless you venture onward—just as in life—unless it’s that corner where that creepy guy with the broken bell and smelly Santa outfit stands berating people to open up their “cheapskate wallets” and give to the needy, to which you’re happy to do, but resent the fact that he mocks your driver’s license photo and the Dolly Parton montage that means so much to you.

By this time, Z and I are on our own anyway as the Woodsman, who becomes easily distracted, wandered off the farm and into the deep woods, long ago, in search of who knows what.

As always, our perseverance pays off, when eventually, the whole Tao of Tree thing kicks in and before we know it we find ourselves facing the only tree that was meant for us that year. The single tree that destiny, and a guy named Marty, had planted years before, pre-ordained to fill our living room with happiness and joy in 2014.

A tree with our very name weaved within its very needles, over the years, just waiting, patiently, for us to arrive and claim it as our own.

All true, except, according to the tag that some newbie treebie had attached to it, weeks before, the name on it was actually Rowan, which held no significance to a seasoned tree hunter as myself, because, according to the natural law, “pre-tagging” has no place in the Tao of Tree hunt. The only thing that matters is the swiftness of the Woodsman and sharpness of the blade.

And since, as usual, when it comes time to cut, the Woodsman is no place to be found, down on my belly I go and slowly but surely the Rowan—I mean our—tree comes down.

Carted, roped and stored in the Hyundai Hatch… hands warmed by the fire, doughnuts and hot chocolate consumed…another successful Christmas Tree adventure complete.

Soon, the music of Christmas fills our Korean carriage as well as our hearts…which is good because it makes it much more difficult to hear the sounds of the Rowan’s and the Woodsman chasing us down the quaint, country lane and halfway to the highway.

And from these, the things of Holiday Magic are made….

 

Friday, December 5, 2014

December 5th…a significant time of year







 
December 5th has always held great significance for me.

Not sure why.

Maybe because it comes between December 4th and December 6th, which, by comparison, hold absolutely no significance to me.

So in the end, we can probably conclude that December 5th is really nothing to write home about either.

Unless I was trying to write a nostalgic holiday reverie about some life changing event that occurred one frosted December 5th in years gone by.

Maybe the day my dad bundled us all up in our old blue grey, 48 Chevy 4 door, as we went out to buy my first Christmas tree.

But nah…that’s not it.

Or maybe the time my mom dragged me out to the local department store for my first ever face to face encounter with Santa Claus who smelled of stale cigarettes and beer….maybe that was it.

No…I don’t think so.

I think that was December 9th.

It could be the day that my dad tested and strung all of our outdoor Christmas lights and then broke out all those colorful words when they blew a fuse 5 minutes after they were lit.

It could be that day, but, no...I was usually locked away in the pantry until all the cords were untangled, hung up and actually working.

I do have a vague memory of being allowed to spend an afternoon with my grandma, one day, every year, and helping herin the sense that the cat helps decorate the tree—make those cookies she dipped in grape jelly and honey.

But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t that.

Maybe it was the day that Uncle Shamus told me he was going to take me downtown and introduce me to his kind of "spry little elves”…just before Aunt Mary threw the frying pan at him.

Or it could have been the time I was chosen to play Joseph in the 8th grade nativity play…but no, now that I think of it…I had to resign the role just before the big show when I came down with a case of Fifth Disease…so maybe I’m mixing my fifths.

So, I’m not really sure what it is.

I could be anything….

But definitely not the day Marybuttercup Pennyloafers held that mistletoe over my head and explained that ancient customs demanded that a kiss be proffered.

I mean it could have been the 5th because basically we respected the tradition so much that we re-enacted it almost every day…which would have made the 5th just another day.

So I can’t really say.

Oh wait…tomorrow, the 6th, is the day we make our annual run up into Connecticut to cut down our Christmas tree.

So December 5th is the day I usually take my beach chairs out of the trunk and clean out all the sand.

Ahhhhhh…so that must be it.

I knew it was something with heavy significance.

Beach chairs out…Christmas tree in.
 
I can’t think of a better holiday transition than that.

 


 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December Has Landed





 
 
So December has landed.

I mean it’s not a big surprise.

We all knew it would.

Ever since November dropped by it was inevitable.

December always follows November, like a love sick puppy.

If it didn’t move in right after November snuck out…now that would have been surprising.

We’d all be walking around scratching our heads saying…

“How’d it get to be January already?”

“What happened to Christmas?”

“What am I supposed to do with all these gifts?”

So it would be weird.

Messing with the natural order of things and all that.

So December has landed.

And with it, all its accompanying holiday anticipation.

And tension….

And angst…. 

And decorating…and music…and movies…and officeparties…and traditions…and hazards…and crowds…and treehunting….and so on and so on.

I’ve pretty much covered them all in one holiday story or another over these last few years.

And you have to admit,  this was a pretty clever, albeit, sneaky way, of parading their links out in front of you, to peruse one more time, if you're so inclined…if I do say so myself.

Hey…why not…tis the season for holiday specials…and what’s more special than all of my past holiday silliness.

Plus it’s getting tougher and tougher to come up with new holiday topics to pontificate on from on high…or even on low.

So it’s December.

Yeah….

Haughty, jaunty December with all its bangles, bells and bows.

So jolly….with all the holly.

So ho ho ho….

And to be honest, December’s gotten a little bit full of itself lately.

Like it invented the holidays or something.

Like it was single handedly responsible for all the goodwill towards men.

Let alone the fa la fa la la…la la la la….

But I suppose it can claim some responsibility.

Why not….?

I mean December was smart enough to grasp that folks were kind of worn out from all the previous months.

So why not do a little celebrating?

We’ve earned it.

I mean July has been trying to horn in on some of the holiday hoo ha these past few years.

There are a lot of Christmas in July celebrations these days.

Yeah…right.

Like that’s gonna take off…I mean with people other than those who have had a few too many eggnogs…if you know what I'm sayin.  

So December pretty much just scoffs at July.

Like December is gonna try and horn in on 4th of July?

I mean except for the fireworks.

Fireworks on Christmas are kind of cool, if you should happen to stumble on them, someplace.

Just throw in a little extra green and red and you’re good to go.

In fact you can throw some twinkly lights on just about anything and you’ve got yourself a genuine holiday parade…of boats…fire engines…antique cars… dogs… cats… llamas… camels…practically any kind of farm animal you can imagine…and let the celebrating begin.

So I guess December has a right to feel special.

Yuletide bright…festive and gay…not that there’s anything wrong with that….

I mean what other month of the year can you play a music mix from Elvis to Burl Ives and not be forced to undergo testing?

I mean other than the usual.

So I’m willing to give December its due.

Plus it usually comes bearing gifts.

So who am I to complain?

Well…yeah…I am that guy.  

So buckle up and settle in…there’s a long holiday season ahead.

But we’ve all been here before….

December has landed.

And we’re about to take off.

Let the good times roll.

And make the spirit bright.

Ho Ho Ho….

 



 

 

 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Paying Thanksgiving Attention






 
By this time Friday, all the drumsticks will have been drummed, all the stuffing unstuffed all the potatoes mashed, turnips turned, veggies sautéed, pureed and candied…and all the good china put away, at least for another month.

One more Thanksgiving will have come and gone, along with another collection of holiday memories and smiles sorted, filed and stored, both in our minds and on our hard-drives.

In fact, by this time, a lot of it will all be just a jumble, mixed in a kettle with all the dozens of holiday memories past.

Like the time Aunt Betty sat on the cranberry and nobody would eat it, except for Uncle Joe who ate anything that was put on the table.

Or the time Pete the Pug decided to sample the right turkey wing, except no one noticed but you, and you weren’t about to snitch.

You only ate white meat that year.

Or that 5 year old kid—not saying what kid—who decided to stuff his pockets with sweet potato pie, just because it felt warm….

What?  November was cold that year, too.

All the details that make our holidays all that they are….

Unless you’re not paying attention…which a lot of us aren’t.

Especially now, when it seems holiday after holiday stacks up to the rooftops and beyond, so many, so quickly.

Last year I wrote how the holidays seem to come in waves now, one after the other, overtaking us, threatening to wash us out to sea.

The year before, I talked about all the old holiday photographs we have stuffed in boxes, somewhere in the attic…the roadmaps to our past, staring back at us from countless Thanksgiving tables long gone by.

And the year before that, the significance of all those small town holidays shared with family and friends, some still with us, many rejoining us ...and many now past.

Nostalgic themes, all, connecting one holiday to the next, each with its own special flavor, blended into a whole.

A lot of people ask me how I remember so many details of those special days….I mean, the ones I don’t make up.

I respond, “I pay attention…to everything.” 


I always have…and I hope I always will.

To my grandmother’s aprons, festooned with all the holiday embellishments, such as gravy, sweet potato, mashed potato, stuffing, string beans, carrots, onions, pumpkin pie….

You could always tell the menu at Grandma’s house whenever she walked by.

My dad’s bad jokes…my aunts unbridled laugh, my mom’s harried frown, my uncles’ fiery debate, my cousins playing hot potato with the hot potatoes…and my gramps contented smile as he too took it all in, from the head of the table.

So it’s important to pay attention…not to your smart phone, or tablet or whatever particular celebrity booty is prancing across your TV during the parade…but to all the little things and big things, little people and big people, things being said, things being done and everything in between.

It’s those details that make it all special…that make your holidays…that make your life.

Sure, it’s a recurring theme of mine and a struggle, always, still, to practice it.

Not just for the holidays, but for every day in between

But as long as we have the chance to try…it’s enough to give Thanksgiving.

So think about that tomorrow, when you’re carving up the turkey, worrying about your pie or trying to figure out how to put a positive spin on Aunt Betty’s specially prepared cranberry.

Take it all in…the good the bad, the laughs and the sad. 

You’re making memories…it’s what Thanksgiving’s for.

 


Friday, November 21, 2014

Odd Goings On…it’s elementary






 
When we were kids, back in elementary school, we always heard the refrain from our elders…

“Why when I was you age we didn’t have it as easy you do…why we would….”

You can fill in the blanks with whatever horror story you can recall being told.

And it was true… they did have it tougher than we, the privileged young whippersnappers of their day.

We had things like lights and heat and paper and pencils and buses and lunch and other modern conveniences.

So it should be easy for me to sit here today and say the privileged young whippersnapper school kids of today have it so much easier than we did….

But they don’t.

I mean, just the added history that they have to learn is mind boggling; 50 years or so we never had to cover.

Plus with all the social media to track, it has to be that much harder to remain relevant, let alone cool.

Back then I only had to worry about looking cool when I leaned over to get a drink of water. And, as you might imagine, it’s not easy looking cool when one is slurping water at a low hung fountain…but I had this hair flip thing, I did when I stood back up, which I finished off with a sly little wink, which most of the nuns appreciated.

Most…..

But we weren’t without our tribulations.

We had some very odd goings on…going on, ourselves.

Some peculiar rituals, traditions and rites of passage.

And I don’t know where they came from or who started them, but every now and then something occurred that had you scouring your closet in fear that you might be one of the offenders.

What am I talking about?

Offender of what?

Oh…don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. 

You did it too.

In fact you might have been one of the perpetrators.

For some reason—some unknown perverse reason— if you had a little loop on the back of your shirt, it was open season for anyone to sneak up behind you and rip it off.

Yep…just grab the thing, yank on it and rip it right off.

Just why the little loopy thing was there, in the first place, is unknown…and to be honest I never knew I had one until Marybuttercup Pennyloafers snatched it right off my back…along with part of my shirt.

Of course once my initial shock had subsided, the panic set in as to how I was going to explain having my clothes torn off by the girl who perpetually sat behind me in class…not that anyone should have been surprised…if you know what I mean…wink wink….

And while I would like to say I was the prime target of this obviously veiled act of affection, I was not, as all through the halls guys were getting their loops lopped, so to speak.

So much so that it sent one of the nuns into a frenzy of prayer in an effort to save our wanton souls; an effort, while appreciated, was basically misdirected as she should have been focusing more on what was going on in the playground on Friday nights.

But I digress….mostly because I wasn’t there…mostly because I had trouble forming intelligible sentences when I tried communicating with girls, back then…and now.

However, I did optimistically buy myself a genuine ID bracelet, which was another ritual that elementary peer pressure dictated at the time.

I think the idea was to have one so on the off chance you could convince one of the girls—at least one of the ones that could make sense of your incoherent gibberish—to be your girlfriend, you could give her the ID bracelet…I guess so she would remember your name.

Not sure…along with not being sure any of them even knew I was actually in their class the previous 8 years.

So while I never had a girlfriend I did have this piece of “silver-ish” jewelry for which I had no use...until years later when I gave it to Z and last saw on her cat, just before she ran away from home—the cat, not Z.

And of course there was the final humiliation of the 7th and 8th grade “Dances” where the room was divided by gender, and while I can’t speak for everyone, I was usually terrified no one would dance with me…but even more terrified that they would.

But much to my surprise, girls did accept my graceful invitations— “Uh…you wanna dance?”

And some even invited me— “Uh…you wanna dance?”— due to what I suspected to be an extra credit list passed around by a teacher, as an incentive.

I guess the thing is, no matter what era you grow up in, the trials and tribulations, rituals and rites of passage, of elementary school—or any school—are going to seem strange to everybody else.

The good news is, years later you get to look back and laugh about it all…with the help of a good therapist, you do.

Except for the thing with the shirts…that you never get over….