Saturday, December 29, 2012

one more christmas post and then i'll leave it alone

It is Christmas morning and I am sitting across from my husband at a local breakfast eatery run by this anal Greek man who never smiles and works his waitresses every single day of the year. I struggle with the guilt of patronizing a restaurant that makes people show up on this holiday but my waitress assures me she likes Christmas hours and the big guy will be leaving a large tip, oh yes he will.  I order eggs and Big Dave wants a banana split. When the thing comes it's eight inches high, whipped cream included and he points out the two chunks of pineapple and one slimy strawberry which is supposed to indicate this was a healthy choice on his part.

I worry, it's what I do and I should not have left the house. There are relatives coming and I still need to cook some beans and slice this really hard cheese and arrange cookies attractively on a Christmas plate. I sit back and rattle my newspaper and throw too much pepper on the eggs, achoo.  I immerse myself in Christmas and I lose myself as a result.

You do this to yourself every year, my husband says, a smudge of fudge sauce on his cheek. You do all this work and you're too tired to enjoy anything. I hate it when he's right and once every ten years he is. But enjoyment for me is one of those elusive qualities, usually attained when I am by myself with no human in sight.

The truth is I need my people around me at Christmas. All that random social craziness I try to avoid all year now serves to block out my winter darkness and oh, is it dark.  Without this season my life would plod along from one ordinary thing to the next and I would flatten out like a two-dimensional pencil cartoon, no color or depth and the wind would blow me to bleak and scary places.
Sonny shows up for our Christmas Scrabble game. We are gentle people, he and I but we each own a fierce competitiveness when it comes to this game. I beat him severely on Thanksgiving and he has been frothing to get back to my dining room table and turn the story around.  He owns a Scrabble dictionary and I refuse to let him bring it because I am tired of him building Q words that have no U.  Isn't that the point? If you have a Q, you MUST have a U. It's called strategy, old man.

Monday, December 24, 2012

if the fates allow

It's Christmas and my house is heavy with history. There's this box that's more tape than cardboard and the peeling label says give to Dawn, my mother's handwriting. Those angels sat on our television set through the 50's and then some and my brothers' scuffles and other tomfoolery sent them crashing to the floor and onto my father's work table to be pasted together yet again.  I feel Marie in my house today and I'm not sure I want that, that empty hole feeling her memory creates in me.

I am preparing fettuccine with ham and peas for my father and I get crazy dicing the ham. I seem to have excess energy and the ham gets almost microscopic.  My mother's cream-stained recipe card sits on the counter. I have carols playing, the real kind Bing Crosby and I have candles lit and the room feels golden. She has been engraved on my brain for most of the day, it's been awhile since this has happened but it is happening today.

too many peas

My daughter arrives,"smells like Grandma's house. I can feel her, she's here."  I am an academic and a scientist and she teases me, "I know you don't believe in this stuff" and she smiles that smile young women give their creaky old mothers when they think we need catch-up instruction on the ways of the world.  And this is the point of contention, the girl has a master's degree and she believes in my mother's ghost and I do not.

My mind is a sitting target for obscure and irrational thoughts this emotional time of year.  Babysitting the unruly one, extra hours at the job, groceries galore, all the amazon gift orders and then it all cleared as if someone flipped a switch.  My anxious mind lurched for an explanation and then a calm sea filled that space. I swear I heard her, a small clear voice in the depths of me. 'This is good what you do" reverberated through my conscious self and the intensity made me grip the handles of my fettucini pot and my eyes got full, my paws dashing away that annoying moisture.  Probably a bounce-off reaction to her handwriting on the recipe card, Judy Garland singing and all that sentimental mishmash. Just a girl wishing for her mother and the missing is a bottomless cavern.

"someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow, until then we''ll have to
muddle through somehow. So have yourself a merry little christmas now."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

tongue in cheek, maybe


Little Al wins the Christmas sweater contest again

My family comes to my house on Christmas because I feel sorry for the pathetic slobs. If I didn't invite them they would be forced to wander the streets peering in other people's windows and smelling their dinners. I have a deal with the local police. I keep them until 8 p.m .and they'll take it from there. As the hostess I have the opportunity to stay in the kitchen for long periods of time and I keep rewashing the same dishes over and over and nobody's the wiser. It should be noted that no one ever tells me to put down that dishrag and come talk to us. It seems to be a prearranged condition on all our parts and has since become the tradition.

gift box shoes, we all have them

New Year's is fast approaching and this is always good news. It means Christmas is gone and all that wadded-up wrapping paper is buried at the bottom of a landfill and aren't we glad. I did know a couple of bachelors in the day who were downcast and morose over the red and green holiday having no lovey to share it with and tired of being the odd fellow at their parents' Christmas dinner table. But a week later they were only too happy to celebrate the entrance of the new year because it involved no sentimentality and encouraged the consumption of large amounts of booze and other acts of general debauchery.

oh Luke, you silly goose
Unfortunately for me New Year's is another upset in an introvert's world. The obligation to have fun is what I find depressing. I can't be festive at a certain hour, I don't know how to do that, any more than I can laugh on cue. New Year's parties are the worst - a celebration of the passage of time - and the few I've attended were next to hellish, a lot of hard drinking by loud people in enclosed places.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

fa-la-la-enough all ready

I hate Christmas. Any sacrificing and sleep-deprived woman would admit that. There's nothing in it for us, never has been. It overtaxes our bulging schedules with chores that have no other purpose than appeasing people who need to learn to appease themselves. These ingrates need nothing yet we are out there in the worst weather of the year shopping for them.

And baking up huge amounts of nutrient-free sugary things for mostly overweight people, probably subtracting years from their lives which would actually result in less work for us, who says I can't see the bright side.  And then there's the hanging of the tinsel and letting people in your house who dribble cocktail sauce on your carpet and manage to find your twelve-year-old scotch in the back of the cupboard behind the oatmeal box. And then there's the Christmas letter. I don't need reminders that I am still in relationships with people who think myself and sixty others want to know what the doctor said after their colonoscopy and take three paragraphs to do it.

Like Lucy of Peanuts fame says, "I never get what I really want."  My husband asks if I want jewelry. I'm not a jewelry person. I don't see the point of adorning the body with pieces of rock and metal like an Aborigine tribesman. They just weigh you down and attract lightning and I am always fearful I'm going to leave the diamond ring in a public restroom while washing my hands and my brain is addled by too many Kessler's cocktails. As my son said when he first saw it, "you could punch some one's eye out with that." Not the usual comment one would expect but you would need to know Jason.

My spare bedroom is a sea of purple and pink presents. I have many granddaughters, none have been named after me, not even a middle name although my first husband got his moniker attached to a grandson, that low down, seldom-to-visit grandfather that he is. It's not that I long for immortality, okay, maybe it is and I suppose my name might be too much for the little hussy to live up to.  It's best that I fade into obscurity some day, me and all my un-Christmasy notions.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

oh daddy dear you know you're still number one

My father lingers at the table. He is finishing his dessert and he still has a full glass of wine. There will be conversation.

"I was not a good child," he begins, "I'm surprised my father didn't shoot me" and  I'm surprised he's telling me this.  After almost ninety years he chooses to drop this confession on my dinner table with Bing Crosby crooning Christmas tunes in the background.  I find this incredulous and as if he can hear my inner thoughts he says, "I know the masses will remember me as an honest and true man but that's not what I was. I was an imp and a scoundrel and a vagabond." This is how my father talks like he has a Webster dictionary and a Shakespeare manuscript in front of him.

 Sonny, nee Albert is the eldest in his family but his mother had delivered a stillborn child the year before at the Catholic hospital. The doctor was late and the nuns tied her legs together to keep the baby from birthing. The poor infant suffocated and my grandmother would not return to "that Catholic torture chamber" for another fifty years. I'm sure Nana had some spicier words to describe her situation because she could swear like a serious sailor. When I visited her in later years she would gaze at her arthritic withered hands and mutter, "sugar."  I knew when my younger sister showed up Nana used stronger language to describe her discomfort, those two were cohorts in borderline behaviors. I was such a good little Catholic back then and nobody cussed in front of me.  I went on to commit great and notorious sins but I am still remembered for my early piety and I swear when I enter a room the tone turns somber and church like.

As for my father he never did give me a lot of information about his deviant youth. Something about stealing everything that wasn't nailed down and it reminded me of the time he talked about his stint in the Marines.  He went on leave in New York City and his eyes got big and fuzzy at the memory and then he remembered  I was sitting there.  His face shifted as if a window shade was pulled down and he went silent.  If I had been my brother the story would have been told accompanied by much laughter and foot stomping, maybe not the stomping.  Girls just want to have fun but lots of time we really have to work for it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

no crazy news

The phone is ringing and I scream at it as I always do, "leave me alone!" Unfortunately, the four-year-old nymph that shares her days with me is quick with the pick-up, social dominatrix that she is. Luckily, she hangs up before any meaningful conversation can occur.

I don't make friends easily and that doesn't bother me.  I figure there are not many people worth knowing and as Thomas Edison said, "just how often does someone say something interesting?"  He spent a lot of evenings fishing off his dock after telling his wife he could not hear the conversation around the dinner table.  I have a couple of friends and they are gems, unfortunately they've moved out of town. I wasn't the reason, the town was, at least I think. We stay in touch in the way out of town friends stay in touch, precariously.

Sandy and I have been swimming together for over two years. We just happened to be in the same pool at the same time and after awhile, a long while we started talking. Swimming is a logical method of learning to know someone. If a pregnant pause is looming you can submerge and blow bubbles until an interesting thought appears and you can pick up the conversation again.

She tells me she and husband will celebrate their 40th anniversary next month. They met when they were seven years old (husband remembers, Sandy does not) and they were sixteen on their first date. Wow, I tell her my story. Married for 8 1/2 years and most people were surprised I lasted that long, divorced for twenty years and with Big Dave for twenty years. "Oh wait, I tend to round things up." Those numbers would have made me a bride at age twelve. "Divorced for seventeen, in this relationship seventeen."

I have had several lives all packed into one. And I don't find this upsetting, just exhausting. I long for the status quo, days without change or surprises, predictability and normalcy. I'm through with adventures. I just want to sit in the sun under the oak tree and know the ringing phone will bring no crazy news.