December 2007


I need to say:

I don’t know how to tell people what I want or what I need from them.

But so…so…so funny!

No animals were harmed in the making of Santa Kitty

I don’t know if it was the shopping at Target at 7am, the nap that followed it, the fact that I only have a week left of break and I’ve gotten nothing accomplished, or it’s just that 20-something after-Christmas meltdown.  Whatever it is–I feel like crap.

The last few years–it just hasn’t felt like Christmas.  I suppose it’s that transition from child to adult where I kind of need to redefine my feeling of Christmas, but I haven’t been able to figure it out yet.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is sitting around Christmas Eve night and watching It’s a Wonderful Life.  My sister’s are less appreciative of this tradition, but It’s a Wonderful Life is probably my favorite movie of all time–let alone favorite Christmas movie.

Even though it’s a favorite, I prefer to watch it just once a year with my family.  Why?  We have our own special brand of jokes and commentary that come from watching a movie once every year.  There’s my Dad’s impressions of Mrs. Hatch,  Martini, Nick, Mr. Gower and so on.  My Mom yelling at Harry for being the golden-child bastard that he is, my Dad wanting to punch Uncle Billy, and my Mom wanting to punch Sam Wainright and his “hee-haw.” And the repetition of favorite lines over and over.  “Why’d we have to have all these kids anyway?” “I’ve been saving up this money for a dee-vorce in case I ever get a husband.”  “Sentimental hogwash.”  And many, many others.

Merry Christmas!  Hope you and yours are engaging in some fun, perhaps not totally good-hearted, traditions.

I love Christmas.  My favorite part is not the presents, the parties, the songs, or the food—but the fact that I get to see all of my extended family.  Even when I was young and materialistic, the trip to each grandparents was the most (or just as) exciting as the prospect of a pile of presents.

As I often tell my students, the word “grandma” often has a positive connotations.  We buy Grandma’s cookies and pies at the store hoping to recreate that homey, cozy goodness of Grandma.  My problem is that I am a really picky eater—really.  This has always bothered Grandma B.  Should I not like the main course of a meal she made, she would go into a frenzy.  Growing up picky, it didn’t bother me to make a meal out of the Jell-o salad or the A&E cottage cheese.  We would try to persuade her, plead with her, to let it go—but she would not.  I would be peppered with questions until she could come up with an alternative I could eat.

And thus, she has always grabbed on to anything I liked with a fervor and every visit would be met with a serving of this magical food I would like.  I have to say, this is part of what I love about my Grandma—she is going to do what she is going to do and will not settle.  If she wants me to have a main dish—by golly I will have a main dish regardless of who tells her it’s not necessarily.  She was diagnosed with cancer about 7 years ago, and the way she went about getting better, you would have thought she was diagnosed with a cold.  Not to say chemo didn’t take its toll, but she refused to admit defeat.  Cancer?  Ha.  She had the B. family drive.

Unfortunately, this drive sometimes turns out poorly for me.  Two Christmas dinner’s ago she had a new dish.  It was made of ham and- hey -I like ham.  So, I put it on my plate.  But, here is where I made my grave mistake.  Grandma asked, “do you like the ham?”  I hadn’t had a bite yet, but ham is ham, right?  “Yeah, Grandma, it’s good.”

And then, oh the horror, I bit into it.  This was not ham.  This was ham smothered in something sweet and odd and in no way good (I’ve deducted it might be a mix of cocktail sauce and onions).  And now, every time I arrive, the ham disaster is waiting for me—and I am expected to eat it.  I said I liked it—it is now my fate.  My family watches and laughs as I attempt to choke down this awful monstrosity.

So, here’s a tip.  If you ever put something on your plate, and someone asks if you like it—try it first.  It’s much easier to tell Grandma, “oh, sorry I don’t like cocktail sauce,” rather than choking it down for the next hundred visits.  It wouldn’t have hurt her feelings—it wasn’t the dish, but my finickiness—which is obviously a direct result of my mother’s propensity to let us eat things like sugar, fat, and -my God- butter.

(True story: my dad had never had real butter until he met my mom.  My Grandma always had margarine because it was supposed to be healthier.  Can you imagine a life without butter?  I cannot.  It would be a sad, sad life).

I am off to Iowa tomorrow to choke down some ham (maybe I can pawn it off on R.)  Then it’s 2 days at my parent’s house while R. works two 12 hour shifts on Christmas Eve and Christmas (the joys of being with a cop).

Happy Holidays!  Enjoy family and friends and avoid that cocktail sauce if you can!

When I was in 8th grade, we moved from a Chicago suburb to a St. Louis suburb.  The whole of our five years in Chicago, we only missed school for extreme cold–never for snow or ice or any other precipitation.  It just didn’t happen.  When we moved to St. Louis, people said snow was rare (Looking back, I wonder who these people were).  Apparently, St. Louis was supposed to be a tropical climate.

My sister got RISK and the “Bye, Bye Birdie” (TV version with Vanessa Williams and no one else I remember) soundtrack for Christmas.  We did our usual rounds of trips to Iowa for Christmases at the different grandparents.  We ate lots, racked up more toys, and got to play with puppies.  It was a wonderful Christmas–as every one was through my high school years.

Around New Years–the day before school would resume, we got snow.  Days of snow.  Inches upon inches of snow.  It was a Winter Wonderlan, indeed.  And, for the following 3 or 4 days, school was canceled–extending our Christmas break.  I’m sure my mother was as thrilled as we were.

For these 3 days, my sister and I began a routine.  Sled all morning, come in for a lunch of Campbell’s (box) chicken noodle soup, and play an hours long marathon of RISK, usually followed by at least an hour more of sledding.  I should mention that it wasn’t exactly “sledding.”  There is a small “hill” or incline from the neighbor’s house to my parents.  I think hills would be a bit offended if I called this minuscule rise such.   We’d trudge the 10 (maybe) steps to the top, then slide the 1 second ride down.

I’m not sure why we found such endless enjoyment doing such.  I was 13 and my sister 11.  But, we did.  We tried to “surf” down the hill, or use PAM to make the sleds go faster.  We tried making bumps and twists, and in the end we spent the better part of our day out there instead of stuffed inside a classroom.

The games of RISK were intense as we are both incredibly sore losers.  And the chicken noodle soup always tasted like a rich delicacy to our frozen bodies.

It was the best Christmas break, ever.

Now, 12 years later, I am stuffed inside a classroom behind a desk–so far no students have shown up (it’s an early release day and if students have perfect attendance they don’t have to come, so no one comes, and gee it’s fun to sit in an empty classroom just in case a student pops up).  And I am eagerly awaiting 12 o’clock when I will be set free from the chains of school for 13 luxurious days.  I doubt sledding will be involved, but I may talk R. into a game of RISK and a lunch of soup after our pre-construction meeting on the house.  Priorities and responsibilities may change, but Christmas break will always make me feel a bit like a kid again.

I drove to work today in a layer of orange.  The sun was a blazing circle of orange glaring over the horizon and its rays tinted everything.  As I stepped out of the car, the light brown clayish dirt of the parking lot was orange–the old red school was orange–the hologram-like green highway sign was orange.

I used to think of morning and sunrise as something soft and dewy; it was a graceful passage from dark to light.  This orange was not gentle–it was vivid and full of life and energy and it was taking whatever was in its way and claiming it for day.

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