Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category
I’m a bit off my game—ordinarily, New Year’s Day posts gallop out of my fingertips even before I’ve cleared the New Year’s Eve sleep out of my eyes. This year, my head’s in seventeen places at once. A family member is ill, a friend’s baby is in the hospital, some other things are afoot. But our Christmas, here at home, was lovely: mellow, merry, and messy—which is possibly the most succinct description of our family dynamic I’ve ever managed.
A highlight of the week (for Beanie, Jane, and me) was singing in a choir at the Sea World Christmas show on Sunday night. A friend of ours is the choir director at a parish in downtown San Diego, and his group was invited to perform in Shamu’s Christmas. He extended the invitation to our homeschooling circle, and thus it was that my girls and I found ourselves decked in blue robes, singing Silent Night and Joy to the World while orcas fountained out of the water behind us. And then in front of us. None of my pictures (from the rehearsal, sans orcas) came out, but it would take a magical photographer to capture the wonder of the moment. An unforgettable experience.
Last night was paninis, gingerbread men, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail: a perfect celebration.
Today is pub day for Inch and Roly and the Very Small Hiding Place, which feels like an auspicious start to the year.
Happy New Year, my friends. I hope your holidays were filled with magic.
December 25, 2012 @ 2:34 pm | Filed under: Family, Holidays
One day last week, Rilla came to me with a matter of great urgency: she needed help wrapping the presents she had made for her brothers and sisters. She led me to her closet, where we keep a large storage bin full of her art supplies. “I buried them,” she said, “so the surprise wouldn’t be spoiled.”
Beneath the bucket of crayons, the sheaf of construction paper, the tin of Prismacolors: a set of toilet paper tubes, somewhat squished, each painstakingly colored in bright Crayola. Toilet paper tubes. Colored by hand. Beaming, she gave a little hop of joy.
“Do you think they’ll like them?”
“Oh sweetie, I think they’re going to love them.”
They did. Huck’s squeal was of genuine glee. Wonderboy too. The big sisters grinned, giggled, melted.
Somehow I think I got the best present of all.
October 31, 2011 @ 6:31 am | Filed under: Holidays
Last year’s Halloween post catalogued my history of gripey Halloween posts—or none at all. I’ve been up for almost two hours today and IT ONLY JUST HIT ME that oh yeah, today is Halloween. Of course it was just about all anybody in this house thought about yesterday. (Well, besides Scott. He’s got a deadline.) Beanie was unable to locate yellow pants for her long-planned Pokemon costume (because, well, YELLOW PANTS), so she and Rose came up with a last-minute costume change: Bean will be a werewolf tonight. We’ve worked out a way to make some pretty fabulous wolf ears out of her own hair (gelled, twisted, pinned), so now everyone including the Halloween-Scrooge mother is pretty darn excited.
Rose, the world’s most ardent Warriors fan, is going to be a cat. Rilla’s a sparkly pink-and-purple unicorn. Jane’s still deciding, I think, and as for my boys, I think Wonderboy will wear the knight costume he so enjoys, and Huck has informed us he is Roary the Racing Car. Okay then. Guess I’ll be working on some wheels today.
Last year I was rejoicing that Halloween fell on a Sunday, since that meant Scott would be home to take the kids trick-or-treating while I manned the candy station here at home. This year, it’s Sunday every day. Have I mentioned how much I love having him be freelance again?
April 24, 2011 @ 11:33 am | Filed under: Family, Holidays
Our Easter morning began at 4 a.m., when I jolted out of a deep sleep with an actual shriek. You remember that bit in Bedtime for Frances, when Frances can’t sleep and creeps into her parents’ bedroom and stands beside her slumbering father, staring at him? “She was so quiet that she was the quietest thing in the room. She was so quiet that her father woke with a start.”
Yeah, that was Rilla this morning.
She was completely unfazed by my outcry, which Scott later said sounded like a flock of screeching birds. “I can’t sleep,” she said matter-of-factly. Groggily I lifted up the covers and she slipped in beside me, and ten seconds later she was snoring. Oh, but I was awake, yes indeed.
At 6:30 she came wide awake in one gasp and said, “It’s Easter!” and dashed out of our room. And we lay there listening to rustles and squeals from the bedroom she shares with Rose and Beanie. Huck snoozed for another twenty minutes before joining the candy fray. Jane and Wonderboy had the sense to wait for the sun to come up. The (candy-filled) egg hunt was a delight: Huck considered this the finest hour our family has ever spent and seemed baffled as to why we don’t begin every morning this way.
We’re missing Mass today, still observing the voluntary quarantine recommended by Wonderboy’s doctor. This wave of strep has crashed through most of the families in our homeschooling circle, even smacking some kids a second time, a few weeks later. As far as I know, Wonderboy’s the only one in whom it has erupted as scarlet fever, but I know it’s been a pretty miserable slog for several of the families. Huck woke up from his nap with a fever yesterday. We’re assuming it’s likely to barrel through all of us, one by one, dragging out the fun as long as possible. Given its obvious virulence, we don’t want to risk exposing anyone else—certainly not a crowd of churchgoers. So home we stay, gorging on candy, feasting our eyes on the backyard flowers which have exploded into a crazy extravagance of bloom. There are decidedly worse fates.
December 15, 2010 @ 1:09 pm | Filed under: Holidays
OK, who punked me? I didn’t see the hidden cameras but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they were there. Stopped by the post office today to mail one (one!) package. The line was out the door, easily half an hour long, but this didn’t faze me because all I had was one flat-rate mailer and I knew I could use the automated postage machine. Only three people in front of me in line there.
The first of them had a longish transaction. No worries; we all know I’ve been that person before. The next woman punched buttons for a few minutes, frowned, and said “It won’t take my package.” She beckoned for the next customer, the man in front of me, to take a crack at it. All he needed were stamps, and the machine spit them out with no problem.
By this time a postal worker had joined us, an official-looking personage smartly dressed in a red and black suit. She re-entered the package lady’s particulars, then shook her head and said, “Nope. Won’t take it. I’m sorry, you’ll have to wait in that line.”—pointing toward the twenty-odd people waiting miserably for a turn at the counter.
The poor woman trudged off with her single small jiffy-bag. I lingered a moment, hopeful, as the postal worker swiped a badge and rapid-fired a code into the machine. Another woman stepped forward, carrying a keyboard and some kind of electrical gizmo.
“This is going to take a while,” she told me apologetically. “I have to recalibrate the whole thing.”
That’s about when I started to wonder if I’d been set up. But the forlorn jiffy-bag lady stood slumped in the conga line, so I determined that Ashton Kutcher was unlikely to leap out from behind the Evergreens Collection signboard. (Evidently, though I find this hard to believe, post-office punkings of suburban mothers just don’t fetch the ratings.)
Well, my sad and untelevised tale does have a happy(ish) ending. I got back in the van full of kids—we were heading home from the girls’ piano recital—and drove home the long way, stopping off at a tiny partial-service USPS station I recently found tucked between a liquor store and a gas station. (Because you know how much time I spend skulking around liquor stores and gas stations.) Lines are short there, usually, because you can only do certain kinds of transactions. There was one customer at the counter, and a man in line ahead of me—but he saw through the open door that I had kids in the car and insisted I go in front of him. Which was so sweet and unexpected that I wound up being kind of glad the machine in the main branch had gone bust.
It is amusing just how much of my holiday cheer is happening in the post office this year!
December 14, 2010 @ 7:16 pm | Filed under: Holidays
Because THERE ARE NO CRACKS. My assortment of Urgent Things to Do is so vast that the Urgent Things are crammed tightly together, forming an impermeable surface for Slightly Less Urgent Things to bounce off and roll around underfoot, tripping me up at every step.
In other words, it’s mid-December.
December 13, 2010 @ 8:52 am | Filed under: Family, Holidays, Huck
Christmas lights up: check.
Tree trimmed: check.
Tree pulled over by inquisitive 23-month-old, spewing shards of ornament across the room: check.
Stockings hung by the chimney with care: watch your backs.
I was framed, I tell you!
Monday morning. Long line at the post office. I had a stack of packages to mail—same as everyone else there. I also needed to pick up more of the flat-rate priority mail boxes, but the racks were empty. A man ahead of me in line needed some too, and one of the clerks had to go hunt up a new batch of them in the back room. Listening to the impatient sighs all around, I was glad he’d beat me to that request.
Except it turned out—after the guy left, which is a bummer—that the new stack of boxes was the wrong kind, just plain priority mail, not the flat-rate boxes. So that poor customer went home with a pile of the wrong thing. I was the one who discovered the error, while the clerk was taking care of my packages.
“Are these the same as the flat-rate boxes?” I asked, not seeing the words “flat rate” anywhere on the white slabs of ready-to-fold cardboard.
“Oh, shoot,” said the clerk. “No. Shoot. We gave him the wrong kind.”
I had already told him I was going to need a dozen of the medium flat-rate boxes, so he said he’d have to go look for them after he finished ringing up my packages. More restless sighs from the long line of people behind me. Now I was going to get to be that person, the delayer.
The clerk handed me my receipt and disappeared to the back room. Shuffle, sigh, murmur goes the line. Seconds tick painfully by. This is the kind of situation that makes me squirm; I have a tendency to blurt out inanities in a vain effort to break the tension.
“This is the awful part,” I said to the line in general. “When you’re the one holding everybody up.”
Every single person in that line stared back at me blankly. Not one single commiserating smile, not even a quirked corner of the mouth. Just—blank. Except for the one woman who muttered to the man in front of her, “She picked an interesting time for this.”
Which, I couldn’t help it, made me chuckle—an interesting time for what? For picking up shipping boxes? In the post office during the holidays? That’s an interesting time? I think it’s kind of a pedestrian time, an obvious time, don’t you? Or maybe it’s just that I “picked” a time when the line was very long. Which is to say, I went to the post office in December. Hee. I’ve stood in no less than four very long lines at three different branches of the post office in the past week, at various times of day. (Y’all are keeping me busy with these book orders!) I feel fairly confident in saying categorically that there is no time the line isn’t long, this time of year.
It was funny, the contrast between that P.O. trip (mortifying) and the one I made last Saturday morning, with Stevie along for the ride (amusing). We had three packages to mail and I was hoping to pick up the flat-rate boxes then, but then, too, the display rack was empty. And—ironically—I didn’t ask the clerk (different clerk, different P.O.) to fetch me some that day, because the line was moving so very slowly. When Stevie and I got in line, there was a woman finishing up at the counter who had mailed six or seven packages, and I gathered her order had been complicated and had taken a while. The man at the front of the line was clearly at the limits of his patience; he was puffing air out his nose quite angrily, like an irritated bull.
The clerk, a cheerful, portly fellow, seemed to be trying—with much more success than I had a few days later—to lighten the mood with humor. As the six-package lady was packing up her wallet to leave, the clerk announced, “All right, and FIVE..FOUR…THREE…TWO…ONE! We’re closed, people!”
Gasps all round—but immediately he was laughing, waving his hand to show he was teasing us. Everyone giggled except the puffing bull-man, who barked, “You’re lucky we don’t all have pistols!”—which I think was meant to be funny, actually, but came off rather alarming.
Then it was that man’s turn at the counter. As he strode forward, he watched the six-package lady exiting and said, loudly, “Doesn’t she know they teach remedial math in night school?”
I looked anxiously at the door to see if the woman had heard the insult. I think (hope) she was out of earshot by then.
“Harsh,” I murmured, and the woman in line ahead of me, a lovely twinkly-eyed grandmother with fluffy Miss Marple hair, shook her head in agreement.
The bull-man pointed at the angel stamps on the poster and said, “I want 25 of those.” But they only come, the clerk explained, in books of 20. Bull-man snorted, exasperated. “Fine. Then give me 25 of those blueberry ones,” he grumped, pointing at the juniper-berry stamp in the Evergreens collection.
“I’m sorry, sir,” said the clerk. “Those come as a set—the four evergreen designs.”
“But I only want the berries.”
“I’m sorry, sir, they don’t come separately.”
“But I don’t want the pine cones!”
“I’m sorry, sir…”
By now Miss Marple and I were both giggling, hidden from the bull-man’s view by the big empty rack that was supposed to hold my flat-rate boxes. The young guy in front of Miss Marple shot me a grin. There was this ripple of camaraderie all down the line—the bull-man had been so disgusted with the six-package lady for taking so long. He would have hated to be behind his own self in line. It was kind of delicious, this moment.
Now, threaded through the seven or eight minutes it took the man to agree to suffer the pine cones along with the berries, Stevie was chattering to me in his hybrid of English and ASL, and I was speaking-signing back to him, and he was melting the hearts of the other women in line, as he is wont to do. He’s just such a cute little guy, you know? Miss Marple loved him. Mrs. Marple, I should say, because she told me all about her granddaughter who is deaf, and she, grandma, signs a little, “but not enough.” And we talked about Signing Time and ways to learn ASL.
And it turned out the young guy in front of her was mildly hard of hearing and had worn hearing aids as a child, but didn’t wear them any longer. He cracked Stevie up, making eyes at him around the empty box rack. It felt like we were all passengers together on a cruise or something, fellow travelers bonding on a long journey.
At last the bull-man stomped out with his despised pine cones, and the next few transactions moved rapidly. Stevie and I were beckoned forward by the same affable clerk who’d been so patient with bull-man and six-package lady. He greeted me heartily and signed hello to Steve. And proceeded to explain, as he weighed my packages, that he too was hard of hearing. (What are the odds? It was kind of incredible, this convergence of hard-of-hearing men young and old.) I learned to sign when I was little, he signed, and Stevie grinned and got shy, and I was kind of relieved the bull-man wasn’t in line anymore because our conversation undeniably added a few extra moments to the transaction.
Good moments. Moments of connection. Everyone in that line was smiling—the bull-man’s ironic surliness had put us all in merry spirits, somehow. That and a cute little deaf kid with blue hearing aids.
I guess that sense of connection, that we’re-all-in-this-together feeling, is what I was looking for on Monday, three days later, when I babbled my remark to the impatient queue in the other post office. I was a six-package lady myself that time and already self-conscious about that when the whole wrong-kind-of-box thing happened.
I should have brought Stevie with me that day. Or a loud and bitter hater of pine cones.
November 25, 2010 @ 8:05 am | Filed under: Holidays, Who We Are
…a revisiting of one of the first posts I ever wrote for this blog, and one of the many reasons my cup runneth over.
She finished the last round of high-dose chemo on Thanksgiving Day of 1997. We ate Boston Market turkey and stuffing in the hospital playroom while her meds finished running. There were two more years of low-dose chemo to go, but we expected to spend most of that period as out-patients. When we got home that night—home, where we hadn’t spent more than ten days in a row since March—it was late, a cold, clear night, with as many stars as a New York City sky can muster. I remember thinking I couldn’t imagine ever being more thankful for anything than I was to be carrying that little girl up the stairs to our apartment that night.
Full post here.
(Thirteen years later, the Boston Market logo still fills me with a sense of overwhelming gratitude.)
(But then so do a lot of things, including this face.)
A little ham to go with your turkey.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends, wherever you may be.