Thursday, December 28, 2006

Merry Merry Merry

Sunday, December 17, 2006

How to Avoid Christmas Shopping


A surly attitude

A devil-may-care attitude

Not enough money


Not enough time

Bad weather

Several holiday parties

Several time-wasting drinks/coffee dates

A realization that your car needs a tune-up

Sick kids

Mix all of these in random order during the last two weeks before Christmas.

Drive by the mall on the way home from work. Admire the lights. Curse under your breath when you think how close you are to the last mailing day that you don’t have to pay rush charges. You briefly entertain the wild notion of turning in to the mall parking lot, but instantly realize how cranky you will get when you can’t find a parking space. Don’t stop. Keep driving.

Realize that one of your credit cards is maxed out. Knowing that you will do as much shopping online as is humanly possible, go to the bank and do some quick fund transfers, lickety-split. Go to the drive-through ATM. Be thankful for the drive-through ATM. Realize that it is one thing you like about living in the semi-suburbs. Plan to go to the local bookstore. Tonight. You can take care of at least three gifts there.

Remind yourself that you work well under pressure. You are very good at getting things done at the last minute. In this spirit, instead of heading to the bookstore, make an impromptu date for drinks with a girlfriend. Your husband is out of town, and you hate to squander the opportunity. Warm up Chef-boy-R-Dee for the kids first. Feel no guilt. Feel giddy and relieved. Have a few really good laughs with your friend. Don’t talk about the holidays at all. Not even for one minute. Ignore the Christmas decorations at the bar.

In a similar vein, attend several Holiday parties. Dress up so that you feel pretty; wear jewelry you don’t normally wear, sparkly stuff, and high heels. Drink enough, but not too much. Do not discuss Christmas shopping; at least not after the first requisite 30 seconds of admitting you haven’t started yet. If anyone says that they have already started, or worse, that they are done, walk away immediately. Some discussion of dysfunctional family members is okay. Dancing and singing are good, too. And of course, eating. You are not - I repeat, NOT - to think about calories at this time of year.

Watch the news. Regret having done so because it makes you so angry and sad. Decide to do something positive. Have the kids help you get together some donations for the homeless. Be proud of their enthusiasm. Drop off the donations and feel privately that you can never do enough. Watch the kids gleefully listen to their i-pods in the car on the way home, each sealed in his private universe.

Have both of your kids come down with Strep throat. Do not stress out. Use the trips to the Pediatrician and the Pharmacy as very good excuses not to Christmas shop. Try not to yell at your kids when they start feeling better and bickering. Try not to yell at them when they feel so much better that they are asking you to get off the computer do that they can show you their Wish Lists on Amazon. Send them back to school.

The day you are finally ready to start Christmas shopping (one day before the last non-rush US Mail deadline) make sure that it is raining buckets. I mean a serious downpour. Do not cancel the walk you have already scheduled with a friend first thing that morning. Inhale the cool misty air; appreciate the brilliance of the gold and red leaves still falling from the trees in the blue light. Admire and/or deride the Christmas decorations in front of the houses you walk past. What’s cool: 1950’s vintage kitsch Santas, even the ones that light up. What isn’t cool: contemporary inflatable decorations that look like they’re from Wal-Mart.

Finally drive out in the afternoon rain to buy the gifts that need mailing. Turn up the rock and roll music in the car. Sing along. Be glad that it as least a little chilly where you live in Northern California, even though there are tinsel-wrapped palm trees on every other block. Find this a strangely appealing, incongruous sight even after living here for over twenty years. Think about the weather Back East. Think that you are glad you don’t have to deal with it. Realize that you car needs a tune-up. You think your brakes feel a little soft. Realize that you will get it all done today, as you always do, because you are good under pressure. You are good when you are in charge, with an imposed deadline. Your father was the same way. Remember him writing out his Christmas cards on the train as you traveled from New York to the Midwest. He scribbled away and could even carry on a conversation at the same time as the train rumbled along the frozen Hudson River. Remember the blocks of blue-gray ice in the water, and the shabby little houses in upstate towns near the train tracks, strings of multicolored lights in their steamy windows; spots of cheer in the bitter cold. Think about the Christmases of your childhood; shoveling driveways, sledding at the golf course, believing in Santa, your uncle with his movie camera, filming you and your cousins in identical red-flannel nightgowns reaching for your stockings, clutching your brand new baby dolls. The light on the camera was so bright, blinding, like the snow outside. Remember how magical it felt Christmas morning, how the snow actually did seem to make a silvery sound when it fell, how your uncle would wink and say how do you know that’s not the bell on the hat of an elf, a stray elf left behind to watch you enjoying your loot. Then all the grown-ups would laugh, with their brandy-spiked coffee and cigarettes, and all was right with the world. Remember this.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

New York Windows

Just some windows somewhere on Bleecker Street - my old neighborhood. I think I took this picture in April, 2004. No plans to go back there for Christmas. I probably won't visit again until spring or summer. Well...I just liked the colors....