Party Day, Get Out the Vacuum

Big Christmas/Holiday/It’s Been Snowing Party tonight.  Woo Hoo!  Rob’s making tenderloin, crab cakes and a tres leches cake and I’m cleaning the couch … .

That’s been our understanding for the length of our marriage.  When we give a party, Rob does most of the cooking and I get everything else ready. I do assemble some food things, like the egg nog and the bean dip, but nothing heavy duty. Rob loves to cook and he’s really good at it.  I’m too busy hoovering. **I’m not British, but how often does one get to use such a great term in Colorado life?  Indulge me.**  I don’t love cleaning, but I can’t help myself.

Why clean the house before a party?  Because we have a pug and a cat who shed A LOT and I have this idea that I can make a dent in the amount of fur and dander that resides with us.  I know they say it takes 6 months to make a home fur-less after a pet leaves a home, but I try to do it in 6 hours. I also stock up on Benedryl for allergic guests.

Apologies in advance, people.  I’m trying my best here.  You may be sneezing and have to use a lint brush on your coat, but the food will be amazing.

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Memories of Christmas Past (Weird But True)

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What memories can your Ghost of Christmas Past dredge up?  During my driving time lately I’ve been pulling up some of mine from long ago.  Maybe I’m trying to make myself feel better for not filling out Aunt Pat’s Christmas Memories book for the last 20 years.  In any event, most of my recollections are pretty good ones.  Some are just odd.

As a child, I hated going to see Santa.  I liked the idea of Santa, the whole bringing me presents thing seemed like a good deal.  But he knew if I was sleeping or awake, and if I’d been bad or good?  And he came down our chimney and left presents in our house while we slept?  That was kind of creepy.  Then, after standing in line FOREVER, I was told to go and sit on his lap.  Seriously?  Stalker and B&E Santa?  This was way before political correctness, but somewhere in the back of my mind I just knew this was not right.

Nevertheless, come Christmas Eve, I was SO EXCITED FOR HIM TO COME that I could barely stand it.  Fortunately, my family had a tradition of going to the Greenfield Village and/or Henry Ford Museum (depending on how cold it was) on Christmas Eve before heading to my Grandparent’s house for dinner.  It was a great way to get a child’s mind off of things for a little while.  My grandmother was step-mother to my dad and things at their house were always just a little bit stiff, shall we say.  We would gather with aunts and uncles and cousins and have dinner.   We were not allowed until later to venture into the living room, which was where the tree and the presents were, and really where all of the  action would happen.  We couldn’t touch ANYTHING (or at least I couldn’t, at the time I was the youngest and I suspect I was under an extremely watchful mother’s eye) because things in there could break, like those multi-colored glass grapes in the centerpiece bowl on the coffee table.  <sigh>  The drive home was long and one year the snow flew at the headlights so thick we could barely see.  As my dad drove slowly, white-knuckeled I’m sure, I sat wide awake on my mother’s lap, searching through the snow for Santa’s sled somewhere up there in the sky.  (Ah, yes, those were the days, when children bounced around from front seat to back, happily unencumbered and unconcerned about car seats and crash tests.)

Christmas mornings, I, the youngest, dutifully woke everyone before the sun came up.  My brother loved me for this, I’m sure.  It was the one time of the year when Dad took home movies of us.  Horrifically bright white lights flooded our little family room, sending off an astonishing amount of heat as we held up our treasures with giant smiles.  My retinas never recovered.

The reason for the season was always alive in our house, and the Christmas story was told and retold.  I was infatuated with the nativity scene, in particular Mary adoringly looking down at Baby Jesus.  So, I would grab a blanket and drape it over my head.  I knelt (because Mary is always kneeling, right?) on the family room floor and looked lovingly at my baby doll, wrapped tightly in “swaddling clothes,” a/k/a a towel.  That was it.  Nothing else.  After a few minutes, my knees would hurt and I’d go back to being a cowboy (or maybe it was a horse, I recall a lot of clomping around on hands and knees, naying from time to time).

As I got older, Christmases got a little weirder.   One year, my mother decided to buy fluffy white “snow” to spread on the tree.  We backed up to ensure even coverage and realized it looked like a giant spider had cocooned the whole thing in its web, ornaments and all.  My brother’s tarantula, Charlotte, had recently molted and he placed her abandoned exoskeleton gently on top.  The Addam’s Family had nothing on us.

We were lucky we didn’t burn the house down with our dried out “live” trees.  By Christmas morning, needles showered down onto the carpet as we slid the presents out to open them.  To address this problem, my mother and I decided to buy a “living” tree one year.  As an added bonus, we could plant it in the yard come spring.  The little tree did well enough through Christmas, but we kept it inside a little too long and didn’t think to water it once we moved it to the deck.  Yet another life cut short.

My mother the science teacher collected eggs from the quails her class had hatched, tucking them into the shelves of our fridge for a couple of months.  She then served them, deviled, with our Christmas dinner of Cornish hens.  Delicacies, I know, but none of my friends’ moms did stuff like that.

And so it is.  Oddities, snippets, bits and pieces of time shared.  Many of my memories are glommed together experiences from several years.  Like all that time spent snuggled on the couch watching the Grinch (with his little dog Max, wonderful thing), Charlie Brown, Rudolf and A Year Without a Santa Claus:  “I’m mister heat miser, I’m mister snow . . .”  The shows were on just once, so if you missed them you’d have to wait until next yearThe Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come never failed to scare the pants off me.

The Goose Is Getting Fat

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Living in a resort town, you would think that we get the Christmas bug early. Vail’s lights are up well before Thanksgiving (maybe they never take them down, now that I think about it) and Santa comes to Beaver Creek the Friday after Turkey Day to help kick off the season. He and a few of his elves have even been known to parachute into Copper Mountain’s village at night, complete with twinkling beacons so we can see them in the frozen sky.

And yet, every year since we have lived here, Christmas has a way of sneaking up on me. What is it about this place? Maybe because it gets dark really early, so in the evenings I just want to curl up on the couch rather than make Christmas cookies. Today, as my cart bumped past couples and families stocking up for their ski vacations at the grocery store, it hit me. Christmas is fast approaching and I’d better get my jingle bell groove on.

You can’t miss our welcomed visitors in the grocery aisles, poor saps. Their distinguishing characteristics include:

  • a full family shopping together (this never happens in non-vacation life — think about it)
  • extended relations and/or friends trying to decide what kind of coffee to buy (“I won’t drink Starbucks, it’s against everything I believe in,” as his friend looks at him with disgust “Seriously?”)
  • carts full of everything necessary to make a pancake breakfast, including a spatula
  • looks of complete defeat, accompanied by, “I cannot find the olives anywhere
  • women in mink coats pushing grocery carts down the cereal aisle (Yes. It’s true.)

As we get closer to December 25, we who live here begin to drive a little more defensively, particularly in those pesky round-a-bouts which befuddle our visitors. Generally, drivers who are new to this grand invention of traffic control either careen around them as fast as possible while their passengers assume the head covered tornado drill position (“Hang On!”); or they slowly creep around it a few times, hazard lights flashing, while other cars dodge in front and behind. We also find ourselves looking the other direction as we back out of our parking spaces because the vacationers can’t seem to get the fact that it is a one-way lot. They cluelessly drive past, going the wrong way in their rented Suburban, Starbucks in one hand and iPhone in the other.

But we love having them here, even if we do have to adjust our shopping schedules and our expectations for the availability of parking spaces. They bring the holiday spirit with them. They remind us that we get to live in a place where other people would rather be. They have counted down the months, weeks, days, hours and minutes until they could breathe our thin air.

So, as we duck our heads to avoid the skis swinging past us in the Village, let us all be grateful for the reminder that the holidays are upon us and we are pretty fortunate to get to spend them in such a fabulous place. (And don’t forget to pick up some eggs and bread before the shelves are bare.) Cheers!


Photo from Amazon.com, American Greetings Christmas Jumbo Holiday Gift Bag, Santa Parachuting. Yes, this can be yours for just $11.09 with Amazon One-Click(R). Act now!


‘Tis the Hoarding Season

Today, we brought the Christmas decorations down from the attic.  Also, my husband cleaned out the freezer.  And I couldn’t deny my hoarding tendencies any longer.  I don’t generally think of myself as someone who can’t let go of things, it’s just that sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with them, or I have some idea that someday I will do something with them and so they stay in the box/drawer/garage/closet/freezer.

Some of you may remember that last year around this time, I posted a picture on Facebook of a poor angel that had gotten into some trouble while in storage over the summer.  Well, the little guy was still stashed away in the ornament box when I opened it today.

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Why, for heaven’s sake (tee, hee), would I have kept him and his tangled mess of hooks?  I must have had a thought that I would glue his head back on so that he could again hang out on our tree, as he had for a couple of decades (maybe more).

I often have these sorts of thoughts.  Someday, for example, I may become a wonderful keeper of memories and start filling in the Christmas Memories Book that I found in the bin of Christmas Stuff That I Keep But Do Not Ever Do Anything With.  My well-meaning and very sweet Aunt Pat gave me that book when Rob and I were first married.  It is meant to hold 20 years of Christmas Memories.  Had I faithfully filled it with little notes and pictures, it would have been complete two years ago.

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But it remains in the box of things I don’t do anything with, utterly blank.

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There is a fair amount of guilt that hangs out with this dutifully stashed stuff.  As my husband dug out last year’s (ok, true confessions, it could have been from two years ago) turkey and stuffing from the freezer drawer, I explained that it had been perfectly good and worthy of keeping, but we were sick of turkey.  So I froze it.  Because when you freeze things you can save them longer and eat them when it is more convenient.  But I’m not very good about remembering what I stuck in the freezer or, even if I do remember, about pulling out the carefully Zip-locked chicken parts to cook them.  And then I avoid cleaning out the freezer because I feel terrible that perfectly good food has probably gone bad, even in the freezer.

I have a similar problem with clothes and shoes.  Work clothes from my prior life, which I left almost four years ago, still hang dutifully in my closet.  I wear some of the occasionally.  But most of them I didn’t really like even when I was working.  I should have given them to Dress for Success three years ago.  Now they are way out of style, and yet they remain hanging there because you never know when I’ll have to put on ugly clothes and go to an office somewhere.

And then there are the stacks of lawyer magazines (mostly unread), Redbooks, Southern Livings and Coastal Livings sitting on my coffee table.  Someday I might just want to know how to avoid a class action lawsuit or make real fried chicken or put on festive makeup and it will all be right there in front of me . . .

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The Road to Hell Is Paved with Unsent Greeting Cards

Several years ago . . .  scratch that.  At least a decade ago, I stopped sending Christmas cards.  I didn’t mean to stop sending them forever, but it seems to have turned out that way.  Life got in the way.  I was busy commuting, working, raising a child and avoiding the grocery store.  I bought the cards that year and they stayed right there in their neat little boxes.  Every year since, at some point I experience a flash of guilt.  Usually it’s when I start getting cards in the mail from all of those people who are so kind as to send us pictures of their beautiful families, smiling, and wishing us a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year!  You know who you are. Nevertheless, the cards remain in their neat little boxes up in our attic.

Our attic is full of guilt-inducing good intentions.  In addition to unsent greeting cards, it is stacked with boxes of jumbled up photos from before iPhones and iPhoto and iHaveDigitalPicturesOfEverythingOnMyHardDrive.  My child’s babyhood is in there.  I really should put them into some sort of order and then into albums or the Poor Thing will never be able to prove he existed before we got our first digital camera in 2004.  There are books boxed up for our move four years ago that I can’t throw away, because we don’t throw out perfectly good books and so I should sort them for donation to someone.  And then there are bins of old electronics, cables, wires, software discs and manuals that I can’t pitch because they would be bad to put in our landfill so they should be recycled but who has time to figure out where to take them for recycling???  And I have no idea what to do with the pile of (sometimes) beautiful memories that is my son’s artwork from elementary school.  I can’t just throw them away, can I?

As the boxes of things that I really should do something about co-mingle with my pangs of guilt over failing to send out Christmas cards (and birthday cards and correspondence of any kind, really), the damning flames of anxiety are licking at my heels.  And so, my Dear Ones, please accept my heart-felt apology for the the years and years of failure to send a picture of our decorated tree, the cat, my son and our smiling faces to you.  Please know that I have thought of each of you every year and sent you good wishes via ESP as I guiltily failed to send you a card.  However, the odds are that my burdened heart will not change my errant ways, so please don’t judge too harshly when no card appears in your mailbox this year.


Wouldn’t This Have Been a Cute Card 9 Years Ago?

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