I took my Christmas
packages to the post office earlier this week. The line was long, of course,
and moving forward slowly. I decided to pass the time imagining ways to make
the wait more festive.
music would be nice; played softly so that I would still be able to hear what
the woman behind the counter was mumbling to me about
“liquidfragileorperishable” and Priority Mail that couldn’t be guaranteed to
arrive on the West Coast within the next eight days even though it had just
cost me almost as much as the gift in the box to send it. I guess I am a little
behind this year. I also think each of the postal workers should have a dish of
peppermints at their station to hand out to customers who remain congenial
throughout the waiting process. And the worker who decked herself in jingle
bells and blinking lights should get a bonus in her paycheck. How about a tree
in the lobby to welcome us? Or maybe a big blow-up Santa with a sleigh to drop
our boxes into after we are done paying for them just to remind us who the real
delivery men are?
But what I was
really wishing for was a flash mob. Well, maybe not a mob exactly, but a few talented a cappella vocalists who would surprise and delight us with Joy to the
World and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. The customers inching around the edges
of the post office in single file weren’t sullen, but we were all a little too
somber for such a joyous season, a little too flat, verging on gray rather than
a living green, or a red so resonant it could ring bells, or the glittering gold of jubilation.
When I finished
with my postal business I put on my coat and muffler and began to leave, but
turned impulsively at the door, smiled and exclaimed, “Merry Christmas
everybody!” A handful of the people
still waiting in line responded in kind.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I
left the post office in higher spirits than when I arrived. My To Do list
seemed shorter; my seasonal stress was shredded to ribbons; I turned up the
volume on the Christmas carols playing in my car and sang to myself as I
traveled from store to store; the snow falling softly from the sky felt like
benign approbation. My gray had gone away.
It reminds me of a
poem I like that Thomas Hardy wrote for the Christmas of 1900:
The Darkling Thrush
I leant upon a
When frost was
And Winter’s dregs
The weakening eye
bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of
And all mankind
that haunted night
Had sought their
The land’s sharp
features seemed to be
His crypt the
The wind his
The ancient pulse
of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard
And every spirit
At once a voice arose
The bleak twigs
In a full-hearted
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush,
frail, gaunt, and small,
Had chosen thus to
fling his soul
Upon the growing
So little cause for
Of such ecstatic
Was written on
Afar or nigh
That I could think
there trembled through
Some blessed Hope,
whereof he knew
And I was unaware.
This aged thrush in
blast-beruffled blue jeans has chosen thus to fling her soul upon the growing
gloom, and the full-hearted song that trembles through me is rooted in the birth of Christ the Savior that is celebrated in hope throughout the world at the end of each year. This year no less than others.
We were in the car
on our way to buy mint M&M’s and a space heater at Target when my husband
said, “I’ll give you twenty dollars if you ask the electronics salesman where
the doorbuster sales are.” It was already two weeks past Black Friday and
Doorbusters were extinct for this year’s holiday season.
Something came over
me, I could feel it on my face: that wide-eyed, artless look of innocence that
I inherited from my mother—my game face.
“Okay, I’ll do it.”
“You can’t mention
the twenty dollars,” he warned.
When we entered the
store I headed for the electronics department. Other than a girl behind the
counter on the phone there were no sales personnel in view, so I waited
patiently, trying to ignore my laughing husband hiding in the toy aisle. After
a couple of minutes the polite and helpful girl on the phone said she would
call someone to assist me. And she did…before I could back out of the prank and tell her not to bother.
When I asked the
polite and helpful young salesman who approached about the doorbusters, he just looked at me. I
could tell that he was sizing me up, trying to determine if I was aged or just
crazy. I looked him straight in the eyes, lifted my eyebrows a fraction and
waited for his response.
“Soooo…when you say
doorbusters—“ he said slowly,
diplomatically. By now my husband was rolling in the aisle, which was distracting and caused me to
“I’m sorry,” I
said, no longer able to avoid grinning, “someone dared me to ask you that. I hope I didn’t take you
away from anything important.” Since I am old enough to be his mother, maybe he
I got my twenty
dollars though, that and my husband was still chuckling about it hours later.
clever at achieving one's aims by indirect or deceitful methods.
"a crafty crook faked an injury to escape from prison"
of, involving, or relating to the making of decorative objects and other things by hand.
"the blogger displayed a few, very clever, crafty Christmas decorations "
I do not consider myself crafty by any definition, I possess little to no talent for arts and crafts, but every year at Christmastime a dormant gene of creativity awakes and I make something. Just one thing. All by myself. No inspiration from Pinterest. No Martha Stewart standing over my shoulder to cheer me on.
Dear gracious and supportive readers, is this annual seasonal effort not deserving of a little blog post boast?
A few years ago I bought two artificial berry garlands and twined them together into a wreath to hang in my dining room. Perhaps, if I hadn't just mentioned it, you might have supposed that instead of making this simple wreath I possessed the ability to carve the oak leaf and acorn motif on the architectural artifact hanging on the wall beneath it. Not so.
Neither did I throw this bowl on my pottery wheel or carve the ethnic Santa from a discarded bocce ball, but I did make the paper snowballs and the tablecloth.
The green velvet cushions were made by Crate and Barrel. I made the mushroom-colored canvas ones last year out of stenciled placemats. I could have bought nearly the same thing already made up into cushions, but I didn't want to pay the asking price. If necessity is the mother of invention, then its stepmother must be thrift.
This year's objet d'art was a little more challenging. It even required a trip to the craft store and a hot glue gun. The Christmas tree is made of book paper chandelier shades, a heavy wrapping paper tube, a craft cone and a wooden coaster.
It is satisfying to envision something and then produce it with one's own hands even if the inspiration comes along only once each year. The crafting urge has already moved on, but I want to thank you all for allowing me to strut my stuff for a little while. You are too kind.
It was supposed to be a ten day trip to Russia. Instead of flying east through Moscow this time, he decided to take the more direct route west through China. We packed Christmas cookies in a tin for the bottom of his backpack and the grandchildren made paper ornaments to hang in his hotel room. Someone tucked a box of holiday candy into his suitcase between his pants. But then, after more than two days of travel, he was stranded in a backwater airport in Mongolia with a canceled flight, an expired temporary visa, no flights into Siberia for another two days, and no one around who spoke English or knew how to process his credit card. If not for the Russian girl who spoke both English and Chinese and took notice of his dilemma, who knows what may have happened.
In the end he aborted the trip and came home. That is such a good word. After four days of global airport hopping he is home. Safe.
There are some people in this world who demand to be bribed to do the job they are paid to do, and others who bend over backwards to help. My husband encountered both. I wish I could thank the Russian girl who interpreted for him at the airport, and the Chinese woman who accompanied him to the bank so that he could exchange his money to buy a ticket back to Beijing, and refused any payment for going beyond her job description.
It wasn't the deep-fried turkey that did it. Nor was it the cornbread stuffing, potatoes or gravy. And the pecan rugelach and chocolates went down easily enough. But afterward, when the feasting was over and the dishes were washed, as she battled the electric powers of young superheroes Flash and Misty in the basement, it suddenly occurred to her: Tentacle Woman needs a Tums.
I won't be chasing turkeys this year. I won't be washing, brining, stuffing or roasting any either. My hands smell of clementines and cinnamon instead of garlic, sage and rosemary. I was not up late last night pressing linens or setting tables. I made sweet rolls for breakfast this morning.
Our daughter and son-in-law are hosting Thanksgiving in their home this year. On the menu is a turkey for the deep fryer and a turkey for the oven. We will have more than enough for our Thanksgiving feast. The Giver of all good things has been good to us.
My favorite color is green. Definitely and irrevocably green. Many years ago, when I asked my husband what his favorite color was he said it was autumn. I like this guy who thinks outside the crayon box.
My mother took a
botany class in college and became a self-styled naturalist. After we had all
left home and started families of our own, she became a docent for the Snake
Lake Nature Center. Mom enjoyed taking her grandchildren on walks around the
lake, pointing out wildlife and teaching them the names of plants. She often
quoted the old adage: leaves of three
leave them be, to warn us away from poison ivy, and taught us how to
identify deadly nightshade.
One day as she was
leading two of my nephews along a path through the wooded wetlands, she plucked
a leaf from a plant, popped it in her mouth and began to chew. “Nettles,” she
announced happily, “you can eat nettles.” Then her expression suddenly changed
to one of growing alarm. “Wait…mah tong ith goin num!” Poor Mom, either she didn’t know
or had forgotten that, while stinging nettles are edible, they must first be cooked or soaked
in water in order to remove the plant chemical that makes them sting.