Bah, Humbug!

*I published this short essay a  year ago. But I like it a lot, so I’m giving it to you again!

ChristmasChristmas has been written about, sung about, sighed over, and cried over thousands of times. There is absolutely no new Christmas topic – they’re all like the chewing gum on the bedpost, chewed and chewed until all the flavor has gone. So I’m not going to write about Christmas.

I’m not going to write some sappy, soppy something about how children’s eyes light up when they see the packages under the tree. Or about the “moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow.” Or how the sleigh bells jingle as the family pulls into the drive of grandmother’s house. That’s all been done to death.

And I’m not going to write about Christmas miracles – the lost puppy that wandered home on Christmas eve, or the sick child who began to recover when the carolers sang under her bedroom window, or the star on top of the tree that kept on shining even when a Christmas storm took out the power for blocks around. We’ve heard it all, and we’re tired of it.

I’m not even going to join the chorus of Christmas rants, the moaning and groaning over how commercial everything has become, how the spirit of Christmas has been lost, how outraged Jesus would be if He could see what has happened to His birthday. I agree with all of that, but who needs to say it again?

People are turning themselves inside out trying to string up more colored lights than their neighbors (and freezing their fingers and their bums in the process), but I’m not going to write about them, either. And I’m going to do my best not to even notice all the plastic reindeer and blow-up Santas cavorting across people’s front lawns.

Mailmen are delivering Christmas cards by the thousands, but I’m not going to write about them. I’m not going to write about pictures of poinsettias sprinkled with glitter, or cards with pop-up manger scenes, or cards  that squeak out a tinny “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” when you open them up. I’m not going to mention how puzzling it is to get a card signed “with love, Don and Amy” and not have a clue who Don and Amy may be, or how annoying to get a card from this or that charitable foundation with a donation card tucked inside. And I’m certainly not going to poke fun at the long Christmas letters that describe in exquisite detail the doings of each child and grandchild (all of whom are of course beautiful, talented above-average high-achievers).

I’m not going to write about Hanukkah (the word I have to look up every year because I simply can’t remember how to spell it) or Kwanza, either. They have their traditions, their joys and their quirks, I’m sure. But they belong to cultures I know little about, and those who do know can choose to write about them — or not, whatever they wish. I’m not going to trespass on their turf.

No, I’ll stay with the stuff I know, the things I’ve seen and heard and eaten and smelled over the last 80+ years – those are the things I’m not going to write about. I’ll not write about the scent of pine when the Christmas tree is carried into the house, and the grand search for the tree stand that someone put away last year but nobody can remember where. I’ll not write about the hours spent making cookies – cinnamon stars, almond crescents, birds’ nests, pfeffernusse, crunchy green merengues – and packing them into tins and sending them off to relatives far away. I’ll not write about the gingerbread house, lovingly decorated by all the children, and how the cat found it one year and licked off all the frosting. Or about the taste of hot cider and donuts when the carolers return from tramping around for hours in the snow. Or how the living room looks, covered with crumpled, brightly colored paper and discarded ribbons and bows, after the Christmas morning gift-opening ritual.

Even though Christmas truly is a most wonderful time of the year, and Christmas memories are some of the best memories in my memory book, I’m not going to write about any of that. Except – I think I just did.

That D*** Muse

That D*** MuseThere’s something I want to tell you, but I’m scared to say it out loud. I’m writing a book. I’m writing a book! There, I said it. But it still feels sort of wrong, sort of scary. Don’t know why, exactly, but I think it has something to do with maybe I won’t ever finish it – or if I do, it will be embarrassingly bad, and I won’t want to admit that I had anything to do with it.

But I am writing, a little bit at a time, and I’ve got pages and pages stored on my computer, and pretty soon I’m going to put them all together, like beads on a string, and then I’ll sit down and read the whole thing. Maybe I’ll like it, and maybe I’ll just throw it all in the circular file. And when people ask “Didn’t you say you were writing a book” I’ll shrivel up a little and change the subject. Continue reading That D*** Muse

“What?”

hearing aidsIt’s finally happened.

I have now joined the ranks of the for-sure, can’t-deny-it-any-longer Old People.

I am wearing hearing aids.

I can’t deny that the hearing aids are, in fact, helpful. I no longer say “Huh?” and “I beg your pardon?” and “Yes?” at least two or three times at every social gathering. And my TV isn’t turned up so loud that my next-door neighbors have to listen to Judge Judy whether they want to or not. Continue reading “What?”

Buckeyes

conkersIf you have ever doubted that God has a sense of humor,  consider the buckeye.

For you city folk, a buckeye (or horse chestnut, depending on what part of the country you grew up in) is the fruit of the buckeye tree. It has a hard, green, spiked cover, and inside the cover is a beautiful brown nut-like thing,  an inch or so in diameter. And when I say beautiful, I mean beautiful: the brown is lustrous, deep, and rich; it almost glows.

And what are buckeyes good for? Absolutely nothing. Except for making more buckeyes. That’s why I’m sure that God must have been chuckling a bit when He (She? They?) thought them up. Continue reading Buckeyes

Shop-and-Release

shop-and-releaseA few days ago, a dear friend invited me to go shopping with her. In a moment of temporary insanity, I agreed. I certainly should have known better; years of experience should have taught me never to “go shopping” with someone unless I’m very sure that my idea of “go shopping” and their idea of “go shopping” have at least some minimal amount of similarity.

In the case of my friend and me, the similarity was non-existent. My idea of “go shopping” is to have a list – maybe actually written down, but at least clearly in mind – of what is needed, go to the appropriate store, gather up everything on the list, pay for it, and take it home. Continue reading Shop-and-Release

Comma, Anyone?

commaThere are two kinds of people in the world, the saying goes: those who think there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who don’t (plus a few who aren’t sure). “Kinds of people” jokes and sayings can be found everywhere; mathematicians seem to be particularly fond of them. For example: “There are three kinds of people in the world, those who know math and those who don’t.” Or the even more esoteric “There are 10 kinds of people in the world: Those who understand binary and those who don’t.” Continue reading Comma, Anyone?

Spaghetti

spaghettiSpaghetti really isn’t Italian at all; it was brought to Venice by Marco Polo back around 1300. Right? Wrong. There is now evidence that people in Sicily were eating spaghetti at least 100 years before Marco Polo was born.

Hurrah for the Sicilians! They’ve given us one of the most delicious – and confusing – foods on modern menus.

Why confusing? Well, let’s start with all the different kinds of spaghetti. Spaghetti is pasta, right? It’s pasta shaped into long, skinny noodle-things. Sometimes the noodle-things are really skinny, in which case they are called either “capellini” or “angel-hair.” Sometimes they’re thick, and then they’re called “vermicelli.” And when they’re just right (like the porridge Goldilocks ate up), they are real “spaghetti.” Continue reading Spaghetti