I started Christmas decorating on Friday. I think my favorite part of the whole decorating deal, besides finally finishing it, is unwrapping each ornament and knickknack. It's like reminiscing with an old friend I haven't seen in a year. Each piece has a story, like the wreath a dear friend, now deceased, surprised me with one Christmas. Every year I hang it on the door and think of Faye and what a special person she was. There's even the opposite of that. A lady I worked with many years ago, someone I didn't think was so special, made reindeer ornaments out of clothespins and gifted everyone in the office with one. Each time I unwrap the little guy, and he's really cute, I remember Jan, just not too fondly.
My mother-in-law, back in her ceramic days, made the figurines for our Nativity set. She was not very happy with two of the three Wise Men, saying their heads didn't come out of the kiln right. I would never have noticed if she hadn't said anything; to me, they appear to be appropriately reverent, but each year when I free them from their tissue bed, I recall the back story and it makes me smile. I also have the big (and heavy, God forbid it gets dropped) ceramic Christmas tree she made. That tree graced the sofa table in her living room for years, now it gets a place of honor in my den. I did draw the line on her Santa Claus, however. This particular piece must have been one of her first ceramic attempts and it's pretty bad. My husband was a little miffed that I forced Santa into retirement, but I have my standards.
There are beautiful beaded felt ornaments handmade by a friend of my mother's for me when I was just a little girl. Another of my mother's friends painted several glass ornaments depicting scenes from our early married life: a cat named Gathright that we had for a short time until we were forced to give her up (stupid apartment manager); my husband's pickup truck; our dachshund Fritz, and even our first house painted from a photograph, right down to the Victorian woodwork on the porch. I have a number of ornaments that belonged to my maternal grandmother that must be 100 years old, or very close to it. Birds with tails made of very fine spun glass threads, and two heads, which sounds kind of gruesome, both of young ladies with the bobbed hair and headbands of the flapper style. I never knew my grandmother, but having her ornaments on my tree links the generations and reminds me of the stories my mother has told me about her.
In the kiddie department, there's an ornament my husband made back in first grade, a Styrofoam ball with his initial in glitter and a pipe cleaner for a hook. The Styrofoam has gotten so brittle over the years, I'm leery of handling it too much. There's also one from my grade school days, another Styrofoam ball with little beads stuck in it. I think I made it in third grade. In my den, I have a small tree, my Kid Tree, that is decorated solely with the baubles my children made over the years...fingerprint mice, reindeer heads constructed of Popsicle sticks, an Indian tepee my younger son made when he was in the Indian Guides, grade school pictures glued to miniature wreaths and frames and snowmen, an angel topper that dates back to first grade with my older son's initial glittering on its paper doily robe.
Our Aggie Tree, a small table tree, includes a see-thru ornament filled with ashes from the 1994 Bonfire, and a tiny replica of the Aggie Bonfire made out of twigs with a miniature t. u. outhouse on top. There's also a remembrance ribbon my husband wore in 1999, when he attended a vigil for the young people killed in the Bonfire collapse that year...November 18th, to be exact.
When my daughter was three, I bought her her first Christmas ornament. She didn't much appreciate the gesture at the time, nor was she too thrilled with the others that arrived each Christmas thereafter. They were, after all, fragile glass trinkets and not to be played with. The impetus for this was because I had nothing for my first Christmas as a newly married wife, not even a strand of tinsel, and I thought it would be nice if my daughter had a starter box of ornaments, so to speak. The thing I didn't anticipate is that I've fallen in love with her ornaments every bit as much as my own, and it's going to be a wrench giving them up when that day finally gets here. I keep dropping hints that she should marry a nice Jewish boy, and I even had a young fella picked out at one time, but so far, no dice.
Someday, my kids will each get their share of the ornaments and Christmas knickknacks they grew up with, and it's my wish that they will cherish them just as much as I do now, even Jan's little one-eyed reindeer.
A little of this and a little of that:
Several weeks ago, we had a rainstorm. There must have been some freakishly high winds because half of the big tree in our front yard went down. Thankfully, it had the consideration to fall away from the house and not on it, but the street was completely blocked until we were able to set some chain saws on the thing. We are now left with an ugly stump, no shade, and big gouges in the grass. On the plus side, there will be a lot fewer leaves to rake this year.
Paige's boyfriend date gave her a diamond necklace for her birthday last month. He was the one who "surprised" her with Penny the cat. I was glad to see that John is no longer giving live animals for gifts.
Speaking of animals, Paige texted to say that she is now the proud owner of a betta fish, those beautiful fish with the flowy fins that have to be kept separated so they don't fight. She named him Themis, a word that has something to do with her sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha. When I asked who was taking care of Themis while she's home for Thanksgiving, she said she'd stick him in a cup holder during the drive to Dallas. It's obvious Themis was an impulse buy, and for his sake it's a very good thing she's not flying home.
Our older son is finally moved out and living the bachelor life. I took him to Ikea to buy a new bedroom suite. I had never been to Ikea before and boy, was that an experience. The place is huge and is set up in such a way that unless you are a frequent shopper and know the store's layout, you are forced to walk through the entire thing from entrance to exit. It's like being in the Wizard of Oz, but instead of a yellow brick road and helium-sucking Munchkins, there are arrows on the floor and surly sales people to guide you on your way. From a marketing view it's smart; I'll bet lots of customers wind up buying more junk than they intended to, but at one point, I was beginning to wonder if we'd EVER get out of there, that maybe Mitch and I were doomed to spend the rest of our lives following those arrows in an endless circle and subsisting on the Swedish meatballs they sell there.
I'm seriously thinking of putting the Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving. We will not be having turkey day at our house this year, so it won't matter if things are a mess next week. The trick is convincing my husband that this is a good idea.
I often joke that in my next life, I am coming back as my FIL's cat. That animal is the most spoiled rotten feline in the history of the world. Pepe gets fed four different things everyday: chopped cooked shrimp, chopped chicken, dry cat food and wet cat food. The chicken has to be bought from Target because apparently Pepe doesn't care for the rotisserie chicken at the local supermarket, too salty or some such thing. Our two kitties have to rough it with IAMS dry food everyday of their lives, poor things.
When the Aggies played Kansas State last Saturday, the men in my life wouldn't let me sit down and watch the game with them on the TV. They are convinced that I bring the team bad luck because it seems that as soon as I take a step into the den with them and their precious TV, the Aggies fumble, get a penalty, or get their ball intercepted. I didn't watch so much as a down that entire game and they still managed to lose. Actually, I don't like watching A&M play on TV. It's stupid, but I feel I have more control over the team's fate when I'm there live.
My husband was in Boston on business last week. The last time the both of us were there, we found this little hole-in-the-wall Italian place called Giacomo's on Hanover Street that served us a meal we couldn't stop talking about for weeks. Isn't it funny how the hole-in-the-wall places often have the best food? Anyhow, I told Richard he needed to go back there and have their butternut squash ravioli with asparagus and prosciutto in a mascarpone cheese cream sauce. He went and he did. He even texted me a picture of the dish on his cell phone. The low light and bad resolution made it look more like cat barf, but I appreciated that he tried. (Sorry folks - I looked, but couldn't find a website to link to, just reviews.)
When our oldest moved out several weeks ago, I was finally allowed to come up for air after decades spent buried in the varied demands of family life. I am now seeing things without the filter that is kids and the chaos surrounding them. Phoebe got fat. Some scary looking hag now inhabits my mirror. My husband is no longer twenty-something. Our house, brand new when we moved in, needs a serious overhaul, and the wee bushes and skinny trees we planted require haircuts. At the age of 53, I am having to reinvent my life with a middle-aged man, two cats, and an elderly mother. Generally, I am not good with change, but I have discovered that empty nesting has some benefits.
For example, the laundry practically does itself these days. Five people means a lot of dirty clothes, especially when one of those people is a teenage girl. Laundry days meant trying to figure out how to fold thong underwear, checking the dryer for cats before turning it on (this only has to happen once and you are scarred for life), yelling at my daughter for having three weeks worth of clothes crammed in her hamper, and, on the flip side, begging my sons to change their socks and underwear a bit more frequently, preferably daily. Interesting how one sex overdoes it and the other thinks stains and wrinkles are a fashion statement. These days, I still have to check the dryer for cats, but there's no denying the laundry is much easier.
Although I still hate it and probably always will, grocery shopping isn't the chore it used to be, either. For one thing, the bill has been neatly cut in half. I no longer have to buy doubles of everything, like two packages of chicken or two packages of hamburger or two frozen pizzas. It's kind of cool to know that I can buy a week's worth of food without going into the triple-digits on the bill. But the best thing as far as I'm concerned is that I no longer have to account for differences in taste. My husband and I are pretty much on the same page when it comes to food, but our kids were all over the map. The oldest hates vegetables and anything "crunchy". (But he loves sushi and raw fish, go figure.) The middle child was okay with veggies, but didn't like melted cheese, and I dare you to find me a "family pleasing casserole" that doesn't have gooey cheese on the top. Throw in our daughter, the on-again-off-again dieter, and it was enough to make me swear off cooking forever. Actually, I did swear...a lot.
The kids' rooms and their bathroom stay clean. I don't have to shut the doors to spare my eyes the sight of dust and chaos. Now I shut them to keep the cats from shedding on the beds and drinking out of the toilet.
I love how the kitchen, once I've cleaned up after dinner, stays tidy for the rest of the night; no more dirty dishes mysteriously piling up in the sink. And the dishwasher only has to be run and unloaded once a day, if that. Even the household trash has gone on a diet.
Less is more, and sometimes change is good.
My high school class is holding an informal reunion with six other classes. This covers some 1,000 people and to date, only four have RSVPed to say they will come, including the lady who is organizing this bash. I suppose it would be bad form if the hostess didn't care to come to her own party.
I have been to two class reunions: the fifth and the twenty-fifth. The fifth reunion was a formal affair at a nice hotel in Houston. I bought a black strapless cocktail dress and a pair of black pumps with not-quite-stiletto heels. If car dealers will let customers test drive their merchandise, department stores should do the same with formal wear. I spent the entire evening hoisting up that damn dress because it kept wanting to settle down around my waist. To add insult to injury, a classmate's floozy of a wife had the gall to wear the exact same dress in a shade of baby blue. We were probably the only ones who even noticed, but as is customary in these situations, we glared at each other good and proper, and then spent the rest of the night trying to keep at least 30 paces apart.
Jump ahead 20 years and it's our silver anniversary. You'd think they'd make a big production out of this one, but no. This reunion was held in a honky-tonk that had been rented for the occasion and the dress code was casual. Still, most of the attendees made a stab at wearing something besides blue jeans and tee shirts.
Two friends picked me up at my parents' home in Houston: one was a long-time married lady, like me, with children; the other a divorced gal with no kids. I did pretty well recognizing female classmates, but many of the men stumped me. Truth is, guys change more than the ladies as they get older. They can do things the ladies can't do like go bald and grow facial hair. (Actually, ladies can do those things, too, once their estrogen levels start to drop.) A few male classmates had managed to stay pretty much the same over the past quarter-century, but it was embarrassing to have a guy walk up to me clearly knowing who I was when I had no clue who he was. And somehow it seemed insulting to take a quick glance at the name tag. I would try to time the name tag glance when Whatshisface wouldn't notice. (Look! isn't that So-and-So? <quick glance>)
Post reunion, a group of mostly single people decided to carry on the merriment and drinking at another dive. My married friend and I just wanted to go home, but unfortunately, we were at the mercy of our divorcee driver, so off we go to the post reunion party. The divorcee, anxious to find husband #3, disappeared in the crush of people, leaving the two of us to sit there and scream at each other over the noise. We were both fish out of water and knew it.
My husband never cared to attend any of his high school reunions, which shows more sense than I would have thought.
I would love to attend this one, but have sent my regrets. I still picture everyone as I remember them in high school and for now, I prefer to keep it that way.
A smorgasbord of things I've observed and/or learned from the boob tube. You, dear reader, should not assume anything about my television watching habits:
If someone is trying to drown you in a toilet, reach up and flush it.
When confronted with a zombie, shoot it in the head.
This country is seriously screwed up.
On television, there is no such thing as morning breath.
Television is overrun with little people, but you never see them in real life.
Snooki is an Oompa-Loompa love child.
People pack entire wardrobes for three-hour tours.
No one locks their doors, even in NYC.
Arthritis won't kill you, but the prescription pill you take for it might.
American parents are morons, especially the fathers.
Women on television have happy periods.
Wal-Mart advertising executives think normal people shop in their stores.
Seriously, who would order a cake from a Food Network contestant?
Most of the wedding gowns on Say Yes to the Dress are hideous.
Reality shows are completely unreal.
It is easy to find parking in NYC.
Gifts on television always have the top wrapped separately from the rest of the box.
Bullets from machine guns never hit their intended target.
People on television wind the bedsheets around themselves after sex.
Memo to Simon Cowell: Please go back to England...and stay there.
On survivalist shows like Lost or The Walking Dead, the ladies' underarms are always shaved and their eyebrows waxed.
Women go to sleep/wake up in full make-up.
Ever noticed the streets are always wet?
A woman running from an axe murderer is guaranteed to slip and fall.
Aggie football and national television generally do not mix.
A group of cats is called a clowder.
Betty White used to be darling. Now she's just annoying.
The cheeseburger I order never looks like the cheeseburger on the commercial.
Geckos have British accents.
Star Trek was right...there's no intelligent life down here.
Feel free to tell me what YOU have learned from the boob tube.
Get notified of new content! Enter your email address in the space below to get started...