Friday, November 28, 2008

Mom's Christmas Nuts

When I was in third grade, my older brother and I were at the dime store picking out our Christmas presents. We were supposed to be there buying a kazoo, which I needed for the holiday vocal concert. If you had a kazoo, you could be part of the kazoo band that would accompany one of the songs we were performing. So, clearly, I needed that kazoo. It was a life or death situation. But, as would be expected in the pursuit of a kazoo, my brother and I were distracted by all the shiny new things we wanted.

"I want a remote control car!" my brother said.

"I want a makeup kit!" I said.

"I want Legos!"

"I want rubber stamps!"

And suddenly, we heard a dark and formidable voice say, "Santa is watching you..." I'm sure we screamed or something.

But it was just our mother. She had been spying on us from the next aisle and listening to every word we said, probably sorting out gift ideas in her head. She bought me a kazoo, and then giggled merrily about her little joke all the way to the car. Normally, our dad is the practical joker, but something about the holidays makes our mom extra silly.

And then she goes insane. It starts with her saying, "I think I'm going to do something completely different this year. But not too much. I don't want all the hassle." Later, she'll add, "Maybe a smaller tree and not so many ornaments."

One year, after she said that, we had no fewer than 10 small Christmas trees and one large one in the house. One covered entirely with angels. Another with just bird ornaments. A few with red lights. A few with white lights. And several with no lights at all, so it looked like an evergreen forest had grown up overnight in our living room.

"I really don't want to do too much," she insists, washing her hands and dipping them back into the large bowl of papier mache. "As soon as I finish sculpting this Santa Claus, I only have two more trees to decorate. The one for the top of the refrigerator and the one by the toilet. I think I'll paint the bathroom while I'm at it. What do you think of a really light sage? Your dad will probably hate it. You know how he feels about green. But if it's almost brown and compliments the shade of plum in the curtains I'm planning to make tomorrow, maybe he won't say anything." And then she is always quick to add, "But that's it! That's all I'm doing."

Five minutes later, there will be the scent of warm glue gun in the air and Mom will be back in her craft room, waist deep in polyfill, making something else. And I'll say, to annoy her, "I thought you said that's all you were doing." To which Mom will respond, "Well, I have to glue the eyes onto this snowman," as if otherwise the poor snowman would have to spend the holidays hobbling around blind.

Mom always insists that the best presents are the ones you make. Which is why--after all of the garlands are hung to her liking, the Santa wreath is secured to the front door, and the Baby Jesus is safe in the old wooden nativity--Mom starts planning the cookie plates.

Cookie plates are awesome. Mom bakes 3,000,000 different types of cookies, arranges them onto decorative holiday plates, wraps it all up with green Saran Wrap, and then adds a Christmas bow. And there is a good chance that, if you are gluten intolerant, she will make you your own special gluten free cookie plate. When the cookie plates are all wrapped up, she will begin to deliver them to everyone in town. Except for the one for the mailman. She leaves that in the mailbox.

The day before Christmas Eve, Mom is understandably exhausted. This is when she announces that she is NOT going to make Christmas dinner this year, and we had all better get used to the idea. She will make some chicken and noodles and put it on the stove, and everybody can just eat whenever they want. "This year," she says, "I'm going to relax. I'm not going to spend the entire week in the kitchen." To which we all just smile and nod because Mom says that every year. We haven't had a traditional Christmas dinner in 20 years, and none of us has ever cared. And so, with her time now freed up to do whatever she wants, Mom gets to work chopping apricots for the rum balls.

The night of Christmas Eve, after making sure that the crock pots are all unplugged and all of the stockings are stuffed, Mom will finally sit down and take a break. This is when we watch IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. And for the 29th year in a row, I'll get to hear about how Mom got to stay up late and watch that movie with her mother and how it always reminds her of that time. After weeks of decorating, cooking, and sculpting, and in the glow of Jimmy Stewart offering to rope the moon for Donna Reed, Mom will realize that she's exhausted herself again. A week away from work was supposed to be a week of relaxation, and what did she do? She didn't even get to enjoy it.

Around the time that George Bailey realizes that he really did have a wonderful life, Mom will decide that next year, she is going to enjoy herself. There will be only a few decorations, and if she doesn't feel like cooking, then by god, she won't. The bells will ring, the credits will roll, and Mom will say, "And that's it. That's all I'm doing."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Is a Battlefield

I haven't been home for Thanksgiving for three years now. Sometimes that makes me sad. But I'm realizing that it is a lot less stressful to just stay in my apartment and enjoy four days of a "HUGE AND IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT!" than it is to spend an entire day cooking. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner is hard work, man.

My "HUGE AND IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT!" this year is painting my apartment and packing up my bookshelves. Since I'm moving at the end of December, and since I like to be seven steps ahead of schedule on things, I have made a list of things to do in advance. 1) Packing of bookshelves 2) Painting of walls 3) Talking to self about what else I can add to list. It is a "HUGE AND IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT!" and not just a "huge and/or impossible project" because I know myself well enough to realize that at some point tomorrow when I have painted several walls and just want to lie around, eat pie, and watch a movie, I will utter the words, "I am never going to finish this, am I?"

Two years ago on Thanksgiving, my "HUGE AND IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT!" was painting my kitchen avocado and putting up my Christmas lights. It took me four days. I left only once to go feed my friend's cat.

But before I decided that it was better for my financial situation to just stay in New York over Thanksgiving weekend, I would be home every year, cooking and cleaning and being generally jolly. (And don't even get me started on how much I love turkey and pies.)

My mom would be up at 4 AM to put the turkey in the oven. My sister and I would grind cranberries, apples, and nuts for the cranberry salad with the old hand-crank grinder. That was our tradition. My dad's tradition was coming into the kitchen and saying, "I hope you don't use too many cracker crumbs in the scalloped cabbage this year." My younger brother had to make the mashed potatoes. My mom always got all twitchy and had to say the words, "Well, I'm just going to make the turkey, and the oyster dressing, and the gravy, and that's IT. That's all I'm doing!" After which time my sister and I would point out that for the 20th year in a row, we were helping her out. (She still has flashbacks to cooking Thanksgiving dinner by herself. Poor Mom.) And my older brother had to come by to check on the dessert situation. There was lots of yelling involved. Generally, the sparkling wine was opened at noon. And as stressful as it all was, it was a lovely tradition for a while.

I talk about it in the past tense because I'm almost positive that the next time I get to be with my family for Thanksgiving, everything will be different. My sister will have finally broken down and used the food processor for the cranberry salad. My dad will have finally overruled the use of cracker crumbs in all dishes involving cabbage. And Mom will have finally realized that she doesn't need to make a pan of oyster dressing for 50-60 people. By that time, I might even yearn for one of my "HUGE AND IMPOSSIBLE PROJECTS!" and four days of laying on my couch moaning for someone to just kill me already.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

As I Lie Here Sweating

It's hot in my apartment. Really hot. Every winter, the building super cranks up the temperature to unbearable levels. It's 30 degrees outside at the moment, and although I have the windows wide open, it's still a toasty 85 degrees in my bedroom.

It doesn't help that I've caught some sort of strange cold. As far as colds go, it's being terribly polite, like it's not trying to inconvenience me too much. I haven't had a fever. I'm not congested. I just have a sore throat and I cough every few hours or so when the phlegm begins to overwhelm my bronchial tubes.

"Don't mind me," the cold says, and tiptoes to the kitchen to make me some tea.
Or maybe that's my meds making me hallucinate.

I hate being sick. Really more than anything, it's just extremely inconvenient. As I'm a person who runs her life on routine, anything that disrupts my routine makes me very upset. Now that I'm an adult anyway. Being sick when it meant missing school was awesome. Unless I wasn't awake to enjoy it.

After my mom went back to teaching, it was usually my dad who took care of me when I was sick. And while my dad is a great dad, his "dealing with illness" skills were limited to flipping the washcloth on my forehead over to the cold side, putting on movies to keep me entertained, and heating soup. Then, he would go out and do his chores, and I would see him again at lunch.

I would lie there and watch the movies he picked out for me. Terminator, something of the James Bond persuasion, or Die Hard. Usually the next day, I would go back to school, completely recovered with my head full of exploding things and rubbish. There was one time when I missed an entire week of school. That was when I saw the whole Dirty Harry series.

Nowadays, although I would like to lie on the couch and do nothing but watch all of the Dirty Harry movies, I know that I need to spend the day writing and catching up on things. Just from a more reclined position so I can pretend I'm actually resting.

I just wish that someone would heat me some soup. Or bring me some Skittles.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Bear in His Natural Habitat...A Studebaker

Alas, I've been terribly neglectful to my Bethville visitors lately. I'm in the middle of taking a writing class and trying to find a new apartment. And since I don't want anyone to get too bored while I'm off doing that, here are some Muppets to distract you.

And one from the loveliest woman who ever lived:

And here's one for my friend MsDirector:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Or Did I?

I don't usually get political over here in Bethville, but I feel I simply must today. Because there is a huge issue of great importance I have to address.

I went to the polls yesterday morning. I voted. And I didn't get a sticker that said "I VOTED" to proudly wear around for the rest of the day. I was stunned. I was offended. My feelings were very, very hurt. My bodily humors were thrown out of balance. The seas boiled. Frogs fell from the sky as rain. And I wept openly there on the steps of the elementary school where I had cast my ballot because that is just so mean. I really wanted a sticker.

As an American, I am entitled to certain rights.
1. The right to make everyone in my neighborhood listen to me when I read poetry aloud at night through my bullhorn.
2. The right to carry a gun around and point it at people who anger me.
3. The right to sit around and watch TV with no pants on.
4. The right to take money out of my wallet and spend it on things I don't need, like blood diamonds and cocaine.
5. The right to keep a long list of people who have wronged me and slowly mark them off as they meet their demise.
6. The right to use my lead-powered rocket pack to fly to the ozone layer and poke holes through it with a stick.
7. The right to marry a dragon.
8. The right to walk on water, even in national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite.

And others that I am far too tired to mention.

Why, America, am I not entitled to a sticker that says simply "I VOTED"? What's the good of living in America if I don't get to celebrate my Americanness by putting a slip of paper with an adhesive backing on the front of my sweater where everyone can see it? How else will they know I went to the polls? I would have to literally stop everyone I pass on the streets and tell them. And that is so inconvenient.

America, things have got to change. We need "I VOTED" stickers for all Americans. And while you're at it, throw in some legalized marriage for my gay friends. Alrighty? Thanks.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Playing Old (Brides)Maid

I love marriages, but I hate weddings.

Don't let the confusion melt your brain. I will explain.

Weddings are supposed to be fun. And they are fun for a lot of people: the bride, the groom, the bride's drunk dad, and the DJ who, after all this time, is still really excited about watching ugly people do "The Chicken Dance." But fun it is not when you are a person who is me.

I'm 29. I'm not married, and during weddings, I'm surrounded by hundreds of socially-retarded and nosy people. Sort it out for yourself.

Every time I discover that I will soon be attending a wedding, I must once again dig out the old "Fuck you, I'm not a spinster" retorts. Because, fuck you, I'm not a spinster. And I've been answering these questions since I was about 12.

Yes, 12.

"So, do you have a boyfriend?" several nosy and socially-retarded people asked my 12-year-old self at weddings and other family events.

"Boys are stupid!" I would reply before running away to decorate my diary with strawberry-scented ink and unicorn stickers.

At 15, I was asked when I was planning to ever get engaged. At 20, people began asking me where my husband was. At 25, they asked after my children. And so, at 30, I'm sure people will be asking when I plan to have my tubes tied and my uterus rotated. (People are soooo impatient for me to get the party started in Baby Town.)

If part of becoming an adult is putting in your time at other people's weddings, I do believe I have met my quota. I've been a bridesmaid three times at this point, and I will not be performing those duties again.

The first time, I subjected myself to the embarrassing tradition of bouquet catching because I was young and stupid then, 20. And I caught it, but the bride later confiscated it citing that it was, indeed, "her bouquet" and not mine. The groomsman I spent the evening dancing with went home with the bride's whore cousin who was wearing a Slinky for a dress. Everyone loves a Slinky. And I have the pictures to prove it.

The second time, I was carrying around 75 extra pounds of post-college booze fat. I didn't want any unnecessary photos of me taken below neck level. Oh, I have pictures. But you can't see them.

The third time I was a bridesmaid, I had a boyfriend who I thought I would be with forever. It was the first time I was actually able to show up to a wedding with a date. A month later, he cheated on me. I don't know if the bouquet was even tossed at that wedding because my head was completely up my ass. And, yes, again I have the pictures to prove it.

Unfortunately, weddings are full of cameras, and whether I am wearing the ugliest bridesmaid dress of all time (hello, velvet?) or wearing my head firmly between my buttocks, someone always ends up with evidence. Hence, I hate weddings.

Marriages, on the other hand, I thoroughly enjoy. I like the love part of things. And I do believe in love, even though I am bitter and cynical and am currently throwing up in my mouth at the idea of admitting this. I think that there is something very nice about deciding to spend the rest of your life with someone.

And I like to think that there is someone like that for everybody, whether the person is gay or straight or in love with something inflatable. I also believe that people can be their own special someone if they so choose. And also that you don't have to actually be married to pledge your life to another person.

So, in response to your question, Uncle _______. Yes, maybe one day I will marry. But it will be on my terms and when I am completely sure that it is what I want. If it isn't, perhaps I will save my money and invest in a large hammer which I will use to whack you in the balls.