Merry Christmas!


Now take off those rose colored glasses.

After everything we’ve been through in the past year, it sure is tempting to feel sorry for ourselves. Christmas without family is just plain sad. No family parties. No traditional family foods. No swap gifts or big family photos. For the first time in 35 years, we don’t have even one of our children under our roof of Christmas morning.

Not one measly kid.

Boo-hoo, poor us!

In the face of our pitiful pandemic celebrations, it’s easy to look back at every Christmas of the past through the lens of perfection. Compared to this year, it seems like every single holiday of my life was filled with fresh snow, happy children, and perfectly cooked meals shared with smiling loved ones.

Oh, and tastefully decorated trees, too.

When I look back on all the years of Christmas, I’m sure that I looked exactly like this lovely blond woman wrapped in her white furs and yuletide evergreens. I can clearly remember the sweet ringing of silver bells as our horse carried us over the snow……..

But naturally, that’s all bull pucky.

So as I sit here listening the rain pouring down on my snowless roof, in my completely quiet house, I am thinking back on Christmases past.

And you know what I am remembering?

Some of them were pretty bad!

For example, I remember the year when we put up our very first full sized fresh tree. Our daughter was three years old, and this was the first time we were living in a house instead of a cramped apartment or my parents basement.

We spent more money than we had on a beautiful tree, took hours to decorate it perfectly, and stand it in our window. And two hours later our sweet little girl was covered in hives. Dear Lord, was she allergic to the tree??? We called the doctor, who said, “I don’t know.”

So out went the tree, and off to the store went my husband. He came back with one of the only fake trees left. It was a gorgeous pretend blue spruce and it cost three times what the overpriced real tree had cost.

But we set it up, and we went on to use if for about 20 years.

THAT was a tough Christmas.

Then there was the year when we took that same fake tree out of the basement closet and dragged it upstairs to the living room. As we unwrapped the tarp, we found the branches filled with bits of fiberglass insulation, pieces of cloth and dozens of bird seeds.

The mice, it seemed, had been nesting all year in our tree. When we opened the cardboard boxes containing all of our ornaments, we found that they were full of mouse poop and seed shells, too. As the Mother of three very young kids, I reacted with typical mother serenity.

I put EVERY washable ornament in the bathtub and filled it with hot water and bleach. I soaked the crap out of those things. I threw away a bunch of stuff, sprayed bleach water on a bunch of stuff and vacuumed that poor tree to within an inch of it’s life. The kids cried. I cried.

Eventually the tree went up and we lit multiple candles to cover the smell of bleach.

Good times, good times.

One Christmas we all had strep throat. Well, four out of five of us did, anyway. Dad had his tonsils out as a kid, so he was healthy. But I was as sick as a dog, and so were all three of the kids. We skipped the extended family Christmas Eve gathering at my parent’s house, because we were all feverish, sick and aching. As I recall, we were all asleep by 7pm. We got up to open Santa’s gifts, but everyone was wrapped in a blanket and shivering again by 9 am.

I distinctly remember that Christmas dinner that year was Cream of Wheat cereal.

And I will never forget the year that we finally retired the old fake spruce. That extravagant expenditure ended up being the bargain of the century, because it lasted for so many years. But when it’s plastic needles started to fall off and it’s branches were mostly bent out of shape, we decided it was time to go for a real tree.

That was the year I convinced my now college aged sons to help me cut down a local pine. See, we basically live in a freakin’ pine forest. It seemed silly to pay for a tree. It was also the middle of the big recession, around 2009, and most of the homes in our neighborhood were empty. The pines were beginning to crowd onto lawns.

So, environmentally conscious woman that I am, I grabbed a hand saw and headed out with my strong young sons. And off we went. We found a nice healthy white pine growing along the road, and down it came.

It was only after we tried to hang ornaments on it that we realized white pines are WAY to weak and floppy to be Christmas trees.

That year was our “Charlie Brown’s Tree” year. We had to tie the damn thing to a hook we stuck in the wall.

So you can see that not every Christmas in my life was perfect. I’m going to guess that a lot of yours weren’t so perfect either.

But you know what?

These are some of our favorite stories now. These are the stories that make us laugh and appreciate each other and share a common warm memory.

So I’m thinking that one day, in the not so distant future, we’ll be laughing at our Zoom dinners, our distanced visits and our Christmas texts.

It’s time to take off those rose colored glasses and start appreciating what we still have right now.

Merry Christmas. Happy Hannukah. Festive Solstice to you all.

I Refuse to Cancel Christmas!


One tiny microscopic virus is not going to rob me of the joy of Christmas. No how, no way. I know my rights as an American.

I refuse to skip my Christmas festivities.

But you know what?

I am going to postpone them.

My husband and I aren’t putting up a tree this year. Without any family or friends around to see them, why drag the boxes of ornaments out of the attic? Why move the furniture and untangle the lights? Everything can just stay all snug in the attic for now.

Instead of hanging lights and baking cookies, this year I’m spending my time planning. I’m making lists of names, designing decorations, planning a menu.

Because next summer, I am going to throw the biggest freakin’ party in the history of parties. Not since Bilbo Baggins threw his big eleventy-first birthday party has there been such an outrageously festive event.

I plan to have this event somewhere outdoors, just so everyone can fit. But there will be an indoor venue there, too, because it’s been way too long since we’ve been able to gather indoors and be all squashed together.

My giant celebration will include the introduction of my newest grandchild, little Max, because so many of our family and friends have yet to meet him. It will also be a birthday party, because he’ll have turned one year old in April. And while we’re giving gifts and eating cake, we’ll also celebrate the birthdays of Max’s older siblings, his parents, his grandfathers and grandmothers and all of his aunts and uncles.

The day will include a fabulous wedding, too, since my son and his partner had to postpone their plans for last August. We’ll have tons of champagne, piles of appetizers and live music by every band we haven’t been able to see in the past year. There’ll be toasts, and dancing and reunions of old friends along with the exchanging of vows.

The main food of the day will be turkey with all the trimmings. I mean the whole shebang; stuffing, dressing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans and squash and fifteen kinds of pie. I can hardly wait to start cooking!

To set the mood for the day, there will be lots of sparkling decorations all over the venue. We’ll choose a place with some nice big pine trees, and we’ll wrap some of them in colored lights and hang red, green and gold balls on them. Maybe everyone will bring a gift to swap!!!

Every fifteen minutes, a bell will ring, and everyone will hug the person next to them. The hugs will be long and fervent and filled with affection and joy. People will kiss each other on the cheeks, or even on the lips, if you can imagine such a thing. There will be a lot of shouting and laughing while large groups of guests stand less than two feet from each other.

At least ten times during the party, everyone will throw an arm around someone’s shoulder while we all sing loudly. This will happen mostly in the indoor part of the event space, of course, so that we can achieve maximum mingling of breath.

And just to make the party a truly exciting and unique event, I’m going to ask everyone who attends to wear a costume and carry around a plastic pumpkin! Oooh, I have a great idea…..I’ll give out little candy bars as wedding favors!

At midnight, fireworks will be sent into the night sky and everyone will clap, cheer, wave various and sundry flags and shout “Happy New World!”

Naturally, before the party winds down near dawn, everyone will go out into the grassy field next to the giant dance floor/stage. As the sun rises, all of the kids will hunt for colored eggs and hidden candy. Then we’ll all have a big brunch on the lawn.

I can’t wait.

I’m thinking of calling it “Postpone-a-palooza.”

You want to come?

Waking Up in 2020


It is the sound of the wind that wakes me up. A cool breeze flutters the dark blue curtains that fall across my window.

My first thought is that it’s morning. After having woken up three times in the night, it’s a relief to see daylight.

I roll over. I slowly orient myself. “It’s late summer….it’s Sunday morning….there’s nothing much on the agenda for today….”

Suddenly it slams into me: it is early fall of 2020.

The blankets feel heavy all at once, pressing on my heart and my chest. I drape an arm across my eyes as the waves come flooding over me. Trump against Biden, and only a few weeks left. The lies being told and repeated and told again. The violence in the streets, the rage, the injustice, the impotence of trying to make a point to anyone who will listen.

These thoughts are quickly chased out by fear of the second surge of Covid that is expected in the next few weeks. Will schools be safe? Will we have to go back on lockdown? Will the supply chains dry up again?

Will this ever end?

Are we facing civil war? The rhetoric on social media scares me more every day. The people marching in our streets with guns in their hands, insisting that they have to protect us all from enemies who come from “the other side.” The images are terrifying.

Will the economy continue to slide, and what will that mean for us, for our future? Are we heading into a depression, or even another deep recession, like the one that ravaged this small town just over a decade ago?

I roll over again, pulling my knees up to ease the pain in my back and in my soul. I’d like to stay here all day, rolled up like a pill bug, shielding myself from the reality that is 2020.

It’s the same every day. It’s the same every time I wake up. I stay in my restful place for maybe ten seconds, and suddenly I’m drowning in helplessness and frustration. Every action feels futile.

Everything I know is out of my control.

But I don’t stay in my bed. I refuse to be that far down. I push myself to my feet and stand in my window, holding the curtains back. I force myself to see my own small piece of the universe.

The woods are glowing. Wet leaves sparkle in the breeze. The air smells of the earth and a hint of the coming frost. There’s a cardinal chirping out there, and from overhead I hear a hawk’s piercing call.

The thumping of two tails on my bedroom floor tells me that my dogs are up and waiting for their hugs and scratches. I smell coffee, and picture my husband in his blue robe, knees up and feet on the scratched coffee table, checking the news on his laptop.

I am healthy and safe. There is more than enough food in our house to feed us for months. My children are safe and healthy. My grandchildren are joyfully oblivious to the wide world, and are happy to have so much time with both parents.

This reality, my small piece of reality, is where I absolutely must keep my focus.

I can’t change the outcome of the election. I can’t force Trump to stop lying to us. I can’t force people to see those lies for the blatant gaslighting that they are.

I can’t cure the virus, or keep the schools safe and healthy. I can’t give 50 million Americans jobs or make Europe let us all back in.

What I can do is enjoy my cup of esspresso, scratch the soft spots behind my dog’s ears and give my husband a hug.

I can tell my children and grandchildren how much I love them, and I can call my Momma for a chat. I can send letters and cards to friends.

That is my world for now.

The challenge is to convince myself that it is, in fact, enough.