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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Decking the Halls (A Holiday decorating poem)

           Christmas decorating is not for the faint of heart. This year, because I know my husband’s heart just can’t handle twenty boxes of holiday “stuff” (or whatever he called it) I decided to do all of the decking of the halls while he was away for the night.
            Won’t he be surprised, I thought.
            Deep down I knew he would barely notice. I don’t blame him for it, really, because deep down spending hours changing the color scheme of my house to red and green for the very few visitors we host seems like a waste of time. But without it I know I just wouldn’t be very holly or jolly or anything else.
            So while he was away, nestled all snug in his bed, I tiptoed downstairs and grabbed bins, green and red. With muscles straining because myself I did carry, I lugged them to the kitchen to start with the merry. I opened them up, wondering what I’d find there, and noticed that last year I packed nothing with care. There were wadded up lights, tchotchkes awry, evergreen roping that I should kiss goodbye. Elfin salt shakers and three hand print wreaths, I pulled glass snowmen from towels like knives from their sheaths.
            As I tossed things from the boxes with noises and clatter, the children sprung from the couch to see what was the matter. “The problem, I said, to all that would listen, is that I don’t know where I put these things that will glisten. The house, it is full, enough is enough, and I don’t know where I’ll put this holiday stuff!” (Or whatever I called it.)
            Less rapid than eagles, the children, they came, and I yelled and I shouted and I called them by name. “You help hang the garland and don’t whine, I forbid it! You set up the village, just find somewhere to fit it. Put these statues somewhere, just give them a squeezin’ and keep on a-smilin’, it’s the holidays season!
            I spoke a few choice words and went straight to my work, thought, “Whoever saved these candy canes is a jerk.” (It was me.) The dust from the trinkets did tickle my nose, as I wondered where my giant singing Santa goes. I put bells on the doors, an elf on a shelf, and I laughed and I chuckled, in spite of myself. There was no room, like that night at the Inn, but I huffed and I puffed, and I stuffed it all in. Garland on furniture, pictures on tables, fake poinsettias stashed wherever was able.
            And when I was finished, I let out a sigh. Christmas had arrived with time flying by. The carols still playing, the songs, oh, embrace it, as I hauled the last empty bin back to the basement.
            I’m sure he’ll exclaim when he walks in the door, what a wonderful wife. How could I ask for more. (Or whatever he calls it.)
Originally written 11.27.16

Sticks and Stones

           I don’t have a strong recollection of being called names as a child. I’m sure I was, because hey, kids are mean and I had a really great set of buckteeth before orthodontics kicked in. What I do remember is what we used to say, or what we were supposed to say, when someone called us a name: Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.
            Or, my preferred saying: I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.
            Neither one of these made very much sense, especially the one about being rubber and glue because while sound waves may bounce, they don’t exactly stick. Also, being made of rubber is almost as silly as being made of glue, unless your name is Elmer.  I can’t, however, deny that a stiff beating with wood and rock would probably hurt pretty bad.
            Yet here we are, a society ripped apart by politics and the ability to exercise our very important right of free speech in many different ways. Whether it’s in print, in person, or the copious posting of opinion via social media to our so-called friends, we should never forget how lucky we are to put our big mouths to good use.
            In the wake of the election and the wake of most everything else, I have stayed fairly quiet. I did not cheer, I did not cry. I didn’t post funny cartoons or comments about outcomes or any large issue. Some may call me a coward for not standing up for what I believe in. I suppose that’s partially true—the little girl with the buckteeth would do just about anything for a friend. But that’s not the reason.
            We are rolling downhill, headfirst, into the holiday season. This is the time of the year when we gather to celebrate all sorts of goodness. We think of all of the things we are thankful for: food, warmth, friends, family. Many of us gather again to celebrate Christmas or Chanukah or Solstice or even the first day of the New Year. No matter what you celebrate, chances are you come together with people you love and feel all warm and gushy inside and even hug the relatives you don’t even like very much.
            Or at least I do. I love the holidays. I start telling everyone how much they mean to me and there’s no way I want any of that happiness to be jeopardized by differing opinions that we may have.

            So this holiday season I am going to enforce a rule of positivity. I declare that at my table, in my home, there shall be no names, no sticks, no stones, no rubber, and no glue. If you’re going to open your mouth to say something, it had better be nice. Or I’ll shove a piece of pie or a cookie right past those teeth of yours, bucktoothed or not.

Originally written 11.20.16

I'll take the rake

           When the leaves fall, our treed back yard becomes suddenly illuminated. Without the shade of all of the leaves on the trees, the bright sunshine can beam down and light up all of those leaves that have fallen on the ground and somehow managed to land mostly in the pathetic wisps of grass we call our backyard. As if they can aim.
            Most people dread the season of leaf removal, but what I dread most is the argument my husband and I have every year. He is practical and smart and efficient and handy, and I am stubborn and old fashioned and traditional and stubborn. (Yes, I said that twice.) When the leaves hit the ground, he fires up the leaf blower and I grab the rake and both of us can’t comprehend the other person’s tool of choice.
            He doesn’t understand why I like to rake. He tells me it’s not an effective way to clean the leaves, that it takes too long and that it’s just plan stupid to kill your back and arms when you can stand in one place with this powerful blowing machine that creates torrents of wind that push leaves in any direction you choose. He says there is also less chance of stepping in remnants of dogs and no bending over to unclog the twigs and leaves that get jammed up at the bottom of the tines. No blisters, splinters, or pulled muscles that make you walk around like you’re 105 years old.
            I don’t understand why he likes to use the leaf blower. It’s extremely loud and spews its annoying sound throughout the entire neighborhood so that everyone can enjoy having to scream in order to communicate. You can’t hear the birds. The user of it ends up smelling like exhaust and has to change clothes and shower if he or she doesn’t want to stink and be allowed in my house which then leads to extra laundry. Leaf blowers are heavy. Your hands go numb from the vibrations. And the worst of the worst, you don’t get that satisfied feeling of an aching back and blisters when you’re all done.
            So, like any good couple with the best of intentions, we fight about it and then take turns. Being the sensible one, he quickly blows clear the lawn while I hide inside and close all of the doors and windows and complain about the noise. But with the next drop of the leaves, I rush outside and spend most of my day raking and raking and listening to myself talk to the singing birds, pulling doggie surprises from the tines of the rake and thinking about how much I have accomplished when it’s all done.
            I celebrate my stubborn accomplishment with hand lotion and Ibuprofen.

Originally written 11.13.16


The juxtaposition of Wonder Woman

           I love juxtaposition. I even love the word ‘juxtaposition’ because not only will it earn my copious points during some golden moment of Scrabble, but also because when world’s collide, I smile.
            Recently our beloved 11-year-old refrigerator took a turn for the worse without us even knowing. A tiny water leak way spewed itself all over the back of the fridge and the wooden floor below. How did I know this? Juxtaposition.
            It was a moment of housewife utopia. The laundry was drying, the carpets were vacuumed, and I had just been to the grocery store and had actually remembered my list. Walking through the kitchen to put things away, I could no longer take the curiosity about why the floor was lifting up in front of the fridge.
            What’s a girl to do? I pushed up my sleeves and moved, with probably not as much grace as I would like, the entire full refrigerator out from it’s housing and into the middle of the kitchen. Armed with a flashlight, I crawled around and made the awful discovery that that water had been spraying and my floor had been acting like a giant sponge.
            What started as a happy housewife morning turned into Wonder Woman meets Mr. Fix It.
            But that’s just the juxtaposition that I love, that the hands with the gentleness of freshly fluffed bath towels can yank out a fridge. I love being a woman. I like caring for my kids, eating small dainty portions of fancy food and sobbing uncontrollably at commercials and holiday movies. But I also value the strength that comes from doing something I set my mind to. Especially when it feels like it’s all part of a day’s work.
            In the kitchen, things didn’t get any better. A floor repairman said that they would need to send someone out to tear up the wood laminate floor and then it would have to sit for a few days before they could replace the damaged pieces, and no one could come out until next week.
            “But I’m a busy mom. And I can’t live with a fridge in the middle of my kitchen. Can’t we just tear it up ourselves to save time?” I asked. He gave me detailed instructions to give my husband.
            The minute he left, I went to the garage and grabbed a crowbar and took to the task at hand myself. Minutes later, with a grand look of satisfaction on my face, I had ripped up the damaged boards and looked at the clock. After wiping the sweat from my brow and putting away the tools, I had just enough time to bake cookies before picking up the kids.
            With the fridge in the middle of the kitchen, it wouldn’t take long to reach the butter.

Originally written 11.6.16

The Bermuda Triangle of bellies

           Brace yourselves, your belts, your non-stretchy pants, and your bathroom scales. We are about to enter the food zone, the collection of consecutive holidays that challenges our willpower against those foods that make our taste buds smile. It is long, challenging, and delicious. It is a season that separates the boys from the men, the girls from the women, the carrot sticks from the chocolate pies.
            It begins with Halloween, that tempting holiday when those of us with small kids find ourselves with an instant stash of bite-sized candy that we promise we won’t eat, because it belongs to the children. But then the urge is too strong and what starts out as “I’ll just have one little piece” soon turns into you scrambling to figure out how you’re going to explain how all of the Butterfingers are suddenly missing.
            After Halloween, you have less than one month to gear up for your next eating challenge, Thanksgiving. This glorious holiday is planned around a gigantic meal that, despite how much you try, is anything but calorie free. Gravy is delicious and how many chances a year do you get to sample multiple slices of pie? It’s about family gatherings around a bountiful table.  Not over-stuffing yourself to the point of pain is as anti-American as not getting up after your nap and eating another plate.
            Before the last of the turkey makes its way to the freezer or the soup pot, we are up to our ears in the Christmas season where every day is another party, another meal, and another plate of seductive sweets knows as The Cookie Plate. The Cookie Plate is a cornucopia of sugar and fat and any host worth his or her salt will display their goods with such finesse that you just have to eat at least one…of every kind. At this point, you’ve already gained 10 pounds from the previous holidays so, hey, why not? It’s Christmas, after all.
            And right after Christmas is a short hiatus of feeding, minus the ceremonial pork and kraut that a lot of us devour on New Year’s Day. We scarf it down because we all make the same resolutions to eat better and be healthy and lose those 15 pounds we have gained.
            But then, before you know it, it’s Valentine’s Day with it’s chocolate covered everything and rich meals shared with those who love us, no matter how much weight we’ve gained.
            From there, some of us have a Lenten reprieve, but then it’s Easter and there are massive chocolate eggs and jelly beans in every direction and we’ve got to go into rehab for all of the sugar we’ve consumed in the past five months.
            Just in time for bathing suit season.

Originally written 10.30.16

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