Monday, December 16, 2013

“How did it get so late so soon?” ― Dr. Seuss

So, I got barreled into the other day, by an older woman in a Ginormous Volvo SUV (government plates) while I was finding a parking space. My little (new) Yaris took a major hit, while her "tank" escaped unscathed. My day had already had a handful of icky challenges, so when I leaped out of the car, even though I'm a sucker for dogs, cats and seniors, my first instinct was to pump up the volume in my voice," Didn't you hear me laying on my horn?!!"
I megaphoned.
She was a bit frazzled. My guilt set in. "Well, it was my fault dear, but I do have the flu."

You know, the final month of the year is a crazy-hectic month, isn't it? I mean one attempts to find the serenity, to walk in the light, to offer up kindness to all... However, it doesn't always work out like one plans.  After the "I had the flu and that's why I hit your brand new, small car" incident, I managed to drop a package of 4 Dole pineapple cups in aisle 4 at Save-Mart, causing a large, liquidy mess. And prior to the tropical fruit mess, I dared to go into Beverly's Fabrics (lesson to self: Stay the fuck away from Beverly's Fabrics during the month of December) where my debit card was declined. Never mind that the store was packed and there was a crowd around me. The worst part of it (our account was "locked" due to suspicious activity, I was told by the bank) was that my homophobic next door neighbor was behind me in line and witnessed the event.

December is many things to many people: Christians honor the birth of Jesus. (Who was recently discussed, along with Santa, by Megyn Kelly of Fox News and declared absolutely, without a doubt, white), Jewish celebrate Hanukkah, Goddess-worshiping Pagans light incense and dance around naked under the full moon and the rest of us, just tread water to keep up and drink in heavy volume.

I have a love/hate relationship with December.
I hate the excessiveness of it; the spending, the over-eating, the extreme indulgence, except for the booze part. I like the booze part. I have a sharp dislike for the busyness and hurriedness as well. There's no time to be with friends because we are too busy running around and buying gifts for our friends. If you work in retail, you know how ugly December can be. "Why don't you have what I'm looking for??? I drove all this way in horrific traffic!!!" Sometimes, I feel as if December brings an explosion of giving to the sick, the homeless, the less fortunate, the abused animals, as if all of these unfortunates do not exist the other 11 months of the year.
There's some pretending going on too. You know my homophobic neighbor I spoke of earlier?
Well, she sent us a holiday card, which she signed by all her family members, even the ones that don't look at us when we wave.  This brings a conflicting response in my pea-brain head: How lovely they remembered us with this Hallmark gesture & how shitty it is that they hate lesbians.

Children are a huge part of this month, and that's sweet as fudge, yet I can't help but recall my observations when I was a teacher; specifically, the kids that "had a lot" vs. the kids that "had very little".  It really is amplified by this thing called Christmas.  When holiday vacation ends, and students return to school in January, there's such a competitive vibe in the air.  There's the kids wearing their $150.00 Michael Jordan basketball shoes and those that still have on their shoes from The Goodwill. 
There's the Banana Republic faux fur coats vs. the Walmart fleece zip-ups. There's the students that went to Europe to visit grandma and the ones that got to see Santa at the mall. It's a glaring, blaring oddity that cannot be denied. And then, of course, there's the poor families who open Visa charge accounts, with 24% interest rates, in order to buy their kids what they want, so that they don't get made fun of or feel less than. December becomes this month of incredible debt and living beyond one's means.  

There are two things I especially love about December.

THING # 1:
I love this face. It's a package of joy and innocence and a clear reminder of all that is truly important. Look at her light up at the opportunity to make her parents and her baby sister a present.
"Who knew Q-tips were better than paint brushes!"

"A flower-shaped lollipop is all I need."

"Why is my shadow so tall, Valerie?"
I love this face too:
"Baa Bee, I can shoot hoops!"
"I don't wanna eat my lunch. I wanna play!"

Aren't children the extraordinary magic of any month? 
True, unless of course, you're an over-worked elementary school teacher, in a classroom of 33 and no aide. (Shout out to my heroines in the public school system!)

THING # 2:
The second thing I love about December are the holiday letters.  So, I receive anywhere from 
2-7 each year. Most are lovely, though a few go on and on, in great detail. For example, the 100 awards their kid  received, or how many maps they had to use on their vacation, or what each child received for his or her birthday. Some are a bit "wordy" you might say, but all are sent with well-intentions, I suppose, as is the one I send every other year or so.
There are 2 that I receive yearly that stand out.  One is from an acquaintance of long ago and the other one doesn't actually come to me, but to my mom-in-law, who kindly shares it with me each year.
The following two are unedited.  (I swear to God!)
Here's to the joy and festiveness of the season!

"Do you like frog glasses, Valerie?"  "Yep, I do."

Christmas 2013

Dear Valerie,

Not one of our better years.  Bill (name change)  is worse and now has gallstones.  Can't be operated on as his intestines are too inflamed.  
My typewriter had the nerve to die. It's hard to find a used one.

They have been working on the new sewer in front of my house for nearly 3 months. The city's equipment keeps breaking.

I managed a couple of day trips and had a good time.

I hope you are doing well.

Merry Christmas.
Betty (name change)

Dear Mary, (name change)

It's been a banner year!
We began by getting a new minivan complete with a navigation system. 
It’s been a lifesaver! We have the routes to all the nearest hospitals and pharmacies pre-programmed. 
With the time we’ve saved from printing out directions, I’m now able to spend some time knitting. I’m just starting out but I made little Roxy a new sock to chew on. (This has really helped her stop chewing the couch.)

John is doing well. He landed a third job hauling trash, which helps cover all our psychiatric co-pays.
We are so proud of Brian (name change). During his last incarceration, he received the prison’s coveted Inmate of the Month award for his good behavior. And John and I were so impressed by the license plate he made for us for Christmas.
Annie (name change) is just terrific, too. Her soccer coach has noticed that she’s kicking harder than ever (though it’s still at the other players). 
And the other night, she actually sat down and did her homework.
It’s been a bittersweet year, as Felix, our cat, is no longer with us. One of the kids left the door open, and he never came back. John says he’s never seen a cat run so fast.
Well, that’s all the news we have to report for now. 
Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and hospitalization-free holiday season.

The Smith Family (name change)

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Val, you make me belly laugh with the things you post on this blog as well as touch my heart. The last Christmas letter reminds me of what one of my students shared with me recently. First he told me his dad died, which caused me to burst into tears and hug him. After a little interrogation, it became clear it was a distant relative that died, not his own father. But I guess he enjoyed my initial reaction, because a little later there came his familiar tap on my lower back. When I acknowledged him, he said, with great sobriety, that also "his fish died and his cat left." Maybe the cat was a little concerned about the rash of recent deaths in the family and felt personally threatened, or was just really bored after the fish died.... who knows? But when I tried a little impromptu English Language Development lesson, stating that his cat had "run away", he responded no, he just left. I visualized the cat walking out the door with a disgusted look on his face. Here's to happy children and cats this Christmas! Love, Amy