Christmas Guests, Memories and Memorials

doug's tree guest room 016I’ve spent the day finishing HMO’Keefe’s Christmas tree.  I’ve been working on this for more than a week now.  It’s a pre-lit tree, but whole sections refused to light.  I checked bulbs, cords, fuses, the alignment of stars and planets, and everything else and nothing, nada, zip, could persuade the lights to work.

I decided to put up HMOK’s tree in the guest room primarily so his daughter could enjoy it when he comes to visit, but also because it is a slim tree and fit into the room like it should always have been there.  He was mildly annoyed when he got it home after buying it to discover it had colored lights.  He and I both prefer trees with either white lights or a solid color.  This one has red, blue, pink, white, green and gold.  It’s grown on me over the years and the multi-colors are great in the guest room.  I’m right fond of it.

But I was not fond of its refusal to work.  So, I trundled off to the Lowe’s and found an exact match for the lights.  Now, really, what are the odds?  So, I added more lights to the sections that aren’t working.  (Maybe next year I’ll take off the non-working lights, but I didn’t feel like wrestling with cable ties this year.)

doug's tree guest room 038I was so afraid that celebrating the holidays this year would be hard that I resolved to begin early so that if I did end up in the pit of sadness, my obligations to the family and friends would be taken care of.  Funny thing.  The more ahead of the game I got, the more I have enjoyed the season.  I’m still mourning HMO’Keefe, but I think I’ve moved to the acceptance stage of things and spend a lot of time reminiscing about our years together — particularly our Christmases.  We had a long-distance relationship for years, but regular as rain, I went to Boston or he came here.

He particularly loved the spectacle that is my house at Christmas time when I put everything out.  I felt I owed it to him and to me to make sure the house is at its Christmas best this year.  I’ve had a ball doing it.

doug's tree guest room 023Today, I fixed the lights and got out the boxes of his ornaments.  He was fond of Santas, kayaks, chili peppers, cowboys, and his daughter.  His tree reflects those things.  It’s a beautiful, funny, eclectic memorial to the man I loved.  I’m so pleased that his daughter is going to be able to sleep in this room with that tree when she comes to visit.

I’m also excited that Chef Boy ‘R Mine will be here for 5 days this year.  I can’t remember the last time I had him for 5 days.  So, I’m in a frenzy to have the house clean and orderly, to make cookies, to celebrate all the time-honored traditions of an American Christmas.

doug's tree guest room 042The guest room is almost ready, and boy-howdy I’m glad my two guests don’t have problems with cat hair.  I’m pleased with how the room turned out.  I bought the furniture this past summer upon realizing it drove me crazy that my son and step-daughter didn’t have a proper bed to sleep in when they’re here.  The suite of furniture is gorgeous and suits the room perfectly.

Upon excavating and decorating the closet, I got the hidden writing closet up and running again.  I can’t wait to spend some serious time in there writing secrets and memories.

Hugging Lazzie Bear

big tree 010The big tree is finally up and decorated according to tradition. This is always a monumental undertaking, but this year the tree was especially recalcitrant.

The little tree is the kid-friendly one. This one is for me. Some people have scrapbooks – I have a Christmas tree. Every ornament on the tree, though mundane and seemingly uninteresting, has a story even if the story is only that it was on my first tree. Indeed, I procured my first ornament while still in high school. I love Christmas trees and this one is a lifetime of stories.

rositascantinaUnder the tree sits a Christmas Village consisting of 32 houses, several large accent pieces and a score or two of village residents. I have always put the village under the tree and the population of explosion of a couple years ago has stagnated. This year I added one new structure, Rosita’s Cantina, to honor Doug. But that one little café apparently was more than the town zoning commission could take. No matter how I arranged and re-arranged, everything would not fit and just looked terrible. I was perplexed.

thenewtreeskirtSince I am the Queen of Online Shopping, I ordered a new tree skirt which is, as is usual with me, a tablecloth. This one is a 90” round. I miss the ridiculous lace of the old one, but this has a beautiful damask texture. I’ll get used to it. But, baby, we got room for growth now! Um, actually no. Even though I added a bunch of new real estate, the village barely fits. It would seem the opening of a Mexican cantina is the sign that a town has all it needs.

lazziebearI love the walk down Memory Lane when I decorate the trees. As is probably true for most folks, most of the stories center on my child. My favorite story to tell is why there is a pink baby rattle on the tree, but my second favorite story to tell is the Lazzie Bear Event of 1987. It might have been 1986, but Chef Boy ‘R Mine demonstrated some mad running skills so I’m thinking he must have been 2 ½ at the time.

I had the most well-behaved child on the planet and it had nothing to do with my parenting, he was just a compliant, good-natured kid. So much so that I feared for him.

izzy still helping(He grew out of this in his teen years and I quit fearing for him and started fearing for me, because I was losing my mind with his behavior, but those are other stories. Back to the one at hand.)

He and I were in Lazarus, now Macy’s, and the full-on Christmas shopping frenzy was in place at the Huntington Mall. The place was crazy busy. Jeremy held my hand and stayed close without me having to tell him. He overwhelmed in crowds and wanted me to carry him, but I was laden down with too much stuff to comply. I feel strongly about folks dragging little kids around the mall and Jeremy usually did not go with me. I can’t remember why he was with me, but it was out of the ordinary for him to be plunged into the depths of commercial craziness. Neither of us were cranky, but we were both anxious to be done.

taekwondokidWith no warning at all, my compliant, well-behaved child took off at a run through the perfume department, through the jewelry department, hung a right at shoes, and launched himself airborne into the arms of one, very surprised adult wearing a white bear costume.

Lazzie Bear was the store’s mascot and for a price, children could have their photos taken with Lazzie Bear. The child had wanted nothing to do with Santa, but a large white bear trying to go on a bathroom break was the love of his young life. The smile on his face! The exuberant hugs! The myriad of kisses! The perplexity of the poor guy just trying to get to the bathroom and out of a hot suit for a minute or two.

Lazzie Bear doesn’t talk, so a patient clerk tried to explain to my son, who I was desperately trying to get to, that Lazzie Bear needed a time-out and Jeremy would have to wait awhile before he could sit on Lazzie’s lap. Jeremy was hearing none of it, still enveloping the guy in sweet, toddler love.

lazxziebearphotoI arrived on the scene, sorted out what was happening, and told Jeremy we had to go a different way to a different place and then he could have his picture made sitting with Lazzie Bear. Well. That was that. He marched me down the aisle, up the escalator, and we patiently waited at the empty Lazzie Bear booth for Lazzie to return. I have a sweet photo to remember the day by and I have a Lazzie Bear hanging on the Big Tree.

I hope you are making stories to tell this holiday season. Enjoy it and the children in your life. These are magical times.

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The Zen in Tedium

ironA lot of the stuff on my to-do list is just tedious. I have a very long to-do list. If I were to actually write out the entire to-do list, it would be in volumes.

I’m not sure what stage of grieving involves nesting. In preparation for the holidays, I do tend toward nesting behavior and I define nesting as a comforting behavior centered on home improvement whether it be a simple cleaning or an intensive makeover. This year I’m in hyper-drive. I think it’s because I know the holidays are going to be hard and the more serene the house is, the better I’ll be.

Now nesting is a comforting behavior, but under normal circumstances such activities as cleaning windows and dusting under the table are simply chores to accomplish so one can get on to the more fun activities like putting up the Christmas tree or lounging about admiring the sparkle of china against newly cleaned glass.

chinaI’m involved in something that’s a combination of simple cleaning, organizing and intensive makeover. There’s a lot of tedium involved. The latest project is the living room/dining room and the latest activity of that project was the installation of hardware and hanging of draperies. (They’re flipping gorgeous, by the way.) One of the subtasks was the ironing of eight drapery panels badly wrinkled by having been stuffed in a package the size of a trade paperback.

Erma Bombeck said, “My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.” In another column or book somewhere, she also said something along the lines of children of nonworking mothers never enjoy the warmth of a hastily ironed shirt as they race out the door to the bus stop. In short, Erma and I shared a hatred of ironing and only did it at the last minute, under duress and as quickly as possible.

ironingYesterday, I decided ironing wasn’t so bad. I cleaned off the dining room table, set up the iron, spread the panels, one at a time, on the table and ironed them. It took me 30 to 40 minutes to iron each panel as there were frequent breaks to enjoy the newfound orderliness of the room and to laugh at the cat trying to attack the robotic vacuum cleaner.

There’s zen to be found in tedium – if you do it right. I had a fine time ironing yesterday. And after ironing, I embarked on stringing ribbon and fishing line through prisms to hang from the exposed drapery rods – a very tedious activity. I enjoyed that too.

The key is to not be in a hurry. You hear this all the time, but “being right here, right now” goes a long way from changing something from dreadful to a meditative experience. “Wax on, wax off.”

I’ve commented in the past on how it seems I get more done when I don’t have a to-do list. I know now it’s because to-do lists are antithetical to zen. Doing is not being, but if you do it right, just being gets a lot done. How’s that for a conundrum?

But I think this all might be a bunch of hokum, because I tried to zen my way through the cleaning of the litter box tonight. No dice. So my theoretical explanation of the zen of tedium needs some corollaries – the first being that nothing can be meditative when there’re cat turds involved.