Tag Archives: holidays

Tyger, tyger, burning bright

My blogging has been lighter than usual because a couple of weeks ago, I saw my doctor and she told me that my right shoulder is so much lower than my left, she would have thought that I had a severe curvature of the spine. My typing has been slow, my sleep has been poor and and my breaks have been many. Unless today’s snow dump somehow derails it, I’m going in for an evaluation with a physical therapist early this afternoon.

The last couple of months have been a revolving door of reminders about mortality and health. We’ve been second-hand witnesses to the passings of three people, one far too young, the other two simply too young to die. I’ve interviewed young people who know too much about things like homicide and psychological abuse (for projects I am working on). I felt helpless as I stared at images of the fields of bodies in Haiti, keeping the television mostly silent because my boy already spends too many bedtime hours resisting sleep, trying to solve the puzzle of death.

In a little over a week, the Year of the Tiger begins, and it feels far more like a ritual time of reflection and reassessment than January 1st this year. I’m making lists, trying to finish projects and clearing away clutter. I’m ready to do whatever it takes to bring my physical, personal and professional carriage back into alignment. I want to be on the tiger’s side.

And I would be oh so grateful to see her clear our collective house of fire, thieves and ghosts.

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I wish I could say that I came into this year, this decade, with rosy optimism and a warm blanket. I tried. I did yoga. I took a hot shower and sang along with Irma Thomas to expand my cold-ravaged lungs. I took a cinematic ride through the universe with my boy and remembered our teeny-tininess, but when midnight came I was just agitated, unsettled, unreasonably angry.

But it’s the first Monday of the year, and even though my son and I argued on the way to school in the car today, even though my chest is still sore, I don’t feel rested and the cold outside is far too bitter, I feel strangely unburdened and optimistic. I want to clean up and put things in order. I want to make appointments and to-do lists. I want to roast vegetables and cut fruit and find a place to run inside. I want to listen to depressing music until I feel light again.

I hope your first Monday is pleasantly complicated, that your sinuses are clear and that ushering in this new decade feels like watching the sun rise.

Happy new year.

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Be the fireworks

Have you read the Declaration of Independence since you were in school? Do it now. Preferably out loud. With friends. It’s fun. I speak from experience.

Read The Constitution or the Bill of Rights to your resident barbecue expert as they baste and turn.

Interpret these beautiful documents through dance, song or finger paint.

Happy Independence Day.

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Blue flowers

About seven or eight years springtimes ago, at a past house, I decided to plant my first garden.

I had few domestic skills in my 20s and I did little to cultivate any. But something changed after I turned 30. I asked my mother for a power drill my birthday and she got it for me in earnest. Then I decided, kind of rashly and stubbornly, that I wanted to draw butterflies to my yard with blue and purple flowers.

I ordered young butterfly bushes and globe thistle from a Pennsylvania nursery in springtime. They all arrived tender and green and weeks, if not a year, from blossoming. As I collected supplies at a garden center, I saw a raft of deep blue and periwinkle Lobelia. These were the sky-like colors I wanted in my piece of chopped-up earth, so I bought some and planted it that day. It was some of the only color in that garden until late summer.

My son wanted to get me flowers for Mother’s Day this year. When Dan took him to a nursery, Declan spotted what he wanted immediately: A hanging basket, filled mostly with purple petunias and blue Lobelia.
“I love them,” he told me when he showed them to me with a voilá wave of his arms.
So do I.

Hope your Mother’s Day was happy.

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Santa fraud

I’ve been kind of surprised by the number of anti-Santa parents I’ve met of late. Or those who will only tell the tale pragmatically, as in, “Santa lived once and was generous and gave gifts to all the children, and now we do the same thing in that spirit.”

More than a few people I’ve spoken with were traumatized by the means that, as children, they were disillusioned of Santa Claus. Being teased out of the fantasy on the playground or school bus made them feel that their parents had lied to them, that they were duped by the world. (My husband is one of those people.)

“I can’t lie to my child, no way,” one mom told me recently.

Personally, I never fully stopped believing in Santa Claus. I can’t swear to him, either, but I met plenty of Santa haters (especially older kids who seemed to take joy in dispelling the story) that gleefully tried to humiliate my faith, and it left no bruises on me.

I think believing in the impossible, or the improbable, is especially good for a science-enamored kid like mine. It’s one thing for him to learn to suspend disbelief at the movie theater, another thing entirely to do that with his own life. I don’t know where the world’s scientific developments would be without the capacity to imagine, desire, fear or believe in things that seem just too crazy to be real.

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Why Santa is real to me

When I was nine years old, my parents separated and my mother, brother and I moved from the east coast to Ohio. After living with cousins for one endless summer, we moved into a rented, red-brick house in a small suburban school district. A Doberman named Thor lived on one side of us, a family of five with a bespectacled patriarch who wore denim overalls and drank a six-pack of bottled Coca Cola daily on the other. Presumably, Thor didn’t live alone, but I don’t remember much about his owners.

I remember a lot of things about the year that we lived in that house. When mom signed the lease, our bedrooms were white, but by the time we moved in, mine had turned to yellow, my brother’s to blue, and my mother’s to a bright shade of lime green that she affectionately referred to as “pukey.” I remember lying in her window seat, listening to the radio news report that people had been trampled to death at a Who concert just down the interstate in Cincinnati.

Our pet German Shepherd was too big for our lives there, so she was passed on to a pair of farmers. I sobbed, standing in my roller skates as I watched the happy couple drive away with her in a boxy, powder blue pick-up truck after telling me how loved she would be in her new home, how thrilled she would be with all of that space to run.

I once got sick from eating too many mulberries from the neighbor’s yard. I met one of the only friends I still stay in touch with from childhood when her puppy, Satchmo, nearly knocked me off of the green, $12 bicycle that my mother bought me at a rummage sale in New Jersey a year before.

On Christmas eve that year – our first alone as a three person family unit – we were all winding down upstairs, getting ready for bed. My mom was in the bathtub and my brother and I were resisting sleep – bouncing around in the hallway together, too anxious to get to Christmas morning to rest.

Then we heard a rumpus of thuds and bells on the roof, followed by a man’s voice in the living room: “HO HO HO! Merry Christmas Turner family!” My mother scrambled for a robe and we all ran to the landing of the stairs together to look out the window. Santa ran up the driveway next to our house and waved at us cheerfully before disappearing into the dark. And, like any normal children raised on the threat of Santa, my brother and I sprinted to our beds and pulled the covers up over our heads, as though whatever gifts we had under the tree might disappear if we were caught awake. Mom acted concerned, even nervous. She went downstairs and found that the deadbolts were locked. She made a big deal of checking that the windows were locked too. Her only conclusion? “That must have been Santa Claus.”

In the years since, I’ve asked her several different times who that Santa really was. There were a number of uncles, neighbors, friends and co-workers who could have been candidates. Her answer usually goes something like “You tell me. If I was expecting someone to come into our house and play Santa, why would I have been naked in the tub? The whole thing scared the bejesus out of me.”

This year, like 1979, has been one of those upending, confusing periods. And this holiday season has been marked by stress, unreasonable expectations, health concerns and exhaustion. Yet somehow, I got the holiday cards out in time. I even made several of my gifts this year, and they are all wrapped and ready for the morning.

As I get ready to go to sleep tonight, I’m listening for sleigh bells.

Merry Christmas.

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The relationship funhouse effect

This quote came up on the e-discussion group for my local Buddhist temple today:

“In every relationship, between you and the other person there are actually six people involved:

1. The person who you think you are
2. The person who you think they are
3. The person who you really are
4. The person who they think they are
5. The person who they really are
6. The person who they think you are.”

It’s accurate, I think. And when I started to think about it in terms of the ways that families interact during the holidays, I suddenly felt like I was on the Faberge Organics shampoo with wheat germ oil and honey commercial from 1977, with faces multiplying into the infinite.

It’s not a wonder that this time of year can be so stressful. We have to navigate meal-making, travel plans, gift-giving, work schedules, football games and emotions, old and new, from inside of a maze of mirrors that may pinch, ripple and bend our images, depending on where we’re standing.

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Halloween costume, phase two

I kept breaking needles, and I may go get some fusing tape to secure it, but here is the cape for the Universe costume. Declan picked the fabric, which I roughly sewed to a cheapo vampire cape, then added spacey sponge stamps to the collar.

We also have some shimmery purple-green stuff that he keeps throwing over his head and calling the “fabric of space-time,” but I’m not sure what we’re going to do with it.

Phase one has since been embellished with boy-directed-mom-painted planets and pinwheels on the back, as well as stamps up and down each arm. Giga has located sparkly hair and makeup stuff, and I may make a string of glow in the dark stars for a necklace.

We’re closing in on the complete look…!

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Halloween costume, phase one

We had the idea that Declan could be the Milky Way, Andromeda or the Sombrero Galaxy for Halloween. I bought glittery fabric paint, a black shirt and a bunch of space stencils to start the process, but he quickly decided that he wanted to take over and commandeered the paintbrush. I think it actually turned out better than anything I could have made. It certainly looks more like actual space than stencils would. He even has his own sense of exactly when to stop.

I suggested that it looked somewhat nebula-like, but he said no, it’s a whole bunch of galaxies and black holes.

Small thinking, mommy. Why be a galaxy when you can be the whole universe for Halloween?

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