My Dearest Algernon: Thanks for the kid’s school photos, very cute. Susie looks like such a lady and Joey is Mr. Personality-plus. I’ll miss seeing them during the holidays. I’ve included a few shots of my own from lovely High Hand Nursery in Loomis, such a Divine place to shop. So sorry you couldn’t be here to celebrate.
I’m off tomorrow to all points tropical—Eau Claire WI & Boulder CO. It will be down to 7-8 degrees at night in Eau Claire. I’m taking two suitcases of heavy clothes. Feel like Admiral Bird setting off for the South Pole.
I’ll sled and ice skate with Mary and do a little bunny-slope skiing with friends in Boulder, Colorado, perhaps snowshoe, or merely snuggle into a lap robe. Based on the Rocky Mountain slopes I’ve seen, they are some mighty big bunnies in Colorado. Last time I was there, I slipped on the ice at the chair lift. Took a half-hour to get the lift going again and the rest of the afternoon to untangle the skis from around my neck.
Tonight we’re having a little dinner party and gift exchange. Uncle Matt and his grudging wife Laurie are coming, staying at the nearby Happy Garden Inn, which is small and nice, in a secluded pocket of Natwick that is park-like and private. She will complain about the accommodations and the traffic, the pressure of having to come all the way from San Yisdro. (This update: Laurie has opted out of our soiree, has decided she hasn’t a thing to talk about with Uncle Matt on such a long drive, 20 years of marriage and not a thing left in common.)
Uncle Matt will describe in gory detail when he gets here his latest prostate procedure or back operation or hip maladjustment, lament that a ride on the trolley doesn’t cost a nickel anymore. He’ll stump around the buffet table and joke, like always, “Don’t ya have anything to eat?”
Like always, I’ll ring my hands and inquire sincerely, “What else would you like?” quickly calculating how long it will take to get to the supermarket and back, how long the lines will be and whether self-checkout might be faster. I remember now, after having completed more errands than Mrs. Dalloway that I’m out of gas . . . another calculation will be required and a reminder to self to bring the gas can. Uncle Matt knows how I hate forgetting even the slightest detail during the holidays. He’ll laugh about yanking Santa’s beard and mine, the old frog phallus.
Actually the gift exchange at my house is a misnomer. In case you’ve forgotten. It has been such a long time since you and the family have come north. It goes like this: I give gifts. They exchange them later and complain the gifts weren’t good enough, that other people got better gifts and more, that they’d rather get money, that they don’t want underwear, that it isn’t fair, that I’m a selfish, and claim that unlike me, no one gives socks for Christmas anymore.
There’s much to be said about the decision of Septimus Warren Smith at times like these, times when a swim in the flood swollen Sacramento River seems like a wise outing. I can see it coming, the storm clouds gathering. Although no one actually buys me a gift during this holiday exchange, they do remind me of the dangers of sitting on my pity pot too long. They’ll say: “Could you get off the cross? We need the wood!”
So, I baked a couple of pumpkin pies, have oysters, smoked salmon and clam dip to laid out, a honey-baked ham, pasta Alfredo, tri-tip stake, tossed salad, three kinds of vegetables, mountains of juicy mandarins, candy canes, nuts, dates and ice cream. I’ve been cleaning and decorating for the past two days, sleeping in four-hour shifts to get everything done. There’s a mountain of gifts beneath the tree — all lavishly wrapped from bits of rescued and recycled paper and ribbon.
Tonight I’ll build a fire, put on some Christmas carols, stretch out on the couch in my novelty reindeer sweater, scratch, and wait for the magic of the season to descend like a runaway elevator headed south. I hope Andy likes the waffle iron and strawberry syrup gift I got him. I know he lives under the freeway, but isn’t it the thought that counts? And, a good waffle iron is a powerful inducement to get a place with electricity. Don’t you think? And, thank god Dino’s still in jail. At least he has hot water and overhead lights. It also saves on the gift budget.
Oh, Holy flippin’ Silent Night! The stars are brightly shining, which helps while I’m unclogging leaves from the rain gutters. After that, I’m off. Mushing the sled dogs across the tundra. Outta here, like splitsville. Adios. Goodbye and remember . . .
“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”
– Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1