1. Psst. C’mon in. Christmas morning. The assembled family’s arriving in a matter of hours. The place is a mess. I don’t know how I’m gonna pull this off. In terms of prioritizing, I shouldn’t be writing. Usually I clean the house to avoid writing; today, writing to avoid cleaning up the house. The irony. Who’d of thunk it? But I’m going to write and post the rough draft of the first part of my Christmas adventure now, and then later, after the party ends and everyone’s gone home and I have had presumably too much to drink, I will sit down. Then someday soon after that, I will revise the first part and add the second part. And so on. It’ll be my holiday arts and craft project.
2. It is Rhiannon’s first Christmas, and the wee lass has a busy social schedule. I imagine she’ll be pretty flipped out by the time she gets here with her mom and dad. I saw her last night over at Aunt Michelle’s. R was a little winded from an afternoon party in the Pointes, but recovered enough to receive a bounty of gifts, all of which she immediately tried to chew. She wore a charming little tartan plaid outfit that Chris’s mom, who resembles Mrs. Claus and is quite the sewing machine genius, made for her, and her little Santa hat. Mrs. Claus also bakes Christmas cookies and cakes, among other goodies. R’s other grandpa, Paul, looks just like Santa and builds wooden toys in his workshop. Large Paul Jr. appears to be an apprentice St. Nick. Hmmm. From Jane and Chris I received a beautiful portrait and some snapshots of r in her holiday outfit. As my nephew Tommy noted, she looks like a little Amish glow worm. I gave Rhiannon a Bert hand puppet. Apparently she’s a big Bert and Ernie fan. Now I probably need to acquire Ernie too, so we can pretend to make television programs for kids, including very small kids. I can do a pretty good Kermit imitation without stretching, and I have several Kermy puppets, since young Jane thought I bore a likeness, so Muppet casting may be less of a problem. It would be nice to have a Miss Piggy puppet. And Elmo. Rhiannon enjoyed meeting Bert and also her horse puppet. At six months, r probably sees them as animated creatures, like one of the family cats she finds so intriguing. For a baby, the world is a vast magical place, surprising, delighting, and terrifying from one moment to the next. Where do we lose that level of enchantment and imagination and awe? Childhood is the art of the impossible becoming possible. Of course, in her current state of magical thinking, she’ll have difficulty finding work outside the entertainment industry (rimshot). Rhiannon liked all her stuff, particularly the doll in the crinkle dress, which she gnawed on like an old friend. Most of the evening she was a little trooper, smiling and singing to the Christmas songs on the radio, caught up in the excitement in the room. She emits a high-pitched squeal like a baby dolphin or raptor, on her own, in the midst of conversation, and looks quite pleased with herself. She’s a pixie extrovert, that baby. Six months old, and still no self-esteem issues. Everywhere she goes, people can’t wait to pick her up and carry her around. It’s an interesting perspective, a bold leap of faith, tiny human trusting big strange arms.
3. Checked in with with my nephew Patrick, Michelle’s son, at the party. He lives in Chicago now and is working toward his Masters in creative writing at Columbia University. He’s a poet, with two poems to be published in the annual edition of the Columbia Poetry Review. That’s pretty darn cool. I’m glad to see him take a chance on behalf of poetry. Poetry needs young inspired writers like Patrick. Talked to my brother Jim in Minneapolis an hour ago; with Sharon he’s headed to Iowa in the afternoon, to spend Christmas on the river with his friends. Jeff just called from Atlanta, where he said it was an unseasonable 70 degrees. He just wrapped a film with Denzel late last night. Might head into town in January. Yesterday I spoke with my brother Mike in Pasadena. He was looking forward to Christmas with his four-year-old grandkid, the beautiful Miranda. Mike says he can stand out in front of his apartment building and see the often snowcapped San Gabriel Mountains. Though there isn’t any snow on top of the mountains at the moment, after several warm days. Mike later wrote that he spent the holiday at Big Bear Lake, where there was plenty of snow, with Miranda, who went sledding. So my brother in California frolicked in the snow, while here in Michigan not only is there no snow, but the snap dragons and even some of the petunias persist in hanging on in the garden. The snow level in Alpena on the eastern tip of the mitten is at an 88-year low. Winter tourism is down significantly across the state, sunny skies and warm temps threatening the $4 billion industry. Ski resorts are idle without adequate snow, with temperatures at many locations not even cold enough to produce the artificial white stuff. Unusual weather for this time of year, wouldn’t you say?
4. Two weeks ago we had the 11th annual Christmas party at the pub. Time doth fly. And birds of a feather flock together. Jane and Rhiannon came with me. High on my list of things I really enjoy: watching my friends hang out with each other. Something special happens when they gather together. It’s inspiring. They should do it more often. R had her usual good time at the pub, hoisted on shoulders and held on laps, mingling. The next night I went to the Wilco concert at the State/fake Fillmore. Two consecutive nights of Judy, Mary Beth, and Terri plus Mark and Jan was a very cool holiday treat. We had dinner at the Traffic Jam, which was packed to the gills due to various events downtown, including Wicked at the Opera House and something called the Trans-Suburban Orchestra at the Fox. Our absent-minded absent waiter would forget about us for a half an hour or so and then return, looking sweaty and disorganized, apologizing for his disappearance and seeming incompetence. I admired the way he managed his own personal chaos. Sitting next to Mary Beth, I discovered she was a southpaw. After she said, “You’re not around left-handed people much, are you?” I was at first perplexed, my initial thought being “Or right-handed people, why do you ask?,” and then realized I was encroaching upon her space, like Gordie Howe. Dueling elbows. I’ve had a lot of meals with Mary Beth, and I’m not sure how I missed that she was a lefty. Other than I am often oblivious. Or I was listening so intently to what she was saying I never noticed where her fork was. Solo Nick Lowe opened the show, charming the mostly younger crowd with songs that included (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding? Then he joined Wilco onstage for the last tune of the night during the third encore, Cruel to Be Kind. The guy standing behind me kept yelling between encores, “Bring back the cool old gray-haired guy with glasses!” I guess that was an enthusiastic and specific endorsement. Wilco delivered a stunning sonic masterpiece, led by Nels Cline on guitar. That boy sure can play. Gary was over by the bar, writing his review. We were standing by the stage, watching the Tweedy gang attack their set with precision and booming orchestral glee. It was the best, even with the tape-delayed coat check retrieval. Over the next two days, Jane, Terri, Mary Beth, and Judy came down with the 37-and-¾-hour stomach flu, now referred to as the pub flu. Symptoms included headache, chills, nausea, and the sudden ability to recite certain passages of Proust in the native French (rimshot).
5. It’s been the Wages of Sin Christmas. I got stuck on that Springsteen song sometime in November. I play it in the car. I play it at home. Not the most uplifting tune, with its “running down that broken path with the devil snapping at my heels” lyrics, but I’m locked on it. My brain has a mind of its own. I’m just here to facilitate. This year I’ve avoided actual Christmas songs. And Christmas movies. Most of the time I’d avoid Christmas entirely, if I could. Lately I’ve been drinking a bit of whiskey now and then in order to survive the wicked holiday pace, particularly in the morning and at night. In the morning, it takes the edge off the coffee and makes me more agreeable, especially around the cats. When dealing with temporary retail sales associates, I believe it is helpful to have a slight buzz. At night, I’ve been making Irish cappuccinos, with Baileys and whiskey, hoping to motivate myself to clean the fucking house. But I discovered that an Irish cappuccino leads inevitably to a glass of French or American wine and then more Wages of Sin. I’m not getting anywhere.
6. For those who can afford it, Christmas is of course a highly romanticized season reeking of redemption or disappointment or transcendence or transfiguration or some other fairly extreme emotional condition that changes the status quo and inspires quasi-strange behavior. Look what happened to Bill Murray. I admit my status and its quo have been seriously altered. They’re all fucked up. I’m not sure why. Well, that’s not entirely true. Something happened. Actually a series of occurrences. It was a regular conspiracy of events.
7. Feels like 50 degrees outside at the moment. Sun’s out. Sky is blue. I squeezed in 40 miles on my bike this week, riding up and down scenic and expensive Lake Shore Drive to the lake. Many of the huge lakeside houses are lit up like mini homages to Vegas. The vast front yard of the Art Van Furniture mansion in the Shores, just around the bend from the more humbly lit majestic joint of the dead Edsel Fords, is a spectacle, with thousands of yellow-white lights strung on the dozens of trees surrounding the elegant estate and a life-size manger scene employing live goats and sheep. Apparently there’s money to be made in the sofa business, apart from the loose change often found behind the cushions. I’ve never pedaled regularly to the lake this late in the season. Checking out the Christmas decorations on a bike was a first. Solitude and steamy vapor breath, quiet dark blue water stretching to the horizon, rush-hour headlights casting rapid twin yellow columns on the surface, channel markers alert with rhythmic red blinking signals, beaming low-flying commercial airliners gliding overhead on the flight path into Metro, multicolored lights strung on trees and bushes and houses, the yacht club illuminated like a stately cathedral, streaky dark blue and dusky pink winter sky collapsing into black, street lamps swathed in evergreen, darkness and mercury falling, merry Christmas sings the sidewalk, happy Santa in the windows, holy shit on the bike.
8. Wednesday afternoon in the rain and fog: my date with Toys “R” Us. It had been 20 years since I last stumbled into the store in the middle of the night, hoping to score Christmas booty for Jane. Back then, before the age of the Internet or Amazon or any alternative to the so-called brick and mortar outlets, the only way to obtain a hot toy, like a Cabbage Patch Doll, was to take desperate measures, including employee bribes, overnight line standing, and free-for-all wrestling matches with your fellow toy store customers. While wandering the store late-night when the crowds were thinner, you could romance the memory of your own childhood holidays, visiting the toys of long ago. Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, board games, Matchbox cars, and Li’l Baby Kiss My Grits were still of interest to kids back then. I guess Lego and Barbie remain popular with children today. I always liked inspecting the toys I asked Santa for but didn’t receive. Years later, I was still harboring a grudge. Open 24 hours a day during Christmas week, the current Toys “B” Us is a pale imitation of those competition-free glory years. War torn and inventory depleted, the store was a lot less fun than I expected, a garbled, messy third-world toy enterprise. I grabbed a book about winter and the snowman who melted away and became a bucket of sand, figuring there’s no time like the present for that baby to start learning about mortality, plus a Learn to Love and Play or Pray Puppy, an animated little guy that sings and recites the alphabet and has illuminated buttons that light up when he is pleased. Much like grandpa (rimshot). The family in front of me in the checkout line had hundreds of dollars worth of stuff and seemed to be shuffling through its credit card collection for the benefit of the bored clerk. So that took some time. Those electronic games alone will run you a pretty penny. I thanked my lucky stars that my wee girl was still under the age of mass consumerism. But there was no joy in Mudville. Toy shopping oughta be more fun.
9. Following the disappointment at Toys “R” Us, I hit the Village Food Market on Mack. I’ve been going there once or twice a year for 30 years, often during the holidays. Usually I snag a turkey or a box of oatmeal or a bottle of something. Wednesday I bought a fifth of Tullamore Dew for 20 bucks. Established in 1938, the market is old fashioned and quaint, a small store with narrow aisles jam-packed with stuff, good stuff, and featuring a nice selection of wine and a very fine meat counter. The staff is exceptionally courteous. Almost courtly. It wouldn’t be the holidays without a visit there. Plus they carry the Tullamore. We all have our traditions. While unloading the car at home I stuck a bottle of pinot that I bought for my semi-son-in-law the fledgling connoisseur into the bag with the toys and I heard a “Yay!” Talking/Singing Laugh and Learn Puppy ages 6 to 36 mos approved of my purchase. I called Jane and discovered that Rhiannon already had that puppy. Darn it, I thought, now I’ll have to fight my way to the Toys R customer service desk, which had been under assault by a mob clutching receipts when last I looked. “People!” I wanted to say. “What do you think this is, Walmart?” Something about Roseville, and it might be the wilderness survival ethic or the sheer drudgery of driving around town, makes me realize that evolution is a highly uneven process and that the apocalyptic Mayans may be on to something. Toy shopping was becoming a more complicated task than I anticipated. Though I recalled that the baby’s favorite toy at the moment is a white throw pillow that resembles one of the cats. Her little eyes light up when she spots the pillow, nestled feline-like on the couch. She likes to chew on it, of course. So I conceded that I might be overthinking the problem. Inspiration would come, if I remained patient.
10. Thursday afternoon I went to the bank before I bought the ham at Butcher Boy and gathered the firewood at Soulliere’s and visited Mr. Solitro, the happy-go-lucky Greek or Italian guy who operates the Christmas tree stand down on the corner. He’s always in a good mood, a burst of uncomplicated joy. “Hello my friend,” he said, approaching with his arm outstretched. “How are you this holiday season?”
“Alright,” I said, shaking his hand. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas to you my friend.”
“How are things going this year?” I said.
“Like last year,” Mr. Solitro said. “All the rain.”
“What kind of tree can I get for $40?” I asked.
“Oh, I have the perfect tree for you. A beautiful balsam. It smells like tangerine,” he said, stepping into the squadron of trees lined up in rows. “Right here,” he said, pointing at a classically shaped tree that appeared to be about seven or eight feet tall with soft pine needles and well, beautiful. Apparently I’m drawn to a tall, statuesque tree. Often I seem to misjudge the size of trees on the lot. A tree that scrapes the ceiling and spreads three or four feet in every direction can be quite a distraction in a living room not accustomed to hosting a starter forest. “Usually $65, but it’s late and I want it to have a good home.”
“I’ll take it,” I said. “Can you cut a little bit off the bottom?”
“Sure, sure, but not too much. It’s perfect as it is.”
The highly cooperative Mr. Solitro sawed an inch off of the bottom. And stuffed the tree carefully into the trunk. And shook my hand again and wished me a happy new year. I drove home with several feet of tree hanging out the back, navigating down Harper carefully. Once home I pulled the tree from the trunk and dragged it up the front porch and through the front door and managed to set it up in the tree stand in less than two hours. It smelled of pine and citrus.
11. As darkness gathered on the shortest day of the year, I jumped on the bike and flew to the lake. Night fell like nobody’s business. Then I rode back home and it being a good night for jumping, walked into the garage and jumped into the car and turned the key and backed down the driveway and drove down the street and made a left turn followed by a right turn and a left turn and then some other turns before arriving at the American House for the resident Christmas Party, the social event of the geriatric year. We sat at our assigned table next to the dance floor where a middle-aged Dean Martin with a karaoke machine sang popular songs from the fifties plus the odd Jimmy Buffet number while wobbling old people turned slowly in an approximation of the hustle or the Charleston and little kids, the three-foot tall wild and undisciplined kind dressed in holiday sweaters, tumbled and jumped around freestyle, creating dance floor hazards for the teetering ancients. The music was so loud that we couldn’t hold a conversation, but neither my mom nor my dad is much up to small talk these days, anyway. My mom sat in her wheelchair and gummed a pizza slice for half an hour and my dad sat in his wheelchair and really enjoyed his chocolate chip cookie, while two of my nieces indulged themselves with the alcoholic punch and my sister and her fellow went outside to smoke. Popular opinion has it that this may be my father’s last Christmas, due to prevailing health concerns. He still surprises, having exceeded his own expectations long ago. True, he’s just a so-called shadow of the man he once was, but a mere shadow is so much more than no man at all. I looked at various residents sitting with their families, walkers parked nearby, nearly everyone smiling and laughing and eating and drinking. Multiple generations celebrating a grand old age and another Christmas. They seemed to be having a good time. And why not? The American House is like a preserve for the still somewhat young at heart, the old hopeful. High school for seniors. The financially independent survivors. The lucky ones.
12. I drove home in the cold rain and drank another Irish cappuccino and started decorating the tangerine balsam, which I found tilting in the living room at a dangerous angle. More tree wrestling ensued. I have a lot of ornaments dating from the seventies, which might now be considered antiques. And old light strings with 25% of the lights burned out. Interesting artistic statement. My tree will not be fully lighted this year as a protest against multinational corporate bloodsucking. Take that, Fortune 500. I turned on Wages of Sin and smoked a cigarette and grew dark, like the winter evening. I smoke a cigarette a day to ward off Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s or some other possessive disease with a proper name. I’ll die of a heart attack or cancer instead. Life is all about the choices we do or don’t make and the responsibilities we fulfill or escape. Wait. Maybe that’s just my life. Though our full measure cannot be the sum of our decisions. What about that right now part, this thing that is happening, which as I see it, could qualify as the most important moment of my life? Boy, that tires me out when I think like that. Had a glass of wine and then another. Even more moody, though still goal oriented. Several hours later, in the wee hours of the morning, the tree was nearly finished. I opted for a sparer, more minimalistic tree decorating scheme this year. Some lights, some ornaments. It looks quite nice. I showered and went to bed.
13. Woke up, drank more whiskey and coffee, worked around the house, went to Costco again, this time for wine, the 2009 Beaujolais Village at $6.98 the bottle, a giant bag of rolls, and those little triangular spinach pies for hors d’oeuvres. Then I pedaled quickly to the lake, followed by a drive to the boutique toy store in the Village as night fell. I had been to Costco earlier in the week in an effort to reduce the usual flurry of last-minute shopping, but I forgot half the things I was supposed to buy. I believe I become dazed and confused in stores. Mesmerized. Maybe it’s the bright lights overhead and all the merchandise spilling off the shelves and the other zombie people shuffling around with their overloaded carts. I’ve had nightmares lately where there’s not enough food in the house to feed the entire family and they turn on each other with more than the usual aggressiveness. I’ve been to Nino’s, the local vegetable and fruit market, at least three times this week. If nothing else, we’ll have plenty of broccoli. At the toy store I collected Bert and his friend the horse puppet and some other cool stuff, including an assortment of furry chew toys and cute little books, one with big holes in it. Only a few other customers, so I was the sole concern of a young woman working the counter. I was pleased and did not panic. Tested the toys, including the hand puppets. It’s important to test the hand puppets prior to purchase. Then I went across the street to Trader Joe’s and bought peanut butter and tuna fish and tomato soup and crackers and beer. And a chocolate bar. Everyone in TJ’s seemed to be smiling. Sometimes I suspect the employees belong to a cult, like retail gourmet Scientology. Toward the front of the store a bell rung, indicating that a clerk needed assistance or an angel just got its wings. One of the managers was making pirate hats out of newsprint for the kids. I carried my bags across the street and put the groceries in the car trunk. I would have liked to have visited Borders on the other corner, but oh. Bookstores are an endangered species. Instead, I walked around town. Just two blocks. Not many people out and about or in the other stores. Though the restaurants seemed crowded. Stepped into the paradise of Village Ace Hardware and was overcome with the need to fix chronically broken things I own. I have quite a collection. I drove home down Lake Shore and observed the Christmas light show, including the home ablaze on the corner of Moross that I’m sure can be spotted from outer space. The electric bill must be colossal. Though if you live in an enormous house on Lake Shore and the corner of Moross, chances are you’ll be able to cover it.
14. Friday night I watched the Letterman Christmas show, one of my favorite moments of the holiday season. Darlene Love blasted “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” supported by a choir that included Springsteen back-up singers Cindy Mizella and Curtis King, with CBS Orchestra regular Bruce Kapler taking the traditional surprise sax solo up in the balcony. Jay Thomas retold the classic story of being stoned and driving the Lone Ranger around in his car, this time with a reenactment featuring Dave as the Lone Ranger. Darlene Love is a force of nature at 73 years old and seems like she has a number of years left in her, but good old Dave is maybe getting older faster. Our Baby Pleases may soon become a limited edition. Get ‘em now while you can.
15. For most of my adult life I’ve been going to see Jane and her mom’s family on Christmas Eve and coming back home later in the evening. Usually I leave for home sometime before midnight. For a long time it’s been like the worst late night of the year, that period from midnight to 4 a.m. or whenever I fall to sleep. I’m a free agent wide awake in the middle of the night when all the ghosts of Christmases Past and the occasional wandering spirit from the future stage their attack. “Thanks for dropping by fellas. Nice to see you again,” I’d like to say under better circumstances. That post Christmas Eve time slot has been like the worst late night of the year forever unless I can find a good movie on television or fall into a music groove. Usually there’s nothing much on TV, but every once in a while you get lucky. Last night I caught Melinda and Melinda on HBO at 1 a.m. It’s lesser Woody Allen, but still much more interesting than the onslaught of religious programming, which can seem like indeterminable purgatory. Late night Christmas Eve is indeterminable purgatory in a nutshell, however difficult it is to pronounce, though in theory the hours pass in the usual order. Christmas morning very early in the dead of night demands a more novel form or higher level of entertainment as a distraction, since the ghosts can be quite bossy and insistent. After a few drinks, everyone wants to tell you exactly what they think. The part of the movie with Melinda and Will Ferrell as Woody is funny and the part with Melinda but no Will Ferrell as Woody is not funny and sort of tedious. I think Woody was trying to illustrate the difference between comedy and tragedy and their equal validity, and how a single story might go either way with just a little tweaking. Comedy is often tragedy with laughs, while tragedy is often not funny at all (rimshot). But then, so what. I think laughter is probably a higher value, in and of itself. Life does sort of suck much of the time. It’s enlightening to have some understanding of the cosmic punchlines. They’re out there, waiting to be discovered. Whatever benevolent force helps guide us through our mystery tour is momentarily revealed with a good laugh. It’s a moment of lighthearted grace, a small blessing from the universe, a peek behind the curtain. On the other hand, King Lear, an overwhelming tragedy I think we’d all agree, since the old king is driven mad with grief and important people die or have their eyes plucked out and various members of the royal family betray each other and voice laments or damnations while occasionally brandishing small weapons in a threatening manner, is my favorite play, always moving me to tears, and there’s few things I love more than a great sad song. Crying in my beer is like exercise for the soul, which can always use the workout. My baby’s gone, probably running some errands, and now I am so blue. The older I become the more I appreciate the spiritually frustrated, romantically challenged, existential pilgrim with a hint of transcendence genre. I’m starting to see what Woody was saying. But my point is we are all one at the end, or at most two and a half, part of a grand unity of consciousness and purpose, and I find laughter and its more ambitious cousin love to be the essential glue that binds us together into that big ball of string called life. I’m not sure you need glue for a ball of string, but no matter. So I read a magazine during the boring parts without Will Ferrell, and that seemed to strike the right balance. Plus I drank more whiskey and listened again to Wages of Sin. As Christmas Eves go, it was a pretty good night. Before I fell asleep, I thought I heard reindeer on the roof, harness bells tinkling. “Santa,” I said, “Is that you?”
16. Back when Jane was a child and I was a young adult and the world was less complicated, we often, well always, went to breakfast with Santa every December at the Hudson’s Department Store at the Eastland Mall. Jane was a gorgeous sight in her prettiest dress and I’d put on a coat and tie and we’d dine in the restaurant on the third floor. It was a very special event. You had to buy tickets. After the breakfast Santa made a grand appearance, the kids roaring their rock-star approval. Santa worked the lively room of well-dressed uninhibited children and their amused supervisory adults with a hardy ho! ho! ho! and some shaking of the seasonal bells before settling into his plush Santa chair. Assisted by Santa’s sometimes sexy helpers, the kids went one at a time to sit on Santa’s lap and present their demands. Jane’s list was usually quite long and detailed. She would start working on the list on December 26th of the previous year and sometimes had a memo folder to give to Santa. Little girls often change their mind on what they truly want, and Jane was no exception, so there would be gift suggestions lined out and others added and the list would be organized from most important and must have to most important and must have. Jane was reluctant to draw arbitrary lines. They were all critically required. Jane had given this significant thought. She climbed on Santa’s lap with wide-eyed anticipation, clutching her notes. Santa would ask her what her name was and listen carefully and read and smile and make a few inquiries and suggestions before warmly chuckling and wishing her a personal merry Christmas, signaling the end of the interview. Jane would reluctantly conclude her presentation, though pleased to have had an audience with the most important fella in the world. Blessed with excellent instructions, Santa always came through on Christmas day. I was sure that our Santa was the same Santa that was the grand marshall of the Thanksgiving Parade downtown, aka, The Real Santa. It gave me piece of mind to know that I had met The Real Santa. I wondered what had become of him. Santa’s with that kind of charisma just don’t disappear. There are Santas, and then there are Santas. Turns out he’s alive and well and known as Bernie among those in the Santa trade. Bernie’s a reverend who lives at a church in Livonia and was just inducted into the Santa Claus Hall of Fame and for some reason is not that much older than me. Interesting. Anyway, here’s his story.
17. This Christmas morning right now I am tired. I plan on drinking a pot of coffee immediately. That first cup of coffee is always sacred. I’ll pour some whiskey into the cup and pray that busy Baby Jesus on his birthday can find the time to help with the considerable last-minute housework. C’mon Baby Jesus, work a minor miracle and clean this house! Maybe I should light a candle. As a devotional. The gods like it when you light candles in their honor. They tend to be quite medieval in their appreciations. I’ve been putting things away one at a time for a week, washing windows, reorganizing. It doesn’t seem to have made much difference. Christ, you know it ain’t easy. I’m sure Baby J must be listening. Then I think to myself, which is normally how I do all my thinking, unless I’m outsourcing: Baby Jesus is all grown up now and does not exist, per se. At birth the little tyke was already inhabited by Big Jesus and part of Daddy-O I am the One and Only Singular God’s dynamic trinity that nobody understands, with three distinct personalities and a host of related issues, including who picks up the check at restaurants (rimshot). God became human, born a little tiny baby to a poor struggling couple on food stamps, all for the sake of mankind, who would soon require a long winter holiday featuring out-of-control shopping at the mall (ditto). And for womankind too, who are definitely more deserving, though many have personal appearance issues and a cultural sense of inadequacy. Plus animalkind, who need saving from mankind. Takes all kind. Big Jesus and Little Jesus began fighting for humanity, like a superhero team, separating blood into water and feeding wine to geese and turning bread into fishes, so that the blind could eat and cripples could fly. Big Jesus and his pal Little Jesus partied with prostitutes and criminals, mostly your petty lower-end kind, and didn’t much care for rich people above the fray, like Mr. Art Van Furniture. Funny how that philosophical position worked out. In addition to being omniscient and all powerful, God apparently inhabits the same highly ironic universe that we do and is often thwarted. I sense a contradiction looming. I hope he has a sense of humor.
18. Coffee first, then spring I will into panic mode. Spring I shall. Like a whirlwind. Like the wind. Like a whirl. Like the. I’ll move through the house like a harbinger or hurricane of cleanliness. A portent. Like a hurricane. I’ll be like something extremely breezy that’s about to happen in the near future. A large gust of highly anxious potential orderliness. I’ll blow through this place, soon. Things will get organized. Tables will be polished. Floors will be cleaned. Stuff, yards and yards of stuff, will be put away. Somewhere. Soon. As I finish the pot of coffee. Maybe smoke a cigarette too. For Baby Jesus. That’ll help quell the anxiety. Then some cereal, to keep the blood sugar from plunging. Though I kinda like that buzz. Need to eat, clean, shower, and look reasonably composed or at least dressed when everyone shows up at the door, demanding comfort and joy and ham and potatoes.
19. Three hours to go until the family invades. Twenty of them, including mom and dad and at least five precocious kids armed with new toys and spiked on a Christmas high. “Yikes” would be the word that comes to mind.
20. To my regular reader: season’s greetings. And thanks.
21. So this is how Christmas ended: diehards holding on around the table, serenaded by If I Should Fall from the Grace of God and Fairy Tale of New York, after Jane insisted. That little Irish baby likes to dance to the Pogues with her grandpa. Tom wobbly. Chris tired. Sarah spunky. Julie smiling. Jane rowdy. “Rhiannon’s going to grow up to be exactly who she wants to be,” Jane said. And I said, “Much like her mother.” We drank all the beer, had too much wine, drained the eggnog, carved the frozen cheesecake, ignored the broccoli, devoured the ham, ransacked the potatoes. House a wreck. Cats in hiding. Merry, that.