December should be cold and cloudy and snowy. It should make my nose freeze and fingers tingle and my toes go numb. Driving should be hazardous and dressing should take a long, long time. Layers and gloves and scarves and hats and coats buttoned up to the neck and beyond are de rigeur.... if you live someplace other than the desert Southwest.
Here, we wear jeans and long sleeve shirts in the morning, rolling up the sleeves by mid-day, rolling down our windows and smiling at the cars in the next lane as we enjoy the wintry temperatures... in the 50's and 60's.... clement any place else but fairly frigid here.
Holding onto the holiday spirit when I'm wearing shorts takes effort. I'm just sayin'...
Chanukah decor is not on sale yet. Tonight's the last night and I have high hopes that Bed Bath and Beyond will be marking down their candles and dreidles after sunrise tomorrow. There aren't many places to find Jewish decorations here in Tucson; BB&B and Target are the only entities which recognize the presence of Chanukah shoppers in the community.
It's times like these that I truly miss Marin. Meadowlark Gallery was my go-to, one-stop-shop for all things Judaica. Menorahs and artistic dreidles and letterpress printed cards were available in many incarnations.
Here, we are reduced to flannel backed plastic tablecloths and paper Happy Hannukah banners. It's something, but not enough to soothe my shopping soul. Without FAMBB's now annual gifting, I'd be truly bereft.
My local grocery store, Albertsons, has a new promotion. I've been collecting stamps and trading them in for free Rachael Ray dinner ware. I have six plates and bowls in my trunk, and stamps for four more on the collection card in the car. When the promotion ends, I'll take my goodies to Youth on Their Own, a local organization supporting high school graduation for teens living on their own.
Despite the fact that Elizibeth refuses to believe that 13 year olds are living on the streets here in Tucson, it's a fact. YOTO provides mentors, counseling, a food pantry, a household goods closet, and a small residential facility. Rhonda, my favorite cashier, has a nephew living with her who is involved in their program. We both smiled when the customer in line ahead of me this afternoon turned and asked me if I was collecting the stamps; she'd done her month's shopping and twenty little orange stickers were mine when she was done.
Somehow, it makes spending money on groceries a fun thing to do.
It's early for us, but I'm hankering for the smell of pine in my living room. I think tomorrow is the day to bring the live tree home. There are so many choices - Buckelew Farms is everywhere, on every busy corner I traverse. The Lutheran Church youth program sells them in the parking lot next to the sanctuary, but you have to figure out when the kids are around to help. Wally World has them for the best price, but somehow shopping around for a deal on a Christmas tree seems vaguely churlish.
I'm not sure why.
The chair in Little Cuter's room, a chair in the breakfast nook, a suitcase in the garage... they hold the gifts which must be wrapped. Since Little Cuter and SIR are doing the holiday in Illinois and Indiana this year, shipping is in order. Big Cuter and TBG and I will celebrate here in Tucson. Since they went with me to Dick's Sporting Goods and chose their own presents, it seems somewhat ridiculous to invest time and effort in boxing and wrapping their choices.
Yet, I will do so, because anything else seems Scrooge-like.
The thank you emails and calls and letters have been pouring in from the Chanukah round of brownie list boxes I sent last month. Cheetah stationary from friends who took a dream trip to Africa, a funny phone call from my grew-up-next-door first cousin, a sorry your mom is failing and thanks for the sweets call from his sister, a Facebook message from MTF, an email from another first cousin, thanking me for remembering that her little boy, my youngest cousin, doesn't eat nuts.... every time I think that this list is just waaaayyyyy toooooo looooong I remember all the love that comes back to me.
The party season is starting this weekend with the Cornell Club of Southern Arizona's annual bash at a local country club. We'll eat fine food and sing carols and, this year, host a representative from the University. I'll be going alone, because TBG feels that he's fulfilled his Cornell Club obligations for 2013 by attending the Fall Picnic in September.
That's okay, because I like hanging out with Natalie. She and I have sat next to one another for the last four or five of these events, and I've watched her grow from a kid who needed crayons and paper to keep still to a bright eyed girl who is interested in the world around her. I don't know if she loves me as much as I love her, but it really doesn't matter. This kind of relationship works as a one-way street.
I have been searching for reindeer antlers for The Schnozz. I have large, unbreakable, outdoor balls to hang from the trees outside (as soon as I can find someone who wants to go up on a ladder and hang them). Patty cleaned the Chanukah detritus from the corners of the living room and it's all ready to bring in the next holiday.
I do so love this time of year.