Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's Starting

The holiday season is officially underway.  We are beginning our trips to the airport to collect our offspring.  The refrigerators are filling up with cranberries and oranges and whipping cream and a 23 pound turkey that had better offer more left-overs than last year's model managed.  The lines in the grocery stores are longer than usual, and the shoppers all have lists.  I'm not adding anything else to my To Do Lists - they are long enough already.  I am just trying to accomplish 3 or 4 "extras" every day - making the labels for the brownies, collecting the #4 Priority Mail boxes in which they will be shipped, filling the pantry with unsweetened chocolate squares and almond extract and King Arthur Flour, finding just the right no-show socks for the Cuters' stockings, rummaging through my Secret Hiding Place to see what kind of house-gifts are still waiting to be given to those who invite me to share libations and sweets over the next few weeks.  There's never enough time to get it all straight, but it doesn't really matter.  I am so filled with love and happiness that I'm able to brush off my failures with a smile.

I love this time of year.

Usually, I am pretty hard on myself.  I set high standards for other people (just ask the Cuters how I behave when a salesclerk is less than competent... it's not a pretty sight) and it seems only right that I adhere to them, myself.  I don't always act to correct my sloppiness or my oversights, but I note them in the little book of errors which seems to creep up and bop me on the head when I least expect it.  Someday, when I am rich rich rich (don't you love the optimism of when instead of if?) I will engage in psychoanalysis 3 times a week (last I checked, it went for $275 an hour..... hence, my need to be rich rich rich) in an effort to figure out why I berate myself and fall most comfortably into the sad-and-sorry pit so often.  For now, I'm choosing to ignore the reasons and concentrate on avoiding the trap by using a technique from Albert Ellis's Rational Emotive Therapy: I say "STOP IT!" out loud.  It's so surprising to hear my own voice yelling at me from the outside that I catch myself and begin to reboot the brain.  Sometimes it even works.

What, you say?  How does she go from It's the most wonderful time of the year to esoteric psychotherapies?  Whose mind can make such leaps?  The answer is quite simple, denizens: these are the ravings of a woman who knows that the next 32 days will be full.  To the brim.  Not quite spilling over onto the garage floor, but coming pretty close.  Where there are usually
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & ClayMy Hollywood5 or 6 library books resting on the bookshelf, waiting to be read, now there is but one, Mona Simpson's My Hollywood.  I reserved it based on a review I read somewhere, but I'm rethinking it for this season.  Michael Chabon (one of my favorites -- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is one of my Top Ten Reads) tells me in his advance praise for... that the book carries us down deep, into the darkness.... and Joseph O'Neill (whose work I don't know) calls it darkly beautiful.  I think it's going to be returned unread, at least for now. I revel in the joy of the seasons - Fall to Winter, ghosts and goblins to turkeys to lights and candles and wrapping paper.  My reading material has to operate on that same plane.  Though this may be a definitive novel of modern domesticity, I fear it will depress me and I can't have that. 

There's a tendency toward melancholy which hovers around the edges of this week.  Daddooooo died 7 years ago on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and that year this week was spent sitting shiva in his house on Long Island with my sister and brother and his wife and all their kids and my mom.  A lot was accomplished that week, not the least of which was the labeling in pencil of most of the old photographs, the ones that only the old people knew.  My brother insisted that we stop and look and remember as he recorded names and memories -"She was a vamp!"- and kept us focused on the task.  He knew then that those bits and pieces of information had only a tenuous hold on the here and now.

And now I am the old person, I am the one who can look at an album and remember the names of the forgotten cousins.  I'm old enough at this point to know what I'm missing, have lived long enough to feel the absence of the aunts and uncles I knew as a child but who died before we could connect as adults.  I sit at the head of the table, we eat when I say the meal is ready, the guests are those I invite.  I'm the grown up.

I create Thanksgiving without worry or creativity because I am the one who keeps the traditions.  It's a comfortable role, an easy role, a perfect role for a person who does not like to cook.  Little Cuter is the chef for everything but the turkey, and I am her sous-chef, dutifully washing and peeling and cutting and loading and unloading the dishwasher.  I scrub and dry and put away faster than she can load the sink up again.

The kitchen is a traffic nightmare when more than one person is involved, but when the two people don't mind crashing into one another, turning the bump into a hug or a kiss, the nightmare becomes merely a distraction.  In my youth, that kind of chaos would have led to an explosion of outrageous proportions.  But this is my Thanksgiving and my kitchen and I am looking forward to smashing into my Little Cuter and laughing.

Getting older's not all bad.

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