December My Lovely

Oh, it’s everything, I think. To pin point exactly what it is that has me wrapped around December’s finger, is to lose the magic with which it dances onto the stage just prior to the last curtain call. It is not a perfect month. No. There are things; things and ideas and implications seeking to ruin December’s jubilant mood and benevolent spirit. Hurry, greed, good intentions leading to debt, guilt, and overcommitment. We fill December, packing her with too much, and like a suitcase that simply won’t hold another thing, she is left panting, bloated, and exhausted. And so are we. Unless we treat her well. Embrace her, but don’t suffocate her. Share her, but don’t exploit her. Embellish her, but don’t vandalize her. She is meant to shine, but her light is extinguishable. If we place too many burdens upon her back, she will break her knees, crumple and fall.

When I was younger, in my early twenties, just married, and very determined, December was my way of proving to myself that nothing had changed. That, although I was grown and working fifty hours a week, and my husband was coming home exhausted every night after a full day of school and work, we could still make December the way I remembered her. Do everything. So I turned her into a non-stop parade, marching through her floats made of nostalgia and memory, determined to make her sing for me the way she used to. And when it wasn’t the same – when the parties and decorating and hot coco and baking and wrapping and church services and Christmas movies and trips to the mall didn’t bring back the joy and excitement, I cried. I cried to my husband, poor dear. Mostly I meant well. I simply wanted the carefree, magical season I’d had for all those years. I wanted that moment, etched perfectly on my mind, to remain intact, frozen, untouchable, forever. I wanted the dream.

It’s a hard time for a person, that age between child and adult. We don’t know yet who we are and how to be. We know we are us, the person we’ve been for the last such-and-such amount of years and also the person we’re growing up to be, but we’re a little confused. We’re conflicted. How much do we carry over? Traditions are like a garden we’ve spent years cultivating. But when we move, we don’t know how many plants, flowers, and veggies to take with us and which ones we should probably leave behind where they’ll be more comfortable. The blending of old and new is a delicate process which takes years to perfect. I wish someone would have told me that.

For years I continued to beat the heck out of poor December, determined I must be doing it wrong, so I should add something else. . . . Thank God our brains don’t stop developing until 25. It was around that time I figured it out. It wasn’t more. It was less. It was also being present. Not buying them or receiving them, but being. Little by little my blasted determination weakened, loosing its fist around a choked December. I apologized. I told her I was sorry for mistreating her, for trying to take what she meant to me as a whimsical little girl and make her mean the same thing to me as a soulful woman. She forgave me. Today we’re best friends. True, I only see her once a year, but we make the most of it. Or rather, the least of it. Oh, you know what I mean. I pick and choose my favorite things. And when I’m there, I’m there. All of me. I don’t allow a part of myself to go wandering off, thinking it might be nice if we drove out to the harbor to watch the boat parade. No. Right now, right here, this is where we are. On the couch, holding hands, looking at that gorgeous tree. That’s enough. It’s plenty.

Still, I adore Christmas music, White Chocolate Peppermint Mochas, the lights, and especially the smell of smoking firewood lingering in the air. There are other things, too, subtle and easy to miss if you’re not looking for them: less reluctant smiles from strangers, lightness of foot, and something unmistakably positive in the air, something hopeful whispering through the leaves.

I hope you’re enjoying December. I am. Here are few of our favorite moments this month. The ones that aren’t pictures, however, those were great, too.

Merry Christmas, friends.


Cards & Fudge

Wintry fun

candy cane lane

Candy Cane Lane

Bella, the sweet and protective

Atti, the playful and curious


My love

My Black Friday Heart

Earlier this month I saved my husband money by purchasing a rug at TJMAXX for 79.99, that easily would have sold for three- or five times as much in a store like Pottery Barn or Anthropologie. Aren’t I a good wife? Well, most of the time I am; but do I really believe I saved my husband money? No. But I do believe a sensible woman knows a deal when she spots one.

I came home grinning. I parked the car and unloaded the purchases (just a few other “saves,” I had found while shopping) but I left the rug curled in the back seat. The plan was to wait until Sunday, that being Cleaning Day: a weekly event I anticipate with an equal mixture of habitual casualness and fizzy alacrity. Waiting would make the whole laying-down-of-the-rug feel like an occasion. Almost ceremonial. As though our bedroom had initiated it. Not one to miss any occasion big or small, I would light candles, play music, the whole nine yards. I am nothing if not theatric.

Sunday arrived, and following a whirlwind of ritualistic fanfare — vacuuming, straightening, dusting, wiping down of all surfaces soft and hard — it was time. I went to the car where the rug had remained coiled for the last forty-eight hours, and after carefully hoisting it onto my shoulders, I escorted Her Ladyship inside the house. Then gently, on hands and knees, I unrolled the tapestry using a flourish like the breast stroke, smoothing down the surface, plucking the loose fibers, and finally, settling the edges and corners at precisely the right angles. Three hours later . . . No — that would just be absurd! Of course it only took two hours. (And fifty-nine minutes.) . . . some while later, I made my way to a spot where I could best admire and dote on my new rug. I stood on my bed.

Can I be honest? It was gorgeous. I may have let out a squeal. Or two. And kicked my heels together. Three times. And shimmied up and down. That’s all, though.

After an adequate amount of alone time with my new rug, I went out and into the living room where my husband was sitting on the couch with a bag of pumpkin seeds in one hand and a spit cup in the other. He was watching a hockey game. I glanced at the TV. 3-2, Ducks, with a little more than a minute left on the clock. I asked him to come and take a look at our bedroom, though refused to tell him exactly what it was he would be looking at. I asked him sweetly and slyly, with an air of coquettish allure. And when that didn’t work I stamped my foot and threatened violence. Just what, pray tell, is the point of owning a DVR if not with which to oblige your wife when she’s spent the afternoon scrubbing your porcelain throne? Indeed.

Well, even my husband agreed it was the most spectacular woven thing he’d ever laid eyes on. The most beautiful of all rugs that have ever been and will ever be. As we held each other, unashamed of our tight brows and flowing tears, I took the opportunity to whisper the set of new rules with which the rug had come. Although we (me) uphold a strong “No Shoes” policy in our bedroom, more often than not — usually when one of us is in a hurry to grab a forgotten wallet, wedding ring, a matching shoe — the rules are forsook and replaced with expediency. Am I really going to unlace my boots just to walk eight feet across the room and retrieve my wedding ring? No. I am crazy and compulsive, but not that crazy and compulsive. With the inauguration of the rug, however, all that would change.

And so, for the next two weeks, each time one of us entered our bedroom, we would first remove our shoes and then sidle along the bookshelf, and through the narrow passage way I had built from door to closet. Generally speaking, I am sweaty person. I sweat while reading, applying make-up, chewing gum, and I could fill a koi pond with the sweat I produce within an hour of cardiovascular exercise. Summer is my nemesis. There are days when I would like nothing better than to leave the house wearing several rolls of Bounty. That said, the purpose of not allowing my bare feet to touch the rug immediately after removing my shoes is to give the carpet time to absorb that sweat. Gross and a little strange? Yes, perhaps; but surely no more odd than using whatever’s handy as a shield to block out the beating sun while driving. (Coats work best, if you can trap them in the window; but in a pinch I’ve used napkins and mail.) As I said, for the next fourteen days both my husband and I took the necessary precautions, making concerted efforts to avoid stepping on the rug prematurely. And there it remained, The Crown Jewel of our bedroom, resplendent, majestic, worthy of all our praise. The rug was . . . magnificent.

Until my dog peed on it.

Maybe you will have heard about select stores modifying their hours this year to allow the public to take advantage of Black Friday deals as early as Thanksgiving. Call me traditional, because I am, but I was no less than horrified. I stared at the T.V. in horror. “But it’s . . . Thanksgiving.” As one friend put it, “What could you possibly need that can’t wait until next week?” Now, I understand those deals don’t last. That if you don’t get there bright and early, or, in this year’s case, dark and sleepy, you would miss the opportunity to pay $199 for a spiffy new iPad Mini with a $75 instant rebate. Tempting. For me, though, it wasn’t a tough decision. I won’t lie. If you ducked out early on Thanksgiving, leaving your friends and family oooing and ahhing over Aunt Jenny’s pumpkin bread pudding, I judged you. I thought you selfish and superficial, and myself just a little more virtuous.

Thanksgiving night, after we arrived home from a lovely evening over at my uncle’s house, Bubba and I curled up in bed and watched Harry Potter Chamber of Secrets. At some point over the course of those two hours, my darling Bella lowered her abdomen to the floor and piddled on my precious rug. At first I could only stare in disbelief. Then I pinched my arms. A nightmare, it’s only a nightmare, Cara, you’ll wake up any second now. I did not wake up. My temper flared, and I cursed her for not urinating six inches to the left. That I could have endured. But not my rug. My ruuuuuug!!!!

It was while whimpering and muttering and dabbing the crimson mosaic pattern with soapy warm water that I realized Black Friday had entered my heart. And probably not only on Thanksgiving, but several times throughout the year. Do I still think it’s a poor choice to sacrifice a moment of Thanksgiving, even if half of your relatives are passed out in the living room and the other half appears to be no more alert and engaged in passive digestion? Yes, I do. Because time with family and friends is fleeting and finite, and things can’t wrap their arms around you when you’re sick or sad. If I’m wrong, if in fact there does exist something capable of bringing you true joy and lasting contentment, then by all means, you should probably leave and go buy it. And if for more than a few days you find yourself happy and full, feeling the way one does after good food with good people, please, let me know. I’d be interested. Because my experience with buying has revealed only brief euphorias, and at best, a surface familiarity. My experience is that which boasts a price tag assumes an inevitable expiration date.

I learned something important this year. Something that, truthfully, I’m certain I already knew and had only forgotten. I learned that a rug is a thing. Possibly a very, very, very beautiful thing — but still, highly vulnerable to urine.

Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving. Happy Sunday, everyone!

. . . . you know I wouldn’t deprive you a look after all that build up! Here it is. “The Rug.”


Setting Sail

I can hardly believe how quickly the time is drawing near. My toes are tingling just thinking about it. My book, available for purchase, with an actual, tangible date. . . . Gone is the mercurial “it should be available … Continue reading