Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Shepherds Quake at the Sight

You have family due in six hours and they just called from the airport to let you know Cousin Margaret is now bringing her Shih Tzu and your nephew’s wife will need vegan options at the dinner table.

Shhh, let it out.

All your daughter wants is that stupid hamster that is so popular even NPR did a story on it, and you swore to get it even though another mom told you it was made of enriched uranium and the meninges of Chinese prisoners. You have been covertly texting a teenager who works at a nearby toy store, offering him up to five times face value for an object you suspect will be adored by its owner for nearly seven hours.

I know, I know.

It’s been twelve days since the first day of Chanukah and your entire house still smells of potato pancakes and you just found a holiday gelt in the dryer with the towels?

You don’t remember seeing the cat eat tinsel but the litter-box now looks like an unspeakable fireworks display?

You just remembered you have godchildren in Java who will be expecting something thoughtful from you in forty-eight hours?

Scrooge had Christmases Past, Present and Future to put things in perspective. You have Christmas Quinn. Grab a glass of strongly-spiked something and come to my house.

First, come to the living room. That lump on the couch, under the quilts? That’s my daughter. She’s celebrating the holiday season by having a stomach virus. It arrived Monday night, halfway through a fancy holiday dinner at a restaurant with my mother. Nothing says holiday quite like a child informing you that if you don’t move the chocolate soufflé she’s going to hurl all over the remnants of the Yorkshire pudding. In the last thirty-six hours, she’s eaten three garbanzo beans, six water-crackers and a chip. We’ve spent the time we ordinarily spend watching her eat listening to her chart the exact parameters of her nausea. It’s a mild bug, but it’s a chatty one.

Next to the quilted lump talking about vomiting, there’s a Christmas tree. It’s a very nice Christmas tree. Next to the Christmas tree, there is a water-bottle. There is a water-bottle there because we have four month-old foster-kittens, Anne and Diana, Thing One and Thing Two, the Merry Mistresses of Mayhem. If you’ve had a Christmas tree and kittens, I need say no more. If you haven’t, I’ll try to explain it from their perspective. Imagine a thing you have always wanted, covered in things which tease and call out to your very soul. For me this would be thin thighs adorned with Vanity Fair magazines and salted caramels. Now, imagine that every time you got near it, someone large shouted “NO!” and your head suddenly got very wet. This is Christmas with a kitten. We have two.

What we don’t have is an adult cat, because two weeks ago, Lupac took off for her usual day of hunting and sneering and has yet to return. She’s left before for a week, but never two. She’s microchipped and she has a collar, and if any cat could leave for six months and then come home with a tattoo and an enigmatic expression, it’s my Lupac, but part of this holiday is me looking miserable and standing at the back door shouting about soy turkey. Christmas 2009 will include the visual of me looking moody and holding a bag of dry-food specifically for cats with chronic bladder conditions. Lupac’s absence is part of the reason I’m keeping the kittens over the holidays. The kid and I need a small, weird mammal or two around, and the dog isn’t weird enough. Consort, in his saintly way, quietly upped his Benadryl.

In the dining room, there is the gingerbread house. Please don’t touch that. The only thing holding it together is gumdrops and several cans of kidney beans on the inside. During construction, a load-bearing wall cracked and the entire north side has been bulging ominously for days. Thanks to everyone who wrote in and said “Quinn, gingerbread houses don’t need to be nearly as hard as you’re making them.” Because of you, next year the kid and I will create a house which won’t remind people of the Seventh Ward after Katrina hit.

Here’s the kitchen, and here’s the pumpkin bread. And here. And also here. It’s the one thing I make every year. It’s the only thing I make every year. One loaf is left for the house. I sliced into one. Unbeknownst to me, Consort sliced into another one. At some point before the many discussions about vomiting began, the kid sliced into one. There are now three to give away and three for us. I’m encouraging Consort to make sandwiches with it. I’m using one sliced loaf as creative gift-wrapping. I’m flinging bits of it at the kittens when they head for the tree. I’m very tired of pumpkin bread.

Next to one loaf, there are Christmas cards, unsigned and unsent. We’re not getting Christmas cards out this year. We had exactly one day in which to get the picture of the kid for the card, because she was going to be dressed up anyway, hair done, and we’d be at a place with a pretty background and lovely light. The day ended up giving us twenty minutes to get the picture during which Consort got exactly three pictures of her; in each picture, she’s doing something weird with her eyelid. By the time I realized we weren’t getting another chance to get a picture, it was the twentieth; the next day, she took to the couch. I’m toying with starting a new trend for President’s Day cards.

And here’s the garage, and here’s the storage space within the garage and here, here is where Christmas presents dwell. Before she took to her couch for nausea and dialogue, my daughter snooped. We keep all Christmas presents in here not just because the storage space has a lock, because I believe my daughter would learn lock-picking if she could determine whether she’s getting fashionable leg-warmers this year. We keep the Christmas presents in here because once when she accompanied her dad to the storage space to get the wheelbarrow, she saw a spider and she’s never been back since. Her love for all living creatures doesn’t extend to spiders; she’s the only child I know who cheers at the end of “Charlotte’s Web.” I’d try to raise her awareness of the wonderful usefulness of spiders, but since they are acting as my bouncers, I see no need to make them less alarming to her.

See, doesn’t my life put things into perspective? I had a book published this year. Naively, I expected a published author would have a more attractive Christmas; Dan Brown might own a water-bottle, but I doubt he’s decorating around it. But it’s the end of 2009 and while I’m in bookstores, I’m still me. I’m still delighted by my kid, amused by my pets, horrified by my house and devoted to my partner. And readers, I’m so very grateful to you. Your comments give me laughs and thoughts and windows into worlds I don’t even have to put on shoes to enter. Writing my blog fulfills me, but hearing from you makes me buoyant. Have a peaceful and prosperous 2010.

And take a slice of pumpkin bread with you for the road.


Anonymous drsteph said...


Seriously, you need to be ok with not getting your kid the Zhou Zhou pet this year. (note: they don't even have to market it with an american sounding name any more - their victory is complete). Did you know that in chinese zhou zhou means "Dumb american parents that will buy toys containing nanoviruses engineered to cause political apathy?"

We always get our kids what we want them to have and don't let them watch commercial television so that they don't have any clue what to ask for. Yes, its strange growing up Amish (when your parents are Methodist) but we'll leave that for their shrinks when they hit 20.

You have to do the Xmas photo in early November to have any hope of getting your cards out before New Year's.

Happy holidays from we'ze to you'se. (as we say in the south)

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love reading your blogs Quinn...a very Merry Christmas to you as well!

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Jackie said...

I sincerely hope Lupac makes it home for the holidays. Happy New Year!

12:30 PM  
Anonymous MidLifeMama said...

Pumpkin bread freezes really well. Then, in three months you either have a great snack once you thaw it, or a weight to tie to that thing you need to sink to the bottom of a deep lake, or a deadly weapon you can fling at the head of anyone who tries to shoot your cat again. I hope Lupac comes home safely.

12:43 PM  
Blogger TheHappyHomemaker said...

1. Lupac, you scoundrel. Get yourself HOME!
2. Skinny slices of pumpkin bread make great tiny cream cheese sandwiches, which round out a good chicken salad quite nicely.
3. I always save your blog posts for moments when I can be alone and savor them. You, Quinn Cummings, light up my life. I hope your Christmas turns out to be the loveliest yet.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Kathe said...

There are saints on Earth and she is named Quinn! :) Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and happy New Year and that Lupac does in fact show up with her ears pierced and hot pants from her weekend in Vegas!

1:57 PM  
Anonymous Lori said...

I only made the tinsel mistake once. Fortunately, it didn't tangle inside kitty's digestive tract. Unfortunately, it did get stuck on the way out.. There was a great deal of squirming involved with it's removal- both by cat and human.
Wishing you great happiness now and in the new year!

1:59 PM  
Blogger Leta said...

I have decided that since I call them "holiday cards" and since there are holidays of one sort or another every month or so, it's okay if they don't all get sent before Saturday.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.

(And I hope that Lupac is home and staring down the kittens very soon.)

2:24 PM  
Anonymous Robin R said...

I'm praying for Lupac's safe return. You definitely deserve a merry Christmas full of celebration. My advice is to ask around the neighborhood. We had a family of rescued dogs when I was growing up. We lost one and found it in a swamp after asking people all around. The dog was stuck somehow between lands of a swamp we'd never have looked in, but some exploring kids told some people we had asked about her! It was a chain.

Lupac is a wild one. I pray for her and know she'll come home to you. Please tweet when she does. :)

Thanks for a beautiful blog entry and blog overall. I'm thankful for my blessings, but it's been the worst year of my life, and your blog has been a great source of cheer up. :)

Here's to a splendid new year and holiday season for you!

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Judy S said...

Thanks for such an amusing post --- it softened the sting of the AWOL Lupac. I hope the furball returns soon!!

I absolutely loved your holiday status report, room by room. It's comforting to know that I'm not the only one with several things hanging out on my good intentions list rather than my done list.

Thank YOU for being such an amazing writer and for sharing snippits of your life with us.

I hope you and yours have a FANTABULOUS holiday!

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Karen said...

Right there with you, Quinn. Christmas this year feels 'off' here too.

After a rather frustrating day at work, I came home to find the Labrador Retriever had used my grandmother's handmade 90 year old quilt as a chew toy.

The Fox Terrier has had diarrhea for a week and the anti-biotics aren't working fast enough, in my opinion.

No items on the carefully timed "To Do" list have been crossed off and it's doubtful I'll be able to make up the time.

The turkey could be used as an oblong bowling ball -- hopefully it will thaw before Friday.

The dough for the milk bread (which was supposed to accompany homemade apple butter for several neighbors) is kind of pancakey. I was shooting for light and airy.

I've had presents wrapped & under the tree for a week or so, however, my Consort sees no reason to wrap any present until about five minutes before we gather in front of the tree Christmas morning. It leaves a little to be desired in the anticipation department.

Still, we're blessed and deep down, we know it.

All the best to you and your family as well as your readers.

Will say a prayer for Lupac tonight. It's probably just taking her a while to find the perfect rodent to present you on Christmas morning.


5:45 PM  
Blogger Kathryn said...

We got a 2 a.m. phone call several weeks ago. The Elder Grandgirlie was calling from her bathroom (I know. She does this because nobody in her house is awake in the middle of the night for her to talk to when she needs to avail herself of the facilities.) to tell us that The People Who Take Care of Us (the Girlie's name for their parents) were adament that the Zhou Zhou thing wasn't happening in their house. If they wanted them, the pets, then they could sign up for Kid's Mandarin lessons next summer through Parks and Rec. so they could properly communicate. And, wasn't that awful, and did we realize that two little girls who were their Grandgirlies were the only eight and six year olds on the entire planet who didn't have the whatevers? I was not overly concerned, because I heard the Voice of the Daddy over the phone instructing said child to hang up the phone, wipe, flush, wash hands, and get the heck to bed because it was two in the morning.

Maybe there are Mandarin classes for your little girl?

By the way. Here is a true story about that elder child. This was last year when she was seven.

The Child: (With a book) Look at this. It's the "Go-leeth" Frog from Africa - it's 37 inches long!

Her Mother: Wow. That's a big frog, and it's pronounced "Go-Lie-Ath" - it's named after a giant in a Bible story.

The Child: So this frog is Catholic.

Interesting, because we are Episcopal.

5:54 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

Quinn, you are such a delight!

Happy Holidays to you and may Lupac return promptly.

All I want for Christmas is a new toothbrush.

This is because today my three year old grandson came out of my bathroom and announced:

"You know what I don't think would be a good idea? I don't think it would be a good idea to brush my p-n-s with a toothbrush."

I'm off to bed, but FIRST I shall be searching for my travel bag with my spare toothbrush. Just to be safe.

7:50 PM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Merry Christmas Quinn and Family! Hope Lupac is fine and back home soon!

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Denise said...

Quinn ~ Love your blog. You have such a unique writing voice. I'll say a prayer for Lupac to return quickly.

You can still send cards. There are TWELVE days of Christmas. One year, my annual letter ended up being titled Lent Letter. I've yet to mail this year's cards... and I was so determined to get them out on Thanksgiving weekend. Life happened.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours. Hopefully, Daughter will be well by Christmas morn.

Kathryn, that is funny.

8:10 PM  
Anonymous FurBabyMom said...

Merry Christmas to you, Consort and Daughter. I hope Lupac returns safe and sound, demanding you fulfill your promise of soy turkey.

I'm not sure which made me laugh harder this time - your blog, or Judy's toothbrush story, but both were a delightful read.

Thank you Quinn for much laughter and many smiles this year. I hope 2010 will be a very happy and healthy year for you and your family.

Happy holidays,

10:20 PM  
Blogger Sara J. Henry said...

So sorry to hear about Lupac's disappearance. I'll keep hoping.

5:32 AM  
Blogger Cid said...

Where to begin? I read alot of blogs but none, so far, has made me feel so much better about not sending Christmas cards, not having cats or water bottles and not even liking pumpkin bread (I prefer zuchinni) I hope you have a wonderful day tomorrow and I'll be back for updates on the sickie, the kittens and poor Lupac.

6:38 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Hey, Merry Christmas! We are right there with you on the Christmas cards. We ended up using a picture from our summer vacation and we mailed them... yesterday. That's the 23rd. So, look for it soon, and get out your magnifying glass! You might be able to make out the kids' faces in the picture, if you squint:-)
Fingers crossed for Lu...
All of us

7:49 AM  
Blogger Char said...

i went from oh dear to laughter and back again. i hope despite the trials, you have a beautiful and blessed christmas/holiday season. leave some sliced pumpkin bread on a plate for santa - i hear reindeer like that sort of thing.

7:56 AM  
Blogger Suzanna Catherine said...

Love your blog! Thanks for making me laugh out loud.

Sending good vibes for Lupac's return.

All the best to you and yours in 2010.

7:31 PM  
Anonymous scarlet said...

I'm sure Lu will be home soon. She can't resist the siren song of stinky wet food forever. Until then, may your days (and daughter's and consort's) be merry and bright.

9:29 PM  
Blogger Quirky said...

Honey, we have FIVE cats in the house who would love nothing more than to get a few seconds alone with that delicious Christmas tree. I carry the spray bottle around hooked to the waistband of my jeans like a gunslinger. (Have also picked up the annoying habit of drawling, "Go ahead, make my day" on more than one occasion).

Also? Tinsel has been banned from our house ever since the year where all I got for Christmas was a $600 vet bill to x-ray, palpitate and administer prescription strength laxative to remove the shiny metallic hairball that had lodged itself in a kitty digestive tract. Trust me on this-skip the tinsel.

That said, here's hoping that everything in your household gets better/eaten/back from her unauthorized trip to Vegas!

9:52 AM  
Blogger Dawn Maria said...

I'm glad I caught this after I just returned home from our first Christmas away from home. Now I know what I missed in my own house!

Happy New Year Quinn!

10:00 AM  
Anonymous joanr16 said...

Come home soon, Lulabelle! Your people miss you.

Quinn, I hope your family's actual Christmas was lovely. Thanks for all the laughs this year.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Miss Cavendish said...

I hope you have good news about Lupac (and of course I hope your daughter feels better now). Love that one set of names for your kittens is Anne and Diana. Remember when they jumped into Diana's great aunt's bed and Diana almost lost her piano lessons in the aftermath?

6:15 PM  
Blogger kpat said...

While I am not a published author, I do appreciate your less than perfect Christmas. After experiencing the joy of watching my five-year-old open Christmas presents, I have spent the past week hiding his new beloved treasures one at a time trying to figure out which one might be causing him to break out in hives all over his body as soon as he walks in our home. I just finished your book, which thankfully I don't think anyone was allergic to, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Thank you.

8:05 PM  
Blogger Michaéle said...

I took a break from blogging and missed your blog the most of all.

And I'm totally trying your pumpkin bread.

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Agness said...

Try, a web service that for a fee will call land lines in your area with an automatic message about your missing pet.

I used it a few months ago and got my cat back after 10 days missing. ( this isn't spam, I don't know anyone who works for that site - it just really worked for me)

3:23 PM  

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