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.