I took the picture in the Oakwood Cemetery, Austin, TX.
I took the picture in the Oakwood Cemetery, Austin, TX.
Last night, before bed, I overheard a commercial on TV for a lighting company reminding me that it was time to schedule an appointment for my holiday decorating needs. The suggestion sounded like a glass splintering on concrete after having been inadvertently knocked off the counter.
In my house no one is allowed to say the word Ch******s until after Thanksgiving. I don’t take before-pre-season advertisements for holiday lighting needs well. It’s not that I’m not celebratory, I am. I don’t have a problem with any other holiday except for Ch******s.
If I’m to place blame, it was Santa’s fault.
When my first child, Leo, was born I didn’t give Santa a second thought. I happily suited up. My husband doesn’t have any strong seasonal leanings and did not harbor a secret desire to learn the Santa trade. It was a solo venture that started out with tremendous enthusiasm.
At about age five, Leo began asking questions about the man who entered our home and left presents. At first I squirmed and affirmed his existence but eventually came clean and revealed the woman behind the Ho Ho Ho.
Leo did not take it well. He didn’t care that Santa wasn’t real, he had that already figured that out. It mattered to him that I had lied.
Eli was a baby at the time and I had to choose whether or not to continue with the Santa charade. I decided to re-package Santa as a symbol of wonderment, gratitude, and generosity. I wasn’t going to lie. Instead, I was vague and confusing as I spoke of this half-man, half-symbol.
A contrary skeptic from birth, Eli never bought my Santa-Symbol-Being. As long as there were filled stockings, cookies and presents, he was good to go. Meanwhile, my holiday spirit was fading like a Santa suit in the sun.
It wasn’t until two years later when my twin girls were born that my Santa dilemma took on a new urgency. When their first Christmas came around, the feminist in me could not serve up to my daughters the notion that an old, fat, white guy came down the chimney and gave them presents because they were GOOD.
Here’s the rub. The girls really wanted to believe in Santa. They wanted the whole shebang. So very reluctantly, I kept one leg in the suit while continuing to be vague and confusing. This time, though, I was way more grumpy about the situation.
Finally, to my delight, I began hearing Santa push back from the girls in 2nd grade. There were rumors at school that the whole thing was parent run. I jumped on it and spilled the beans.
They didn’t care. They had been listening to my Santa rants since they were little so they were not surprised.
I have been living Santa-free for the better part of eight years so you’d think I would have re-embraced the holiday season. In earnest, I’ve tried to establish new family traditions by stressing the importance of experiences over stuff and adding more volunteer time to the calendar, but my heart is just not in it. My teenagers have decided that our family’s lack of holiday cheer is my fault.
Of course, they look right past Santa, and blame the mother.
You can imagine how surprised I was when I saw my first flicker of holiday hope this past summer. Leo gave me a glimpse of a future that I never considered. His girlfriend’s mother is a holiday dream come true – better than any Santa.
And she is real!
She embraces and is successful at all things Ch******s and entertaining. She is sophisticated and creates interesting and delicious events that people admire and want to attend!
It doesn’t stop there.
She has a catering business on the side, just because she loves to cook, AND has a professional kitchen in her basement. She’s an accomplished tablescaper (a word that I didn’t even know existed until this summer) and an expert on French food and wine.
My son has been to her house in Chicago and has verified it all.
Who knew that the cure to my holiday brokenness may actually come through my children, the very people who let Santa into our house. I have four kids, so the odds are pretty good that one of them will eventually partner with someone whose mom, or dad, wants to be in charge of the holidays.
I will gladly be the in-law who gives all the holidays over to my kid’s partner’s parents. They can invite me or not, that’s their choice. Just don’t make me put up another ch******s tree.
My son and his girlfriend are both so young and are just finishing college and beginning their lives. I obviously do not want to pressure either of them, but if I had my way and willed my selfish-not-so-normal holiday fantasy into being, they would get married tomorrow … before the holidays
I took the picture at the Blue Santa Parade, Austin, TX.
A Texas winter garden is an odd collection of delicate leafy greens and weather-hearty root vegetables like carrots, turnips, and beets. There’s also cabbages, brussels sprouts, and broccoli, who like the more delicate salad bowl greens, do not care for the heat, but are far more capable in the cold.
Maybe it’s the New Englander in me who grew up with turnips and the like, but I think of root vegetables as my kindred spirits in the garden. I tend to be drawn to those with not so obvious treasures.
It’s not hard to be radiant rainbow chard, prolific arugula, or tender lettuce showing off in the tamed, affectionate October sun. They remind me of youth and fade fast when faced with minor fluctuations in temperature.
The root vegetables are more like the later decades of life. They soak up the same soothing sun but with practical, more industrious looking leaves.
Their business is inward as tri-colored carrots drill deep into the soil; purple collared, moonlight white turnips nestle and grow round; and beets, with their earthy redness, lay waiting, painterly, to stain finger and lips.
The picture is of the garden I planted this weekend at Sunshine Community Gardens
Note: I haven’t written much over the last four months. Our summer was about integrating a long-awaited closure with many beginnings. My silence was a needed stillness to reboot and figure out our new operating system.