Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Cup Of Christmas Blog

Today has been a very nice Christmas Day. Everyone loved their gifts: Mary got an American Girl doll, Hannah got more spy toys, Carl got The Complete Farside Collection and a Milwaukee Sawzall, and I got a new kitchen faucet and track lighting (installed!) and a Brian Urlacher football jersey. Each girl got a tween-size inflatable sleeping bag, stocking stuffers, plus some books: Hannah got two books by Dave Barry (her newest favorite author) and Mary got a stack of books by Louis Sachar (he wrote the Wayside School series). Even the pets got toys and snacks in their stockings. A lovely morning altogether.

Christmas dinner was a pleasant surprise, mainly because I managed to cook it without undercooking, overcooking, or burning anything. I roasted two ducks stuffed with apples and raisins, and since I had some apples and raisins left over I made a baked apple pudding from a recipe I got off the Internet. It was an impromptu thing, but it must have been meant to be because there was a carton of vanilla ice cream in the basement freezer to go with it. We also had baked potatoes, veggies and rolls. Fortunately I had lots of help from Carl in the cooking which is probably why it turned out so good.

Yes, today was definitely a vast improvement over yesterday. I had to take Moose Mutt to the vet first thing in the morning, and the two-lane road between our town and the main highway was still blocked from the weekend snowstorm we'd had. Only one lane was open (barely). I've never seen drifts that high - they were level with the top of the pickup cab! The poor plow driver was trying hard to clear the road, but the traffic was seriously hindering him. If I'd had some warning I'd have taken another route out of town, but there were no signs to redirect traffic, and no humans out on the road (besides the plow driver) to control vehicles. I managed to get to town and home again, but only because I had four-wheel drive and an obstinate attitude. I was angry that the plow driver didn't have any help. Someone else should have been out there to direct traffic, and every time the driver had to get out of his truck to handle cars was time taken away from his main task of plowing (and was thus a waste of my tax money). So I wrote a letter to the county board of supervisors giving them a piece of my mind. Don't worry, Mom. Carl read the letter before I sent it, so it wasn't too nasty or mean. It was as diplomatic a letter as I could muster. Fortunately, the road was cleared by the time we went to church last night, so all's well that ends well.

I'm looking forward to Thursday and Friday. We're going to my Mom's Wednesday night (after I get home from work - the curse of not having vacation days - blech!) then we're headed to Illinois to my older-older brother's home. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone and catching up on the latest. I'm hopeful that next year I can convince the family to come to my house for the holidays. I know it's a long way for some, but I've never had everyone in my house all at once, ever. So, family, if you're reading this, Christmas 2008 is in Iowa.


Friday, December 07, 2007

A Cynical View of Christmas

So - today as I was driving to work, I was looking around at the new snowfall we'd gotten, and thinking about how pretty it was. It wasn't pretty two hours previous when school was delayed, but it was pretty now. But I'm driving along and the Meredith Willson song It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas starts playing in my head. And of course I start humming it. Then it hits me - this song, in this day and age, makes absolutely no sense! Only us old folks remember the "five and dimes", and also going downtown to the department stores (every one of them had toys) to go shopping. This song was written in a more genteel time, when there were no shopping malls, ladies always wore dresses and everyone wore hats. But it really struck me at how things have changed. Christmas is no longer a celebration of the birth of the Christ Child. Now it is, as Lucy Van Pelt would say "a big commercial racket. It's run by a big Eastern syndicate, you know!" So I started contemplating - what is today's equivalent of a five and dime store? When the answer came to me, my slightly deranged brain began to rewrite the song, and it came out something like this:

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas (2007)
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, every where you go
Take a look in the dollar store, glistening once more
With Chinese imports lined up in a row
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, shopping online stores
And you'll notice diversity, Kwanzaa candles there will be
At the house next door
A pair of Pokemon balls and a cell phone that calls
Is the wish of Barney and Ben
Dolls that go pee and a new MP3
Is the hope of Janice and Jen
And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, more and more each day
There's a tree in the shopping mall, but not in the school's hall
The ACLU took that one away
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, it's that time you know
Oh to be a small child again, think I'll go outside and then
I'll play IN DA SNOW!!!
Cynical? I suppose so. But at this point in my life, I'd like to see things slow down a little. I very nostalgically wish for the days when Woolworth's and Petersen's ruled downtown Davenport, and toy recalls were unheard of. And I especially wish that more people saw Christmas for what it really is: the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child, that meaning of Christmas that Linus quotes to Charlie Brown in "A Charlie Brown Christmas". A more genteel time when re-enacting the Nativity as your school play wasn't unheard of, but was actually encouraged.
Maybe this year, I'll wear a hat.