Wednesday, December 28, 2011

As I consider taking down the tree.

How do our mothers trick us into believing they will live forever?

It’s the rituals, these annual holiday rituals.
It’s the antique pie plate, and the recipes only made for Christmas breakfast. It’s the stockings swinging above the fire, matching red pajamas, and candy canes nestled into cups of cocoa.

So this is what we are doing, as we pin up our Advent calendars and hide trinkets in our New Year’s Eve cakes. We are imprinting ourselves, as mothers, in our children’s hearts. Making them believe not in Santa or in elves, but in the concept of everlasting home.

My mother, my complicated mother, might as well be reincarnated as a Douglas fir, for the way she magically appears, sparkly and commanding, in my living room the last month of every year.

She was no angel, of course. But she loved to dazzle, and so she does.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Christmas Prayer.

Please, dear Lord, may the gift certificates my daughters receive from the mall not be redeemable at The Tattoo Palace.

May the client who always sends me those iced cookies from that place in Wisconsin send them again. But not the tower, God. Please, please, dear God, not the tower.

I pray that you speak to your co-worker, Mother Nature, to forgive me for all the gift bags I am going to throw away. I can’t keep them all, God. I believe they are breeding in my cabinet. The big shiny ones beget the ones shaped like wine bottles. They do. It's the garden of freaking gift bag Eden in there.

Please, Lord Jesus, when the carolers come to my house don’t let me giggle involuntarily. If I go to the Christmas pageant and the kid playing the wise man speaks with a lisp, that’s okay to laugh. Even the priest will laugh at a kid with a lisp.But not at the carolers. Please let me keep a straight face with the earnest, off-key carolers.

When the Salvation Army bell rings outside Costco, let me have a dollar in my jeans pocket so I’m not the a--hole who says “Sorry, I’ll hit you on the way out” and then pulls my coat over my face and runs.

May I stop mocking the younger mommies at the school Christmas concerts by making jokes about “Toys for Ta-Tas.” That is simply not in the holiday spirit.

When my husband invites people over for drinks, may I just smile graciously and offer them the only food left in the house not designated for Christmas dinner: sardines on a triscuit.

May no one recognize that I have been wearing the same red corduroy flares for 6 Decembers in a row. They still fit, dear God. And if that isn’t a Christmas miracle (have I mentioned The Tower?) I don’t know what is.

Let me make time for the people I love, and make excuses for people I don’t.
Let me stop cleaning and start singing.
Let me watch Charlie Brown and listen to Mitch Miller.
Let me buy gifts that make people laugh, because making them happy is just too much damned pressure. And, um, may I stop swearing? Sorry about that. I'll do better in the New Year.

In thee I pray.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Occasionally oblivious.

Sometimes we writers wander around in a beautiful place and don't see anything, because we're so tied up in the worlds we're creating in our heads. And then there are the other times.

I'd been down that path to Carmel Beach a million times, but today I saw this.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dear twentysomething . . .

I was asked recently to contribute to a series of letters written by writers to their younger selves (and their younger brethren everywhere.) Here's what I had to say.

Dear twentysomething,

Maybe these aren’t the best years of your life. Maybe you miss college, the hug of a dorm room, the hush of a library. Maybe your obnoxious, preening professors don’t seem nearly as dangerous as your stupid, scheming bosses. Maybe you know too many people who have more money in the bank and more clothes in their closet and more stamps on their passport than you do.

Maybe you are walking a tightrope. That thin moon that hangs between being a self-starter and a go-getter. Being a lot of fun and being a bit too much. Between being ready and being there already.

The thirties await you on the other side, with all the shiny gifts and promises they seem to bring.

But know this.

You are the age when you are always lit from within.
Older people see it like a golden lamp when you walk into a dark room, your skin still plump like a baby’s. Your source of energy now, if you don’t mute it, is endless.

Strip away the cocktails and the Red Bulls, the all-nighters at the office. Walk past the 24-hour carbohydrate palaces, and lay down on a pillow with a flannel case you washed yourself. Rest. Heat up some soup. Listen to the music people make fun of you for liking. Build an altar of your favorite books, a toy, a card your grandmother gave you.

These are not the years to burn up and grind down. To scratch or claw or pound.

These are the light years. The weightless ones, the lily-pad days.

I won’t say enjoy them; everyone says that, no one listens.
I will say: Use them. Use them not to move and jostle and scheme. Use them to be still enough to learn what you truly want.

Read the whole series of “Dear Twentysomething” letters all this month, on Melanie Goodman’s book blog,