Thursday, December 31, 2009


They arrived with presents, one huge backpack, athletic gear, assorted hats, gloves, boots and sets of keys. The immaculately decorated house immediately took on the aspect of chaos that it used to have when children lived here permanently. Christmas had begun.

The schedule was planned by Charlie, and it included some shopping, riding around to see the lights, holiday performances, and dinners out. We had a barbequed turkey on Christmas night, complete with coleslaw and made-from-scratch baked beans. This was an innovation-—we wanted a change from the tired old stuffed turkey that usually graces our table. I would bet thousands that not one family in America leaves the table after Christmas dinner unbloated, and this family was no exception!

The opening of gifts at our house is an all day affair. The champagne we drank on Christmas Eve proved very soporific, and so none of us awoke before ten. Even the dog slept in. With coffee and egg casserole to fortify, we opened gifts for the better part of three hours. Since this was an “austere” year, gifts included boxes of cereal for one daughter, cookbooks from the shelf in the kitchen for the other. The dog opened her gift, and then chewed her way through a few others. We ate and drank coffee for the better part of the day, remaining parked in front of the fire. Fun, fun, fun.

As suddenly as they came, the daughters were gone. Despite assiduous packing, here is what we discovered that was left behind: One hairbrush, a complete set of workout clothes (still sweat covered), a red sweater that had to be retrieved from the restaurant where it was left, two boxes of the “gift” cereal, and various beauty products.

Also left behind was an air of emptiness, and echoes of laughter and late night television. There is silence where there was chattering and shouting, and here and there are remnants of the holiday: a shred of gift wrap under the coffee table, a stray ornament in the corner. The stockings are deflated, hanging there to remind me of those girls.

I have a bad cold. I don’t feel like putting anything away today. So I sit, wrapped in a blanket, thinking about past Christmases, and the days when the kids were still at home. Between coughs, I remember: Marion having strep throat just about every year, and all the Amoxicillin doses. Annie asking for a new saddle every year, and not receiving one (they cost the same amount as a CAR, for Pete’s sake!). The year Nintendo games were all the rage, and our girls didn’t get one. The arguments that resulted from “Trivial Pursuit.” Charlie falling asleep during “family time” watching Christmas movies. The messes that were made in the kitchen by well meaning cooks. The noise, the disruption, and the activity. It was exhausting!

So now I sit, with blanket and coffee. The house is quiet, and there are no cell phones texting, no Ipods recharging, and no hair dryers blowing. There is still more coffee in the pot. I have not tripped over one gym shoe in twenty four hours. The bed in the guestroom is MADE.

The children are where they belong. I am home alone. There is order in the universe.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


While I enjoy the holidays with my family, going to restaurants and overeating, wrapping gifts, watching "On Demand" movies, trying to keep up with all the mess in the house, and generally making merry, I want to send all of you my very best wishes for a FANTASTIC holiday with your families.

Eat an extra cookie. Go out and buy ONE MORE stocking stuffer! Take a ride and look at holiday lighting displays! Sleep in an extra hour. Make a new recipe. And be sure to think of me when you laugh!


Thursday, December 10, 2009


I would love to write a nostalgic post about my many Christmas memories. Stockings, carols, turkeys, Santa, the works. The truth of the matter is that my childhood memories, collectively, would EASILY fit on the head of a pin.

I have been challenged by a Facebook friend to get with it and THINK BACK. I have been brain racking (wracking??), and I have managed to come up with some details of my Christmases past to share with all of you. Dickens I am most certainly NOT, but I do have some memories perhaps worth sharing.

FAMILY. My mother was a gifted artist who spent her life as a housewife. Her genius was expressed through flower arranging, sewing, cooking, and crafting. She let herself go at Christmas! We always had at least five kinds of cookies stored in Christmas tins in the garage (!), and every night after dinner, we brought them upstairs and gorged on nut crescents, little pecan tarts, Slovak (my Mom, a true Bohemian peasant) jam tarts, and various other delicacies. I have never made a cookie that doesn’t come in a roll from the grocery refrigerated section.

My mother always made a Christmas candle. She let my sister and me help. It consisted of a wick, blocks of paraffin, melted paraffin that she somehow whipped into a froth, glitter, food coloring, and decorative greens. The candle was assembled from the blocks, the whipped frosting applied with a cake spreader, and the glitter applied while the paraffin was still wet. The candle was arranged on the buffet with the greens; it always looked beautiful, and we lit it every night during supper during the holidays. I absolutely loved it. It has never occurred to me to try making one.

We did not have a fireplace in our house, so we never had stockings. My father acted as Santa on Christmas morning, and he did an admirable job. We opened gifts one at a time, and exclaimed over each one. I am not aware of my parents exchanging gifts—Christmas was ALL ABOUT ME, of course. I do remember Dad getting things like socks and gloves every year, and his enthusiasm for these gifts was always boundless, bless him!

GIFTS TO REMEMBER. My favorite gift as a child was a ballerina doll with pink toe shoes. I found it in my Mom’s closet at around Thanksgiving time, and took it out and played with whenever she went to the store. I am shocked that she didn’t notice its slightly shopworn appearance when she wrapped it up to put it under the tree. The worst gift I have ever received (and my daughters will back me up on this) was a pair of blown glass earrings from my husband. These looked to me like tiny little dog poos on 14k gold posts, and I never wore them. They got lost, somehow…

THE HOLIDAY RAMP-UP. Families in the fifties were not so slavish in the decoration department. I have no memories of lights in the bushes or wreaths on the front door. We had a big non artificial tree in the living room, in front of the picture window, and every year, my Dad did what all Dads throughout history have done: he put the lights on the tree and used words that I never heard during other times of the year: words like shit, damnittohell, and son of a bitch.

Our decorations were thanks to my talented mother, who managed to make a different style of beautiful handcrafted ornament-every year. We had ones made of satin ribbon, ones covered with sequins, knitted and crocheted ones, stained glass-like ones, and some she made from kits that she ordered. I have many of these still, and we put them on our tree every year. I have never tried to make an ornament. I know my limitations.

Since both parents were musicians, and my Dad played a mean concert violin, we always had Christmas music. On the stereo, I adored the Mormon Tabernacle choir. Robert Goulet sang “Panis Angelicus” like nobody’s business. My Dad played his violin for us once in awhile, and I loved it. Since my Dad was also associated with the music department at the university in our town, we also attended Christmas concerts. I loved sitting there, behaving beautifully (my Mom made it clear that one false move and I was a dead man) and letting the music wash over me. I have no musical talent myself. Charlie takes care of that with carols galore on the accordion, whether we need them or not.

So there you have it. Memories. My children, if writing blogs, would have a very different set of remembrances: about the Santa gifts with Mom’s handwriting on the tags, the trips to the emergency room on Christmas Eve two years running (a badly sprained ankle one year, uncontrolled vomiting the next), taking rides to see the lights and getting into a big fight in the car about why it isn’t in good taste to say the “F” word in front of your parents, embarrassing a boyfriend at a fancy restaurant with a family discussion about scatological topics, and the time Mom gave Dad back all of the gifts he got her because none of them were on her Christmas list…

Oh, it is a magical time of the year.

I want to wish all of you who have supported me in my writing a wonderful holiday. I will name some names: Merry Christmas to my Facebook family, especially Karl, Tracy, Diana, Michelle, Celine, and Dr. Steve. To Watson the cat, felicitations! To my Etsy friends, a hearty Yule! To my neighbors, lots of love. To the rest—Jane and Dave, Susan G. and Dave, Alison and Tim, Carl and Sherry, John and Joann, Paul and Susanne, Waynesville Vet Hospital, Joe and Dee, Sheryl and Rick, Mar and Den, Lynne, and the rest of my family—peace and love.

I will be taking a Christmas hiatus (no,Charlie—I don’t have a HERNIA) and I will be back after the holidays. Annie and Marion will be home this year, the four of us together for maybe the last time before one of them gets married.


Sunday, December 6, 2009


I grew up hating my name. I still don’t like it, actually. In my generation, the only “Molly’s” were in my reading books: cows and goats always seemed to have that name. Not one girl. This held true all the way through college and beyond. Imagine my surprise when the name “Molly” became popular in the 90’s. Now I run into little “Molly’s” everywhere. There is security in having a popular name. No one makes fun of you or it, or asks you where your name comes from, etc. I have spent some time pondering names lately. It seems that one’s name can be either the catalyst for a lot of anguish, sexual confusion, resentment, or just, as in my case, dissatisfaction. A name can harness its owner with aggravation and more. For instance:

As a parent, one must think long and hard before naming a child something unusual. Bucking trends for some parents is an obsession. But before you name your daughter Prudence, however, consider the meaning behind the name. I have always wondered if those Moms and Dads choosing names like Hope, Charity, Patience and the like are projecting these qualities onto their daughters, or if they are just living in the past.

Luckily for parents who like old fashioned names, however, these seem to be swinging right back into popularity: Joshua, Ethan, Caleb—these are all back. These names are very nice and strong. Again, some parents push this envelope as well, and we get Moab, Orton, Gladys, and Blanche. Can you imagine what being named Blanche might be like? At the birthday party: “Come on girls—Tiffany, Suzy, Maddie, and BLANCHE! Time to cut the cake!” Is grandma among them?

In my mind, certain names have associations that are not complimentary. Hilda, for instance, makes me think of a clumsy red-haired pre teen, who is pushed into ballet school by her misguided mother. Elspeth seems like a wraith with incipient tuberculosis. Cary, I am sorry to say, is gay (not that there is anything wrong with that...). Wendell and Winthrop are nerds. And Cecil is most likely gay AND the neighborhood target for all the bullies. By the way, the bullies are named Jake, Bud, and Willy (Willy became a bully in defense of his own penile related name). Florrie is fat.

I would also like to knock some sense into any parent considering naming a boy anything relating to cowboys, unless the family actually lives on a farm or ranch with real cows and horses. Boys named Emmett, Saratoga, Slim, or Red have a lot to live up to otherwise. The same goes for girls. Why name a child Belle, before you know whether or not she will be pretty? While I am at it—I would like to give another kick in the head to any parent cherishing the name Hortense, Ida, Gaylord, Jemima, Hubert, or Pepper.

Geography should not be confused with the naming of children. How did naming kids after locations become the trend? Sierra, Tennessee, Aspen, Nevada. I guess these sound evocative to some. Thank goodness I have never been introduced to a Little Rock or a Kankakee, but they are probably out there, getting beaten up during recess.

One more thing. Consider your own name before you name your dog. If your name is Rex or Chance, then for heaven’s sake, don’t give your dog a name like Pete or Dan, because folks will persist in calling you by your dog’s name.

A final peeve. If you get the privilege of naming a person, can you please SPELL the name correctly? The popularity of butchering names causes me such pain. Why ruin a fine name such as Susan by spelling it Soosyn? Mollee? Danyelle? Wyllym? Dian??

Ok, I have to go now. I have to go brush my cat Salami.

Share this Post

Share your links easily.