I love family parties. It gives me a chance to catch up with my cousins who I don’t see nearly enough and the aunt and uncle on my dad’d side of the family who provide me with a lot of information about my dad and what he was like as a kid. I hear about how their dad paid them for their report cards and how he got them to do all of the work around the house without ever having to lift a finger. My grandfather on my dad’s side was not a very good dad. It sometimes amazes me that his three sons all turned out to be really good dads and even better grandfathers.
I listened to my dad and aunt talk about their childhood Christmases and how they acquired the tree for the season. From what I gathered they went to the lot and picked out the tree they liked and the teenage sons were sent back at night to get the tree free of charge. This explains a lot about why my dad was really disappointed in me when I shoplifted as a kid. He raised me to work for your money and go buy the things you need. Stealing is wrong. I think his dad had a different theory about how to obtain the things in life you want or think you might need. They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but I think my dad must have hit a limb on the way down and got thrown far away from that old apple tree.
My aunt stayed with my parents the night of the party. She was on her way to Florida and in town for a day or two so she slept in my parents’ spare room. My daughter and I went over to visit with her before she left since we don’t see her very often and she told me a story about how she obtained a bike the prior spring to peddle around town. She apparently found a bike that was in front of someone’s house, close to the curb, not chained to anything and in very good condition. It was a boys bike so it wasn’t ideal for her, but it was good enough to ride around town on. She jumped on the bike and rode off. She said obviously they were throwing it away if it was outside, unlocked and unattended. She also said she didn’t ride down that street all summer just in case the person wasn’t actually throwing away the bike that was somewhere between the house and the curb that night she walked by. She rode the bike all summer and when she was done she went and put it back by the house. In the end I guess she borrowed a bike for a few months without the owner’s consent or permission. She laughed when she told the story the same way she laughed about how the boys in the family got the Christmas tree.
Maybe the female apples stay close to the tree and the males roll as far away as they can. I don’t know, but I’m really grateful for that branch that shot my dad so far away from the tree that he didn’t even know he was an apple anymore.
I am a firm believer in the idea that you do good things and you are rewarded. Today I was running errands with my mom. We are both members of a women’s organization that does volunteer work in our community. One of the projects we are working on requires us to set up artificial Christmas trees in public areas with a sign attached asking people to “decorate” them with hats and scarves and socks for people in need. We collect all of the donations over the holiday months and distribute them to different homeless shelters, group homes and warming centers. Today was the day we went to dismantle the trees and store them away until next year. While we were picking up the trees and all of the “decorations” I parked next to a minivan that appeared to be more of a home than a vehicle.
I probably wouldn’t have noticed all of the unusual things on this vehicle if I didn’t have to keep walking past it, but loading the charity trees and loot into my SUV afforded me the opportunity to walk by the minivan beside me several times. Each time I passed it I noticed something new. The first thing that caught my eye was the steering wheel lock. It was a giant bar across the wheel that was popular in the 80s. My eye was drawn from there to the sunflower emblazoned dishtowels draped over the seats and the gold lace table runners covering the seats. I went about my business wondering if the Sunflower King & Queen owned this vehicle. When I came back to my vehicle from the building on my first trip I noticed the soup can that was covering the exhaust pipe of the minivan. Yes, a soup can was placed over the exhaust pipe. All I could think about was how long it took this driver to put all of this crap on his car once he parked it. Between the steering wheel bar and the soup can he had to have spent ten minutes arming his car to fend off the alien invaders.
It wasn’t until I passed the vehicle the third time that I noticed the aluminum foil encased windshield wipers. I’m guessing these are not very effective against rain but might deflect the bolts of lightning coming from the space invaders chasing this guy. As I walked around the van I also noticed that it was being held together in many parts with duct tape. It was grey so it matched the paint. Foot long pieces of duct tape covered rust spots around the wheels and on the side of the van. It had several dents on the driver’s side. I’m not sure if they were from crazy pants running into things or if it was the aliens using a battering ram to break in and get their hands on the 250 count package of napkins on the passenger seat. Either way, the grey duct tape was surely going to cover up the damage.
The cross magnets on the outside of the car and the stickers all over the dashboard had me wondering if the owner was a priest, but the spoon and opera program sitting on the passenger seat made me think maybe this person was a single guy looking for his partner. He had a lot of rubber bands and duct tape so I’m not so sure about his approach. I don’t know if the Sunflower King lives in the building or if he was just visiting, but it made my day to see this vehicle. I took a few pictures before jumping back in the car with my mom. I didn’t want either of us ending up in that passenger seat.
I took my dad out shopping for my mom’s Christmas gift the other day. A few strange things happened while we were shopping. First, my dad paid with a credit card which he never does. He pays for everything with cash. It doesn’t matter what he is buying, it could be a candy bar or a diamond ring and he would pay with cash. He uses plastic so infrequently that when he does use it he usually ends up leaving the card in the machine. My husband and I were both standing there with him as he pulled out a wad of cash with the small blue card in between. He hesitated for a second as my husband and I stood with our jaws on the floor. I watched him calculating the number of days until Christmas and determining if he would be able to get to the bank where the nice ladies supplied him with crisp hundred dollar bills, before he finally handed the card over to the cashier who was looking a little confused as to what all the fuss was about. He didn’t know that this event was similar to watching a gorilla use tools for the first time.
As we completed our purchase the salesman shook hands with me and my husband and grabbed my dad in a big bear hug. Maybe he did understand what a monumental event this was after all. Or maybe he realized that he was in fact meeting santa claus. Or maybe he was just so relieved that this transaction was finally complete that he had to hold onto someone for a second. We went on our merry way to complete our shopping, as my dad tucked the little piece of plastic into a different pocket, making sure it didn’t make an appearance again.
Normally it takes about a half day to buy my mom’s gifts with my dad, but this day was different. We were finished with our shopping in record time. I’m not sure if it was the trauma my dad incurred from pulling out that little blue card or if he was excited to pick up his granddaughter from school, but we were out of the mall parking lot quicker than the old folks leaving church on their way to brunch so we decided to drop my husband off at home before picking my daughter up from school. This is where the other strange thing occurred.
We pulled into the driveway to drop off my husband and I jumped out of the car to go refill my glass of water. While I was in the house the UPS man pulled up with a package. Instead of leaving it at the door he walked up and tapped on the window of the car where my dad was sitting and gave it to him. When I returned from the house I found my dad sitting in the car with the package. I promptly opened the box to find a gift for my husband and a little sample of lotion inside. I ran back into the garage to throw the box in the recycling bin as I handed the little packet to my dad and told him to rub it on his face. My Dad has been suffering from terrible dry skin over the past several weeks. Both my mom and I have been slathering his face with lotion every chance we get. As he rubbed the lotion from the little sample packet into his skin he said to me “I don’t know what the dry skin is from, I’ve been getting it ever since I had the syphilis.” I’m glad we were parked or I would have crashed my car. I think what he meant to say was diverticulitis. He spent two separate weekends in the hospital last August with a kidney stone and diverticulitis. Or maybe he thought he had psoriasis. Either way, the word he was looking for was definitely not syphilis.
Even after a twenty minute interrogation I was unable to determine what he thinks his condition is and where he got it. My mom thinks it’s from getting in the hot tub late at night and the steam getting all over his face. I’ll have to remember to make sure their hot tub isn’t infested with hookers like in that Rodney Dangerfield movie where he goes back to college with his son. That could explain why my dad thinks his dry skin is caused by a venereal disease. I’m glad we were parked in line to pick up my daughter when he turned and said “well if it’s syphilis, your mom must have given it to me. She’s always talking about her back-up plan guys on TV when I die.”
I was standing in a very long line yesterday while Christmas shopping in the middle of the day. The woman in front of me was still looking at the stands of last minute gifts as she was walking up, taking her time as we slowly inched along. She turned to me and said with a smile “If I’m taking too long looking, feel free to go ahead of me” I laughed and used one of the hangers in my overflowing arms like a cattle prod and told her I would just move her along when the gap got too big. I had watched the woman in front of her cut in line with a cart full of merchandise as we all walked up to the neck of the bottle of the checkout line. She literally pushed her cart around this woman to angle her way in to the line first. I wasn’t in a big hurry and either was the happy shopper in front of me so we both just kind of laughed at the lady trying to steam roll herself to the front of the line.
We started talking about the temperament of people shopping at this time of year. Apparently the police have been called out to several parking lots in our area already for people arguing over parking spaces. She told me how someone had taken a spot she was waiting for while she was entering the store so she just parked down the aisle a little further. I hadn’t really noticed the chaos in the parking lot since I tend to park far away and walk the distance to the store. I already have too many dings in my doors from parking at the gym where nobody knows how to open a door without it physically touching the car beside them.
As I was talking to this woman I realized that she had already had a parking spot snatched away from her and a woman almost mow her down with a shopping cart to get in the checkout line ahead of her. Her response was “life is too short” and I couldn’t agree more. I understand that people are rushing around to get all of their shopping done in time for the holidays while trying to also maintain some semblance of a normal life, but it’s not like this is the first time Christmas has come along and all of the extra activities have just happened with no notice. It’s the middle of December, if you don’t like shopping with half of the world standing around you, do it in July or shop online. Don’t go shopping a week before Christmas and get annoyed that other people are doing the same thing.
We continued to chat as we made our way to the front of the line where I learned her daughter is home from college and they go to a church I love. I gave her a free mini facial from the bag of goodies I carry with me and told her to go give herself a little pampering that night. We both made our way to our assigned cashiers and wished each other a Merry Christmas as we left.
I don’t know if I am just not paying attention or if I have been going to the right stores, but I haven’t encountered a whole lot of bad behavior this holiday season. I took my Dad out shopping and I found a parking spot right in front where he didn’t have to walk that far and we didn’t have to wait in any long lines. Maybe my holiday spirit is just making it an easier process. I love shopping, I love giving gifts to other people and I love Christmas music. Or maybe it is that I have eaten enough of the cookies I have baked this year and actually turned into an elf. I guess I’ll have to wait until next week to find out.
I wrote this blog while listening to The Brian Setzer Orchestra.
As I was driving my daughter to a sleepover at her Grandparents’ house the other day she asked “Why are there so many songs about Santa at Christmas and not that many about Jesus? It’s His birthday and there aren’t even that many songs about him”. Part of me wanted to tell her that people are selfish and songs about Santa are popular because people want to hear songs about what the fat man may bring them this year. I wanted to tell her that people want to focus on all of the “stuff” that comes along with Christmas. I wanted to get on my high horse and preach, but I didn’t. I told her that there are a lot of songs about Jesus, they just aren’t on satellite radio. I explained that just like my punk rock, songs about Jesus had been banished to the stations people can only get on their computers at home.
This of course expanded into a larger conversation about why people are more comfortable celebrating Santa than Jesus. We talked about her Advent calendar and the season of Advent. We talked about Advent being the season of celebrating Jesus’s birth and that for us the best way to celebrate is to try to behave more like Jesus would. We do this by giving ourselves to others. We donate to charities, we make gifts for people, we spend time together as a family.
We have a beautiful advent calendar that we use every year. My husband and I wake up in the middle of the night panicking that the pocket for the following morning is not filled. We are hardcore Adventers. When we first started this tradition, our daughter was young so the pockets were filled with goodies for her, small toys and chocolate mostly. When she was old enough to understand what Advent is really all about we started putting little homemade tags in the pockets. Now the gift in the pocket is either a charitable act or something to do together as a family. The problem with this is it is a lot of work for us to keep track of everyone’s schedules and coordinate who is driving over to give the bell ringer money or what craft we might be starting. There are some scheduled events but mostly it is me moving around the “watch a Christmas movie” tag just in case we forget a night.
We are over halfway through the pockets this year and I think I have reused the same tag three times now, but that’s okay. My daughter understands what this season means to us and that is a gift. Our conversation diverted to Santa being more like the three wise men bringing gifts to Jesus at his birth. I’m just hoping this doesn’t lead me on a quest to find myrrh at 3 am one night next week.