Happy Holidays from me to you! Remember, cocktails are the reason for the season.
Happy Holidays from me to you! Remember, cocktails are the reason for the season.
FOR CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR I want a kid.
To all you mothers out there: Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t want your kid. You worked hard to create him/her/it – the center of your mommy universe – therefore you love it unconditionally and perhaps even take pride in the trouble it has caused/will cause. So unless you approve of my disciplinary methods and your child requires little to no supervision, don’t pawn your spawn on me.
When the dog misbehaves, we banish him to the outdoors without a coat until he’s ready to apologize. When the cat rouses us for breakfast at 7 a.m., which is about three and a half hours too early, she gets locked in the bathroom, and we turn on fans to drown out her demanding meows. Our dog can stay home a good eight hours all by himself with only a bowl of water; the cat can go 24 hours. She’s deaf. She has no idea how much we curse her coughed-up hairballs. Call the dog a bad name, and he tilts his head at us, wags up a storm and loves us just the same.
I’m also not having one of those my-life-is-not-complete-unless-I-pop-out-and-raise-my-own-offspring moments. I rarely find myself wondering if I’m missing something by living child-free. When I see screaming children with their parents at the post office or grocery store, the thought that runs through my head is that I’m the lucky one. More often, I don’t notice children at all. (Puppies are a different story. Try as I might, I can’t refrain plotting to steal adorable puppies when their owners aren’t looking.)
But Christmas pushes my growing nostalgia button. Sometimes I ask myself what the point is of celebrating child-centric holidays if I don’t have kids. As I approach mid-life, my biological clock is telling me it’s time to pass on my most memorable childhood traditions to another being.
Each December, after standing on my tip-toes on a stool and climbing atop the wobbly dresser to crawl up into the attic hole, and then falling back down out of the hole with a miniature fake Christmas tree, six boxes of decorations, insulation in my hair and a banged-up shin, I wish I had someone to share sentimental childhood memorabilia with. The construction paper-macaroni-glitter ornaments that I glued together in grade school decomposed to dust years ago, but each ornament that remains carries a part of my history. The angel carrying a lantern with her bare bum peeking out of her white footie pajamas, whose origin my mother will remember. The yellow wooden star I painted in Mrs. Larker’s kindergarten class. My first baby shoes.
I want to wave my phone in the air and yell, “Don’t make me call Santa!” Or better yet, warn children about Krampus. In some European traditions, Krampus is Santa’s hair-raising half-beast, half-demon sidekick who rattles chains and threatens to abduct naughty children or smack them with a birch switch. My friend Keli recently introduced Krampus to her children, who apparently needed more intensive behavior shaping than that provided by the positive reinforcement of Santa’s promise of gifts.
The Santa myth worked for my sister and me. I freaked out if my mom’s hand went for the phone during one of my pre-holiday tantrums; in fact, this could be the root of my generalized anxiety disorder and lifelong obsession with perfectionism. If the stars were out on Christmas eve, my sister and I would sit vigil at the window and stare at the night sky. Sure, those were probably just planes or satellites that we spotted traveling among the stars. But maybe that blinking red light was Rudolph’s nose! The year my Dad jingled sleigh bells outside our bedroom window, we were so excited we almost crapped our pants. Then, with our hearts racing at 220 beats per minute, we were instructed to go to sleep right away or Santa wouldn’t come.
My parents were not lying. Santa never, ever came when we were awake. But in the morning, when we snuck downstairs at the first light of dawn, the living room was magically transformed. The Christmas tree glowed, stockings bulged, presents were scattered under the tree, and the cookies we left out on a plate the night before were gone. A few years later, when my little brother was the only one left in the family who believed, I gloated about being in on the grownups’ secret, and was pleased to snarf the cookies that were meant for Santa.
Sometimes I try to incorporate holiday traditions into my life in the absence of children. I string up tangles of lights and hang stockings under the windows. I took over the baking of my grandmother’s apricot–filled cookies, which delights my siblings. My partner Leah, who grew up with no birthday celebrations, Halloween, or Christmas, now has her own Star Wars, Weather Channel and Abominable Snowman (“Bumble”) ornaments. We gift-wrap bones and stuffed animals for the dog (the cat tends to sleep through Christmas after a failed attempt to wake us at daybreak). And just like back home, we eat Mom’s sticky buns on Christmas morning (she mails us a package in advance), to which we’ve added our own tradition of spiked eggnog coffee.
We’ve got a number of awesome kids in our life if I need a child fix; I usually last about four hours before I’m completely exhausted. Still, someday I’ll die and there will be no one to inherit My Stuff, be it Christmas tree ornaments or stories of my parents calling the North Pole to report my bad behavior. Of course, as one parent friend recently tried to reassure me, “Just because you have kids doesn’t mean they’ll want your sentimental crap.”
My sister said that if I have even an inkling that I might want a kid, I should have one or I’m going to regret it later. But if I want a kid for 14 days out of the year and not the other 351, I think I’ve made the right decision. As Leah and I eat the apricot-filled cookies that would be otherwise destined for Santa, washed down with spiked eggnog coffee, I’ll share my childhood stories with her. Or maybe I’ll write them down for you.
I made these two scratchy comics because my dad told me to, and I always do what Dad says. (And it was his 67th birthday yesterday, but I forgot to call him until today.) Happy birthday, Pop!
I’M SO RELIEVED MY CSA IS OVER for the season. I’m a huge fan of the “buy local” movement, but the pressure to cook and eat vegetables has become almost unbearable.
For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Regular citizens who love the idea of a garden but who don’t have yard space (or who, like me, kill every living plant thing they touch) can buy a share in a farm for the summer. The farmers grow and harvest the crops, and the CSA members get a pile of fiber-filled vegetables and a Locavore Movement, or L.M.
The problem is, I’m a mood eater, not a seasonal eater. Every week starting in late spring, we took home as much kale as we desired from our CSA, but I’m only in the mood to eat kale once every six years. I only eat beets when my mom cooks them with sugar and vinegar, I reserve my carrot intake for parties when they’re on a raw vegetable platter with French onion dip, and I can’t say I’ve ever craved rutabaga. Call me “locationally insensitive,” but in the middle of summer, my ideal snack is fresh pineapple, mangoes and chocolate.
Celeriac, broccoli raab, tatsoi, and turnips? No, thanks. Salad greens? Pass. Potatoes are a different story. Thank goodness we got plenty of spuds from our CSA because they are my ultimate mood food. Whether mashed, boiled, grilled, or French-fried, potatoes soothe my soul, much like tapioca or macaroni and cheese. But no matter how you dress it up, you can’t take salad out to the Comfort Food Ball.
Presentation affects my appetite, too. Dirty dumpling squashes tossed in bins don’t turn me on. Now if a farmer handed me a plate of butternut-pear raviolis with maple-glazed duck and rosemary sauce, I’d join that CSA in a heartbeat.
The best stuff available at my CSA this summer – green beans, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, raspberries and strawberries – were u-pick. I couldn’t find the time to dilly-dally in the field, can tomatoes or make raspberry jam (see “Do You Have a Ball Jar Addiction?” below). Though I think straw hats and retro aprons are sexy, a 1950s housewife I am not. Hand me the phone and we’ll order a pizza and crack open some PBRs. I actually bribed someone to pick my berries this year, but after she realized how much work it was, I doubt I could get away with that one again.
So we’re left with guilt: guilt for not u-picking, guilt for taking more potatoes than parsnips, guilt for composting the wilted greens hidden in reusable cloth bags in the back of the fridge, guilt for buying flowers at Wegmans rather than picking them on the farm. My CSA makes me feel bad about myself. If I really want a low self-esteem, all I have to do is plant a garden. Neglecting it comes naturally to me, costs less than a farm share, and my meager harvest leaves little leftover for the groundhogs who live in our compost pile.
Next year, I don’t think we’ll join the CSA. We’ll still eat local, but we’ll buy produce we’re in the mood for, as we need it, and when we know we’ll have time to cook it: A little eggplant here, a little corn there, and a little Viva Taqueria burrito and margarita every Friday.
Now go eat your spinach; there are groundhogs starving in Trumansburg.
*Do You Have a Ball Jar Addiction?
1) Do you feel like you always need more Ball jars, no matter how many you already have?
2) Every time you see Ball jars at the supermarket, do you have to buy a case?
3) Are Ball jars impeding the organization of your overflowing cupboards?
4) Has your partner, spouse or housemate suggested that you have a problem with Ball jars?
5) Are Ball jars interfering with your home life?
6) Have you ever gotten into financial difficulties on account of your Ball jars?
7) Does using Ball jars increase your sense of self-worth?
8 ) Do you have Ball jars hidden everywhere, like in your shop, your car, your workplace, your house, under your bed?
9) Do you need to consume something from a Ball jar at every meal?
10) Do you refuse to share your Ball jars with others, even those you love closely, especially the wide-mouth or decorative ones?
11) Have you considered canning strange things, like ground beef, cornbread or green tomato chow-chow?
12) Have you resorted to stealing Ball jars out of the neighbors’ recycling bins?
If you answered “yes” to three or more of these questions, then you have a Ball jar addiction. You need help. And you need to join a CSA.