BY suzy

12/01 Direct Link
Mother and father. They bundle their four children into the station wagon (this was long before the abomination of SUVs were even a twinkle in car manufacturers’ eyes) and set off to visit the mother’s parents. Although the trip is only a couple of hours, it takes a lot of preparation to get all of the family ready to go. The children have no idea how much work it is for their parents, or how hazardous it can be to drive in the winter. They’re bored before the car reaches the town’s boundaries and their mother lights the first cigarette.
12/02 Direct Link
Sarah listens as her friend begins the litany. “He puts the TV on as soon as he wakes up, even though I’m asleep and he knows it’ll wake me up. He does the same thing at night: he puts on the radio, which either wakes me up or stops me from sleeping.” Sarah nods, takes a bite of salad. “He never changes the toilet paper roll when it’s empty, or replaces the garbage bag when he takes it out.” Sarah thinks, At least he takes the garbage out, but she says, “He acts like he’s still single.” Her friend stares.
12/03 Direct Link
The kids are driving Elaine crazy. Just crazy. She slips through the pantry and down the cellar stairs, which she has recently painted a deep red. Once in the cellar, it’s restful and quieter. She can still hear the thunder of the children’s feet as they run around her tidy old house, but it’s muted and she doesn’t have to watch them careen around, putting her possessions in peril. She doesn’t dare tell her difficult, adopted daughter that the children’s behavior is unacceptable. She just takes a break, then goes back to the battle. She loves them all so much.
12/04 Direct Link
Edward does not feel the need to tell those he loves that he does. They should know it. Actions speak louder than words, and all that. It’s unmanly and unseemly to indulge in all that rot. Edward is not self-indulgent. He has a cold bath every day, with the bathroom window open. He shaves with a straight razor. He rarely puts more than one bar of the electric fire on. He walks everywhere; he took the train to work before he retired. He dislikes the cars cluttering up the narrow, winding roads of the village, and the waste they represent.
12/05 Direct Link
My parents were married forty-seven years ago. Not fifty, not a notable anniversary, but I always remember. They were separated after twenty-five years, and divorced a few years later, but I don’t remember those dates. I remember the day they were married, my mother, an only child, thousands of miles away from her parents, who did not attend (why?), both of them looking so young and hopeful in the pictures of that long ago day. There’s no-one left now to ask about the mysteries surrounding the wedding and the marriage, my grandparents long dead, my parents recently. Just the pictures.
12/06 Direct Link
He knows things young folks can’t even imagine. They barely glance at him now; as an old man, he’s more or less invisible to youth, who never stop to imagine that one day, they, too, will be old and invisible. He knows how to cut ice from a frozen pond and stack it with sawdust to last all summer. He knows how to plant seeds and grow a crop. He knows how to break a horse and ride it. He knows what it’s like to fight in a war. He knows how to tell these stories, if they’d only listen.
12/07 Direct Link
Things should be done properly, or not at all. That means eating breakfast before descending on the Christmas presents like a horde of particularly unruly locusts. It’s a fine breakfast, festive too: scrambled eggs, home-made cinnamon rolls, dotted with raisins and baked in the shape of a Christmas tree, glazed with vanilla icing; crispy bacon, brown, buttered toast, orange juice, and freshly brewed coffee. A meal worth more than bolting down before going onto the next thing, the main event. Bolt it they will, though, and race from the kitchen. Can’t they see this meal is a gift, too?
12/08 Direct Link
These things were left behind when my grandmother died: her Lady Esther face powder; her signature Muguet des Bois perfume; her many birthday cards, still on the mantel over the dark living room fireplace; boxes under the bed filled with jars of buttons, each bottle holding a different color; countless bottles of jams, jellies, preserves, and pickles, befitting a woman who grew up on a farm and wasted nothing; a box, tied with a bow, in the bottom drawer of her dressing table, containing the outfit she wished to be buried in, right down to a new pair of stockings.
12/09 Direct Link
She knew what they thought all right, her family and friends. They thought she had made a mistake, a big one, inviting her boyfriend to move in with her and her two teenagers. They had a long distance relationship for a few years, broke up, got back together. He had supposedly fallen in love with someone else weeks before he was to move in with her, then changed his mind. Finally, he did move in, after retiring from his job with plenty of money. He won’t spend time with her friends or family. They were right, she thinks. Now what?
12/10 Direct Link
My grandparents’ house was always wonderful, but it was most magical at Christmastime. My grandmother believed in decorating – the old fashion style, not the outside, over-the-top kind – and the tree was the star of the parlor that time of year. The parlor was only ever used for company and the Christmas tree. When it was decorated and lit, my grandparents would throw open the double pocket doors that separated the parlor from the living/dining area we normally used, and the tree was revealed in all its glory. We gasped in delight at its bright, festive beauty, every year.
12/11 Direct Link
The parlor was only magical at Christmas. The rest of the year, it was a stage set showing how far my grandparents had come from their humble, rural beginnings. The attic, however, was always magical. There were stained glass windows reaching to the floor; trunks full of ballgowns, some of which were almost a century old; souvenirs from my great-uncle’s Grand Tour of Europe; my great-grandfather’s sleigh bells, and books everywhere. I can still remember its dusty smell, especially on summer afternoons. I still can’t believe my mother sold the house and contents after her parents’ death, and kept nothing.
12/12 Direct Link
The house was an imposing, three storey Victorian, painted white. It had three porches, a barn which was now used as a garage, and a circular driveway with a dramatic weeping willow in the middle. We always used the back door, passing the cellar stairs and the pantry, arriving in the kitchen, where our grandparents greeted us joyfully. We almost never used the front door. What I remember best about it is peering through the big window in the front door to see the big Christmas tree lit up and decorated in the town square. It was a perfect view.
12/13 Direct Link
Elaine can’t help it. She’s still jealous of her handsome husband, even after more than fifty years of happy, infidelity-free marriage. When she looks at him, she still sees the boy who charmed all the girls in high school, then college; the brave soldier who fought a good war. Despite being old, half-blind, and walking with a cane, he still attracts girls’ attention. If Elaine leaves him in a bench in the mall, when she returns from shopping, he’s usually surrounded by girls laughing at his jokes. Elaine informs him he’s tired (he isn’t), and carries him off. Her prize.
12/14 Direct Link
The cut-glass dishes, used for celery, olives, and pickles on special occasions. The napkins in their festive rings, different each year. The silver candlesticks polished to a glow, each with a new white taper holding its head high. The bowl of cranberry sauce, glowing like a deep red jewel. The lace tablecloth placed over the red one, so the bright color shows through, highlighting the pattern. Each place set at the big mahogany table. A lidded glass candy dish filled with ribbon candy (is that even made anymore?); another with peppermint puffs that melt away on the tongue. Everything’s ready.
12/15 Direct Link
My own cellar scares me, but not my grandparents’, even though their house is older. My grandmother whitewashes it every spring, banishing the darkness and making the stone walls look clean and bright again. She painted the stairs dark red just last year. She likes the color: it’s warm and homey and, more importantly, doesn’t show the dirt. There are rooms in the cellar. One’s a root cellar, where apples and potatoes are stored in the winter. Another is full of shelves holding bottles of pickles and preserves. There’s a chute where coal was delivered. You could live there easily.
12/16 Direct Link
My grandfather always washes the supper dishes. He sits on a tall stool in front of the big double sink and cheerfully washes and rinses the dishes. I dry. At home, I get annoyed that my sister always washes and I have to dry and put away, which I consider to be two jobs, but I never feel that way with him. He says the hot water makes his arthritis feel better, as his gnarled hands easily wash and rinse, wash and rinse. Afterwards, we’ll sit in the breakfast nook and shell peanuts to eat while he tells me stories.
12/17 Direct Link
When I look back on those childhood Christmases, it seems that we mostly went to our grandparents’ house, but we must have had some at home. I think about the big tree in the town square and peering at it through the glass of the elaborate, seldom-used front door. There’s always snow in my memory; I don’t remember a green Christmas. We did get a lot of snow in New York state, so that could be the case. I remember going to church for midnight service. I wish I could go back to that time, just for a little while.
12/18 Direct Link
“I just don’t know what to do with my sister. Her hair’s down to her seat, for pity’s sake, and I don’t think she can get a comb through it. It looks like a rat’s nest! And she keeps canceling her doctor and x-ray appointments, so we still don’t know why she’s so stooped over. She just keeps meditating, and that just makes it worse. She’s a menace in the car; I can’t believe she hasn’t killed someone already. I hang on for dear life when she drives. Can you talk to her? I just can’t get through to her.”
12/19 Direct Link
My dog is lying on the bed with me while I read. I reach over to pet her and she growls. Before I know it, she’s bitten my finger and it’s actually bleeding. Surprised, I apply alcohol (to the wound, not to me), and wonder what I did. I must have surprised her, or literally rubbed her the wrong way. She’s usually so gentle and loving, loves being petted. I wish dogs could talk sometimes. Then she could tell me what I did wrong. It still aches this morning, a reminder of my mistake, but it could have been worse.
12/20 Direct Link
The long-ago Christmases, the ones when my grandparents were alive (they all died within a calendar year) and I was young, are easier to remember than more recent ones. The ones that gave me the most joy at the time are now the most painful to recall. Every other year, my father would come to spend Christmas with his California-based children (he alternated between us and our sister in England). He’d rent a big house in Bodega Bay, where there was room for all of us. We’d cook together. We’d have a picnic on the beach on Christmas Eve.
12/21 Direct Link
Now he’s gone, I don’t know if I can ever go to Bodega Bay again. When I watch “The Birds”, I look for the landmarks that still remained when we spent time there, in Bodega Bay and in nearby Bodega, where most of the movie was filmed. I always note the exit sign when driving to visit my brother and sister. So, I can’t forget it, but thinking about it always makes me sad. I wonder if the day will ever come when thinking about it makes me happy, or whether, one day, I will stop remembering it at all.
12/22 Direct Link
Now he’s gone, I don’t know if I can ever go to Bodega Bay again. When I watch “The Birds”, I look for the landmarks that still remained when we spent time there, in Bodega Bay and in nearby Bodega, where most of the movie was filmed. I always note the exit sign when driving to visit my brother and sister. So, I can’t forget it, but thinking about it always makes me sad. I wonder if the day will ever come when thinking about it makes me happy, or whether, one day, I will stop remembering it at all.
12/23 Direct Link
Making resolutions for the new year. Wonder why the year starts in the winter. Wouldn’t it make more sense for it to start in the spring? It might be a much less depressing time of the year if that were the case. Wonder how we ended up with the year starting in January. Who decides these things, and why do we go along with it, like the stupidity of Daylight Savings Time? I’d wish that I ran the world, except I wouldn’t want all that responsibility. Wonder if I could keep all the power and delegate the boring work parts.
12/24 Direct Link
I always remember my own anniversary, just like I remember my parents’, earlier the same month. Possibly not such a good month for marriages, since both ended in divorce. I can’t help contemplating the fifteen years I was married, what was good, what “went wrong” – it’s a gradual process of erosion, not sudden. There’s not one defining moment, at least for me, though if I had to choose one, it would be my father’s death. I wasn’t the same girl after that, and it must have been very difficult for my husband to cope with the new me. He couldn’t.
12/25 Direct Link
The worst Christmas ever. Certainly the most stressful. A day that kicks off with James Brown kicking off is not going to be a good one, and the omen proved to be correct. A day of family drama, not my own, was draining and upsetting. Other people’s drama is not easier to deal with than one’s own. A miserable day was capped off by a call to my brother and sister where I learned that my brother’s dog, beloved by all, may be very ill. I hope not. If I prayed, I would for her. Being without her is unthinkable.
12/26 Direct Link
Fled the scene as soon as I politely could. In fact, I left before my hostess awoke that morning, leaving a completely insincere note (I think the truth is overrated. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if we all told the truth!). Bundled the dog into the car and hit the road. Though I’m no leadfoot, I had to stop myself from speeding down the rainy highway. We were so glad to be home. We went to bed early and slept a full twelve hours, a change from the nightmares. I haven’t been so tired since my mother was dying.
12/27 Direct Link
The relief of being back home is tempered with annoyance caused by my breathtakingly inconsiderate upstairs neighbors (I miss the days when the pot-growing bass player lived there). Ever since I returned, they’ve been blaring music 10 to 12 hours a day, non-stop. It’s gotten on my already frayed nerves to the point that I reserved a hotel room for New Year’s Eve to spare myself the escalation in volume and duration of the racket which will accompany their party. Apparently they feel inviting me means they can make all the noise they want. I won’t be their victim anymore.
12/28 Direct Link
Library books overdue, piled on the bedside table. Words unwritten, the computer open on the desk, waiting. Voicemails and e-mails unheard, unread, unanswered. Open bags still packed from the last trip. Laundry, unwashed, heaped in a basket, the discarded clothes looking abandoned and melancholy. Will they ever be clean, worn again? Dishes in the sink, also unwashed, but rinsed, telling a tale of take-out and delivery, nothing cooked at home. Groceries still in bags, untouched, on the kitchen table. Recycling bins are full of wine and water bottles. Biblical refuse. So many things undone. So many stories, told in objects.
12/29 Direct Link
My brother’s dog is wonderful. There ought to be another word, just for her, because she is more than a dog. She is a person in her own right. He fell in love with her on Christmas Eve thirteen years ago, when she was the world’s most adorable puppy, spotted black and white, softer than velvet. As soon as we saw her, we fell in love with her, too. She’s been his faithful companion ever since, his best friend. The news that she may be mortally ill has saddened everyone who knows and loves her. I hope it isn’t true.
12/30 Direct Link
It really doesn’t matter how beautiful, talented, witty and caring you are – you can still end up with a lemon of a guy. You can even end up with a lemon of a guy and not know it. Friends and family may all be united in hating the guy, telling you how very toxic he is, how bad for you – how just plain bad – and you won’t listen. You’ll think they don’t know him like you do; they don’t understand. But they do. You’re the one who doesn’t understand, and everyone knows it but you. You never will.
12/31 Direct Link
As the year draws to a close, I think how lucky I am. I have a man who loves me, who really knows me and still loves me. This may be the rarest gift a person ever gets in this life. We have a wonderful dog of our own, and she is healthy despite being advanced in years. I have a family who loves and supports me. Even though they are far from me geographically, they are always close to my heart. I have incredibly good and kind friends whose presence in my life I treasure. I’m a lucky girl.