Tag Archives: Christmas

Home for the Holidays

You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory. ~Thomas Wolfe

I am the adult child of a divorce.  (Is anyone ever the adult child of something great?  People are adult children of alcoholics and divorce and of narcissists according to Google but it seems there are no adult children of the well adjusted?)

Unlike many of my peers that struggled with a divorce as a young kid,  my family shifted after I was old enough to have already left the house.  I was in my early twenties when I was smacked in the face with the reality that my parents were their own people and perhaps their function in this life was not to wait by the front door to welcome me home bi-monthly.  There were growing pains and tears and eventually there were new family structures.

When my father sold the house I grew up in (affectionately dubbed the “free storage facility”) it was official.  I could no longer “go home again.” Boxes of notes from middle school, old prom dresses and family pictures were distributed to their rightful owners and it was over.  I drive by the “old house” sometimes and it feels weird.  My life was in that house.  My family.

Fast forward fifteenish years and here I am in a house with my own family.  A husband, two kids and a dog and a Christmas tree.  One would think I would no longer lament that original loss. But in the darkest hours, in the moments I am  flopped on my bed with over-tired, red swollen eyes and feel like I need a good cry I often say “I just wish I could go home.  To my mom and dad.”

1504079_10201924620548844_1484615996_nThat is what being an adult child is, I guess.  Instead of “I want my Mommy & Daddy!” the “adult” child laments the loss of their childhood in some way or another.  The “well-adjusted” adult child dries their eyes and doesn’t use the pain of being an adult anything as an excuse to be an asshole. Or at least that is what I aim for in my pursuit of being well-adjusted.  Try not to be an asshole.  I have lofty goals.

A few weeks ago I had a very emotional round of phone calls that resulted in an opportunity to go home again.  Thomas Wolfe says you can’t go “back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting” but when you realize that you will be having Christmas morning in your home with both your mother and your father for the first time in a long time and you never, ever thought you’d have that again… well, you get a little verklempt.

keep austin weird

I spent a few days trying to wrap my mind around it.

I mentioned to a friend that I don’t know how to process things I can’t write about.  The circumstances aren’t my story to tell.  I do my best to be respectful of my friends and family and find a balance between my compulsion to share my story with the world and the privacy of those that don’t. It’s a shame really because I had a great working title to the blog post – “The Christmas That Was Just Like Austin.”

I thought it would be weird.  I thought it might be sad and nostalgic and tense and wonderful. I thought I might go all Hayley Mills in Parent Trap only with wine instead of a twin sister as my devious counterpart.  But mostly I thought it would be weird.

I am sitting at my kitchen table drinking coffee this morning and I have no house guests. The Christmas tree has been taken down, the gifts have been relocated to their proper locations. Both of my parents have returned to their respective houses.

I can’t find the words.  This week we will all crawl out of our holiday holes and someone will casually asks me “How was your Christmas?”  I suspect my eyes will well with tears and I will say simply “It was great.  We stayed home.”



The Smell of Winter

I wasn’t just trying to get off the phone.  It was an emergency.  Something reeked. I had to find it.  “Mom, I have go to go, something smells like mildew or something!!”

I emptied out under the sink.  Nothing was leaking. It didn’t actually smell under there at all.

Earlier in the week we’d had a party. The dog was generously fed by everyone. In the following few days I think I said “Jeeezus, Fisher.  Man.  What did the dog eat?” about 857 billion times.  It smelled.  Bad.  Really bad.  Dog fart bad.

I have a top loading washing machine and I don’t close the top when I am not running it.  I don’t use the $7 tablets to wash my washing machine.  I just run a  load with bleach every now and again and I figure it is clean.  But this week I stood in front of the Affresh tabs for about 17 seconds (which with a toddler in tow at the grocery store feels like a millenium.) Because something smelled really bad when I was doing laundry.

The smell. It was following me.

My offspring are strange little beings.

My offspring are strange little beings.

When I was pregnant with Lucy I went on an all out rampage until I found one. single. mothball.  This was no mothball.  This was a bad, bad smell and I was going to find it.

Last week I pulled a rosary from Lucy’s mouth.  It was weird and frightening in the same way that those magicians pulling the scarves from their mouths can be, with an added bonus of overt religiosity.  I mentioned this on Facebook and several of my friends wanted to know why there was a rosary in my house to begin with.  I explained it away quite simply.  My husband has all brands of religious artifacts. He keeps most of them on an altar high up on a bookshelf.

I don’t mess with his stuff and he lets me write about our deepest darkest secrets on the internet.  We have an understanding. So when he said “I found the smell” sheepishly I had no idea it had been coming from his altar.  I had no idea what was even up there.

He could have just thrown it away.  He could have kept it a secret and I’d have been convinced the smell had gone dormant in the cold and I’d have worried and wondered about what was rotting under the floorboards of the kitchen for months.

But instead he told me.

I’m not trying to tell you what to do.  And I will admit that our family has had great juju, good times, lots of laughs and a relative absence of negativity in the last several months. I’m just saying that if you put AN EGG ON A SHELF IN YOUR KITCHEN DON’T LEAVE IT THERE FOR MONTHS.  Because it will eventually stink.  And your wife will be the only one that can smell it at first.  And she will start to lose her ever-loving mind.

But your trash cans will get cleaned out.  I suppose that’s a plus.

Whatever your religious and spiritual pursuits have you doing this holiday season I hope you remember where you put your egg!!!  Merry Christmahanakwanzika, y’all and enjoy your Yule and Winter Solstice tomorrow!



20121229-213909.jpgIt started last Sunday at church. We had a cookie and a glass of wine as part of the Winter Solstice ceremony. The cookie was a gingerbread person. But when you held it upside down it looked like an alien. I snapped a picture. But I didn’t come home and write up a post. Or put it up on my Facebook page. Or tweet it. I just took the picture and ate the cookie.

Christmas Eve I took a picture before we went to bed. I didn’t want to get busted by my big girl. I was careful. So, I didn’t do anything with it. I uploaded it to my picasa account quickly and deleted it from everything.

Christmas day was a blur of food and laughter and champagne and naps and turkey and stuffing and wine and coffee and cookies and family. My little family. We had a toast at breakfast. Only twelve months earlier we didn’t even know that Lucy would be a Lucy and now here we are, our family of four. We cheers’ed. We cried. Emily asked me if you could only have one toast. I said “Of course not” and we all chimed in with our thoughts. Our hearts were full.

20121229-215601.jpgIt has been only four days since Christmas. The tree is down. I have put it all away. Christmas clutter on the 26th feels like the walk of shame, dark eyeliner in the morning or beer cans all over the kitchen at 10 am. It has to go. This moment seems like a lifetime ago already.


Sometimes I write everything down so I won’t forget.  But Christmas is too fast.  How can you capture all of those moments? Emily’s face when she saw the bell that Santa left her from his sleigh.  She believes, with her whole heart she believes.  Lucy has started making a crazy face, a kid face.  She ripped up paper and ate the tags on every new toy.  When the toy frenzy was over and every gift had been opened the only one that Mom remembered that she never wrapped (and still can not find) was a pair of gloves.  There is always one “Wait!  There’s a something!” or at least there was in my house,


This morning I decided I wasn’t getting dressed. Both kids woke up warm, low grade fevers and nasty coughs.  We napped. We ate leftovers.  We napped some more.  We watched Mrs Doubtfire and I cried when Robin Williams and Sally Field decided to separate and again when he walks back in the door at the end to pick up his kids.  I spent four hours on the floor in my living room while my kids crawled all over me.


Late this afternoon I showered. We went in to town for dinner.  Mexican food.  It feels like Christmas was ages ago.  It is January cold outside already.

What started last week with a picture I never posted has led to a week of radio silence for me.  I might be quiet here for a bit.  I have been more unplugged in the last week than I have been in the last year.  I have been present. In my home, my little family has made me laugh and cry and giggle.  We have eaten cookies and made big meals and loaded and unloaded our dishwasher.  We have been together.  Just the four of us.

Santa Claus gave me everything I have ever dreamed of for Christmas this year.  I hope he gave you the same.  2012 has forever changed me.  I have two more days to soak it up.  Catch y’all on the flip side.

Do you believe in Magic?

We had tickets for the 7 o’clock train at the museum.  Through the woods we would ride, woods filled with magical twinkling lights.   We would drink hot cocoa and use candy canes as swizzle sticks. We would make a Christmas ornament while we waited.  We were going to see Santa.


Emily was rolling her eyes and giving me attitude.  Lucy was screaming bloody murder because she was going to be forced to wear a hat.  Dad was grumbling and trying to get us out the door.  I was stifling the desire to shout out “Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas” every few minutes.  It was pouring down rain.

Dad and Lucy

But at least we would get a picture with Santa. Right? Through the lens of the camera we woud forget all about the rolled eyes and the tears.  Baby’s First Christmas would be perfect.

The trainWe were boarding the train when the Conductor said “Santa is on the right, m’aam” and he winked.  Oh.  Okay.  I’ll put Emily on the right side of our bench seat so that she would get a better look.

When we rounded the corner and I saw Santa standing near his sleigh with an oversized elf and an umbrella I realized we weren’t getting off of the train.  Santa would stop at each bench and ask each child a thing or two, they would chat.  “Is there anything special you’d like this year? How about something for your little sister? I’ll see you next year, dear!”

There would be no picture.

The Mom in me started to panic. Well, I will take the kids to the mall.  Tomorrow.  I’d get a picture.  It will be fine.  I frantically tried to snap family pictures with my phone in the dark.  With flash.  Without flash.  It didn’t seem to matter.  We were blurry.  There would be no picture with Santa.

And then I saw him.  He had ornate brocade around his coat.  His beard was soft and long.  His glasses were bifocals. I don’t think he had his suit stuffed with a pillow. I couldn’t tell if his boots were real or those pleather boot shaped shoe coverings popular with mall Santas.    I don’t know. I didn’t get a chance to look him over carefully for an hour as we waited in line.  He was there right next to us for a moment. And then he was gone.  “Well, hello, there,” he said.  “Merry Christmas.”

He talked to the kids for a minute and then he moved to the next row.  True to form, I was misty eyed.  Ever my mini-me Emily looked to me and said “This might be my first Christmas crying when I see Santa!” I laughed and decided not to tell her right then that it most certainly was not.

As the train pulled away from Santa and headed through the tunnel we were all smiles.  The tunnel shone, the christmas lights that adorned the train reflecting on the tunnel’s interior.  We looped back around and drove by Santa once more on our way back to the station.  The children waved and I reached for my phone.  Maybe I could get a picture of just Santa.  That would suffice.



I showed the picture to MQD as soon as I snapped it.  I was laughing.  “It’s the best picture of the night!” he said.  And in unison we both shouted “He’s like Bigfoot!”

I love our blurry picture of Santa.  I love that we did not get a posed picture at the mall.  I love that Em can’t scrutinize the picture later, examining the image, searching for any indication that maybe it wasn’t really Santa after all.

Because for one more year, at least one, my big girl believes in Magic.  I hope you all have a groovy holiday.


Do you believe in magic in a young girl’s heart
How the music can free her, whenever it starts
And it’s magic, if the music is groovy
It makes you feel happy like an old-time movie
I’ll tell you about the magic, and it’ll free your soul
But it’s like trying to tell a stranger ’bout rock and roll… ~ The Lovin’ Spoonful

Christmas in the Cackalackey


Sometimes the spirit moves you slowly.  In years past the Christmas spirit has crept in on little cat feet like Carl Sandburg’s Fog. Christmas usually comes in slowly.

This weekend it was unseasonably warm.  I didn’t expect the spirit to grab me. I was in the produce section at the grocery store.  I cruised right by the poinsettias.  I didn’t bat an eye at the paperwhites.  It was almost 65 degrees outside.  I was wearing flip flops.  Christmas was coming.  But it wasn’t coming today.

Christmas candy

And then I saw them.  All at once two things happened. The Christmas Spirit seized me.  And I was an old, old woman.

I don’t think these Christmas candies have ever looked good to me before.  But I wanted them.  I am blaming it on Sudden Onset Christmas Spirit Disorder and not some kind of rapid aging.

I resisted the candies.

But it was a close call.  As I walked through the grocery store I had the fully formed thought “I should really keep my eyes open for some kind of a crystal dish.” A crystal candy dish?  I have small children.  I am in my mid thirties, I am in my sexual prime, dammit!!  A crystal candy dish??!! The Christmas Spirit works in mysterious ways.

Hours later the spirit had grabbed hold of me. The tree was up. The mantle is half decorated.  Rudolf is hanging on the wall.    I had the girls take naps so we could decorate the tree in the evening and not stress bedtime.     It was shaping up to be a good day.  The tree would go up in a corner I could gate off. It is possible that Lucy will not crush herself or ruin 36 years of ornaments.  I was wearing a velour sweat suit.  MQD was out with his father to watch football.  The windows were open.  Chili in the crock pot.  I didn’t dare ask the Universe for another thing.

Lucy was running like a drunken linebacker with her hands up.  It is a text book bum rush.  I glanced at her and back to what I was doing, I had a few seconds before she would slam in to my legs. “Mamamamamaaaa….” I wasn’t sure I’d heard it until I looked to Emily.  Her mother’s girl, her eyes were wet and already leaking “Mom!!! She said Mama!”


I dropped to the floor and tried to hold her in my arms, to drink in this baby that is growing before my eyes.  She was in a hurry.  She had things to do. I let her go.  My baby had called for me.  I was Mama.

The day carried on.  We took showers.


We put on Christmas pajamas and we decorated the tree.


The Christmas Spirit has grabbed hold of Mama by her ankles and it is pulling me under.  I might not come up for air for the entire month.  This evening when MQD and his father walked in to the house I was peace.  I was love.  I was goodwill.  

There is only one spirit stronger than the Christmas Spirit.  

And damn if they didn’t stroll in the house with some. Now excuse me, I need to kick back and watch a Christmas movie and sip a little shine. Christmas spirit is swell.  But the white lightning is the spirit that warms me head to toe.


The Star of the Show


Whether it is an angel or a star or a 12 inch Elvis that you put atop your Christmas tree the chances are good that it is special to you.  In our house we have a brass star.

Last year MQD and I shared our first Christmas as a family.  As he lifted Emily up to put the star on our tree I grabbed the camera, my eyes filled with tears.   As she was the youngest person, it was her job.  I took a million pictures, hence the wild look in their eyes.  I think they were fed up with me by this time.

I failed to snap a picture this year of Emily as she placed the star atop of our tree.  We were all sick with a stomach bug so pictures were kept to a minimum, but today I had these two reenact the event.

I might not have shed a tear the day we topped our tree this year, but I have more than made up for it in the last few weeks.  Counting down the days to Christmas, one ornament or Christmas decoration or tradition at a time I have had more than a few occasions to get choked up.  And now it’s here.

I can hear Peanuts’ Christmas music in the kitchen as MQD cleans up from dinner.   Em is on the couch watching Christmas shows.  I have my feet propped up with ice as it seems my ankles are finally getting the pregnant lady swell.  Cookies are made and waiting for Santa.

Nothing left to do but snuggle up, close our eyes and wait for Santa. Thanks so much to all of you for spending this month with me.  Merry Christmas!

I’m a sucker for a guy with a red nose….

When I was a little girl Rudolph hung over the fireplace.  In my memory he looks just as he does above.  A sockmonkey sock transformed by my mother in to the “most famous reindeer of all.”

Christmas decorations were stored under the stairs in the basement.  In the twenty plus years my family lived in my childhood home the basement saw a fair amount of water and mildew as basements are inclined to do.  The dozen roses my dad gave me on my 16th birthday eventually got wet.  The 45s I had saved along with my Fisher Price record player succumbed to the moisture.   More than a few stuffed animals met their demise.  Shoe boxes of notes passed in middle and high school gave way to the wet environment.  (I can think of a few of you who might be glad to know that.)

Call it a Christmas Miracle if you like… But Rudolph survived.  He looks as young and vibrant hanging on the wall in my living room today as he ever did when I was a kid.  Don’t tell Snoopy, but if something ever happened to Snoop… Rudolph and those eyelashes could win me over in a hearbeat.

Christmas Shoes

I am a wee bit of a sap.  I cry at the drop of a hat.  At Hallmark commercials and baby pictures. Disney World.  Perfect pancakes.  Songs.

But if you thought this was going to be the part where I confess that I just can’t get enough of  The Christmas Shoes song (the song about the young boy whose mother is dying and all he wants is to buy her a pair of shoes for Christmas before she passes) you will be disappointed.  That song makes me want to put a knitting needle in my eye and twirl it around.

In fact, most things designed to bring out the sap in a person don’t do it for me.  If it has chimes or a xylophone the chances are good it will bring out the very best (or the very worst ) in my sense of humor.  That all depends on how you feel about mockery and sarcasm.

That having been said… I do have Christmas Shoes.  Released in the fall of 2005, my Candy Cane Chuck Taylor’s fucking rule.  Every year I wear them the week after Thanksgiving.  Before I put my tree up or drag out the Christmas decorations.  Out come my Chuck’s.  I wish I had worn them a bit more in later November, early December.  Because it seems I can barely see them this week.

Hurry home, Scott!!

This is one of just a few of my “grown up” ornaments.  It is fancy. And sparkly.  And I put it carefully back in its box each year.  It was a gift from my brother and my sister-in-law several years ago.  And Lauren would likely blush if I said out loud the reasons this ornament reminds me of her.

To start with the easy ones, it is beautiful, as is she.  Not flashy and asking to be noticed but classy and gorgeous and fancy and understated all at once.

This ornament could wear blue jeans with pearls and high heels if it wanted to.  But it’s not likely it would need high heels, it is a good bit larger (to be read: taller, for those wondering if I am really about to call my sister-in-law LARGE in a public forum) than the other ornaments, just like the statuesque Lauren.  She has only an inch or two on me and yet she has always seemed taller, even to me.  Finally, a woman my brother has even a hope of seeing eye to eye with.

It is red.  And Lauren is a devoted  NC State Wolf Pack girl.  She taught Em to do the Wolf Pack symbol when she was teeny.  Just as we moved to Chapel Hill.  She didn’t seem to care it might get us run out of town.

What this ornament does not do… and Lauren is about to do… is make my baby brother in to a father.  I can’t think of a nicer thing for a girl to do.  I have mentioned before that my brother and I share little in common short of our love for one another.  But this change on the horizon will put all of us in the same demographic.  There is something about being a parent that changes everything. You share a kinship with other parents.  Perhaps this is what military veterans experience when they run in to another.  Perhaps their branch of service was different or the length of their active duty but there is a common bond.  And a relationship those of on the outside simply do not have.

Very soon three people whom I love dearly will join my Club.  The “I had a tiny baby in my house and I survived.  I was joyful and terrified, exhausted and more excited than I have ever been all at once. And I survived” Club.  My brother, Lauren and MQD.

Now just relax, girls.  Both of you.  Lauren and your sweet baby girl.  You just need to hang in there a little longer.  Scott will be home any day now.  And then … may your Adventure begin.

She’s a Lady…

Part of the art of being a woman...

There is a moment on a roller coaster, just before you begin the descent when you feel weightless.  Free.  If you had your eyes closed, if you had never seen the ride, in that moment you’d have no idea that moments later you’d be falling.

Christmas, 2005.  Emily was three months old.  We’d not yet decided that we’d not be opening the restaurant back up.   And what had been a tumultuous marriage even during its ascent was smack dab in the midst of that beautiful moment where everything is weightless. I was home full time with Emily.  And happier than I had ever been, blissfully unaware of what lay ahead.  And wholly unconcerned with the past that had brought me to that moment.

Christmas of 2005 was my last moment before free falling.  I had a house full for Christmas.  Jeremy ran out to get a few last minute gifts (read: do all of his shopping, he is famous for last minute shopping.)  From a local antique store he purchased this ornament.

I love it.  I loved it then.  And I love it now.  But I have never understood nor asked why he bought it for me.  It is a small bell, filled with something that I imagine once held a stronger smell.  There is a ribbon with a quote.  A quote I have researched but for which I  have never found the origin. 

...is knowing when not to be too much of a lady.

Part of the art of being a woman is knowing when not to be too much of a lady.

We came out the other side of marriage with an amazing daughter to show for it and a friendship that has withstood more than  a few tests.  I am not without fault.  In our ten plus years together I can say that on more than a few occasions when the fault behind an altercation could be pinned on me it was because of what one could call less than lady-like behavior on my behalf.   My tendency to take out my frustration in a passive-aggressive manner often manifested itself in behavior best classified as such.

And now this.  An ornament. Bearing a statement that all but sums up my philosophy.  A philosophy I’d always suspected he all but completely rejected.

“I love it,” I said.  And I hung it on the tree.   From time to time since then I have wondered what he was thinking when he saw it.  It is undeniably me.  But not a me I ever really thought he appreciated.  Maybe the colored (and I am just going with colored, because they were certainly not rosy) glasses that had distorted the way I had looked at our marriage and at my life for all those years also skewed the way I imagined he looked at me.  Maybe  not.

More than likely he saw it and thought as the last minute shopper does, “She’ll like this” and that was all.

That is the story I tend to come back to time and again when I roll it around in  my head.  “She’ll like this.”

This ornament has tremendous weight.  For it is the moment our coaster went over the edge, when I felt the weightlessness leaving me and the descent beginning that I realized I’d not survive the landing if I didn’t abandon all hope of being a lady.

A lady is polite.  And keeps her gloves on.  And her mouth shut.

There would be nothing ladylike about the months that would pass between that Christmas and the Christmas of two years later when Em and I were in an apartment 200 miles from home, a divorce attorney’s business card the only thing on my refrigerator.

A lady would never have had the strength to fight through all that ugly to get to the Beauty that is today.  And I suppose that is the art of being a woman.  The strength, the wisdom to keep going until you find Beauty.

Merry Christmas, to the Ladies.  And the not so Ladylike among us.