Christmas traditions


My chest is tight. I have that oh-oh feeling when I wake up each morning. I say mean things to my fine husband. Like, “Will you please put your day-old socks in the dirty clothes basket for once? They are having a two-day orgy on the foot of the bed. Very distracting and I’m trying to make a list of things to worry about.”
Don shrugs, smiles.  “Perhaps one item on the list should be to investigate why my black socks resting quietly on my side of the bed make you think of orgies.”
Not orgies, really, more like riots.  Like what’s going on in my head.  I explain, “It’s almost Christmas. I had the nightmare again last night. The one where I’m about to give a speech and I can’t remember why I am standing dumbstruck at a podium.”
“Oh, oh,” he answers and he picks up his socks.
I am the matriarch of my small family. Actually, my mother is but she’s 101 and ten years ago she handed over the scepter to her elder daughter. A pencil, actually. And a piece of paper.
I rewrite my list four times, shop my catalogs, and review the menu, always cheese fondue for twelve folks, young and old. But last year something happened to the cheese and eating it involved trying to spear and move to one’s mouth long strings of rubber.  I don’t like working all day on a meal and ending up having people laugh at it.  This year it will be vegetarian lasagna, I decide. Safe. 
The phone rings.  My cheerful son surprises me by volunteering his talented teenage daughters as cooks for our Christmas Eve dinner. “To give you a break,” he says.
“Sure,” I manage to answer. “I’ll set the table.” I am deposed as matriarch. I hang up, overcome with negative thoughts.  Even they don’t want the fondue again. They think I am too old to manage.  They hate singing carols. The Bible story we always read bores them. Maybe they’d rather stay home.
Depressed, I ask my mother how she felt when I took over the role from her.  “Happy.” She gives me her sweet smile. “Why?” Nowadays Mom smiles a lot.
I do understand that change is the only constant. However, when you have eighty years of changing, usually for the best, it is difficult to accept what is changing right now: the control of body functions, neck, memory, ability to get up from the sofa without groaning, children whose hair will soon be as gray as mine, the loss of the responsibility of stirring a pot of cheese into rubber. 
“Everything changes,” my husband says as we walk to the bookstore. He takes my hand, perhaps because I’m inclined to shuffle over cracks, perhaps because he needs me as much as I need him.
 “Old age ain’t no place for sissies,” Bette Davis and my mother whisper.
 I‘m going to stop whining. I squeeze his fingers. “I’m not a sissie,” I tell him. 
“Nope, and I’m not either. Ice cream store coming up. Kefir again?”

Following Directions, Mine and Kindle’s

The new year inspires the setting of goals for me.  Besides eating healthy, exercising every day, and weaning myself off Perry Mason, this year I’ve added a new category:  obsessing, the stoppage of.   It wasn’t until I tried publishing an ebook or two on my own that I realized the presence of this flaw in my otherwise stable persona.

My fingers need no signals from any part of my body to type “kdp” to get my Amazon account. They get active the moment I get up in the morning and continue twitching throughout the day as I walk by my bedroom door, hear the siren call of my iMac. I have published  The Solarium many times, then unpublished the various versions, then cried Help Me at Kindle (Is my helper’s name really Rahul?  And wouldn’t it be easier if he would call me once in a while instead of passing on instructions from the Kindle guide which I can’t decipher past HMTL and zip before breaking out in a cold sweat? I could have told him that the directions he sent were for PCs not an iMac.  Not that I might have interpreted them any better, but at least they wouldn’t advise me to right click on something, an instruction that does not speak Apple language.)

I’m ranting like an old woman. It’s my right. And while I’m at it, Christmas didn’t help matters. Talk about obsessive behavior. Cooking strata three days before we would even be interested in thinking about it; rushing out for the last-minute gifts that ended up being crushed in the wrapping paper they came in and sent out to the recycle bin; pushing the Boma mop over floors that have never seen the light of day under their layers of dust and wouldn’t again for at least a year; polishing the silver and setting a table so early I should have run the Boma mop over the plates before we ate.  I ran out to find a pc string of lights that lit up after a day in the sun despite the fact that we might not have any sun and if we did, the lights were so small we couldn’t see them anyway from the ground level.  In a final frenzy, just before people were to arrive I threw an expensive crab dip everyone used to love on Christmas Eve into the oven only to discover that everyone was on a diet.

And in between all this stirring, sweeping, running down the street, feeding the dog his anxiety pills and being tempted to try them myself, in between all this, Kindle lets me know that I won’t have a picture on the version (#9) that I’m publishing because I still don’t get zipping and never will.  Rahul began, I think, to realize he was working with a electronically-disadvantaged  old person and he sent two pages of instructions, all for the PC again.  The same day, Lulu let me know that Nook didn’t like the way I’d set up the chapters in Graffiti Grandma. I emailed and explained I’d done everything they’d told me to do, as far as I could understand their instructions, so now what? They haven’t answered in four days. I think they need a Rahul, only one that understands iMacs.

Then in the evening the family came in, hugging, smiling, noticing the faint Christmas lights on the terrace, the drinks on the counter, the cheese ready for melting in the wine-filled pots. We settled into our usual program:  drinks, the Christmas readings and songs in front of the electric furnace, Nana at 96 reading with the youngest grand daughter The Night Before Christmas, all of us humming and singing “White Christmas” just as we did when Gramps’ tenor voice led the way. I stirred the fondue, listening, watching, glad.

When my fingers finally got back to the waiting iMac, I had a message from a friend.  She loved my book.  She wishes it and me well.  She’s telling everyone she knows about it.  And Amazon informs me my earnings to date are $l8.94.  And that’s with the first glitchy version.  Wait until the perfect one comes out!  Once I figure out what a zip is. Damn. I’m getting obsessed again. Happy 2012!

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