Saturday, December 24, 2016

The ghost of Christmas presents

"I hear babies cry I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world."

On December 21, which would have been my dad's 96th birthday, our newest grandson was born, weighing in at an impressive 8 lbs. 13 oz.

Mama Laurie, Dad Luke, and Baby Blake all are doing just fine. As is Riggs the dog.

Laurie's mom, Luke's mom, Luke's dad, and various and sundry siblings and friends are on hand this week, so Neil and I won't see him until next weekend. I tried to convince Neil to drive over today, just for one day, and make a surprise appearance. He remained stoutly unconvinced.

And I do understand, it makes sense to wait until we can have some quieter time with the new family.

But last night, as we got ready for bed, Neil was grousing about the cost of this, that, and the other thing, and it struck me. I said, you don't want to go to Lake Charles because you don't want to get stuck picking up the tab for Christmas Eve dinner for twentysomething people. He said something to the effect of, damn skippy! And I said, I get that, it totally makes sense to me. And it does, in a way that his other reasons don't.

Sometimes I think that he wants to move to North Carolina so he doesn't have to buy everyone's dinner all the time. I do pay when it is my kids and their crew, but we've had a lot more dinners with Neil's kids, especially before they moved to Lake Charles, but even since then, because they come to Houston regularly.

The baby will change that for a while, but Laurie's master plan is to be moved back to Texas by the end of next summer so Luke can have a teaching job here for the 2017-18 school year. Chris will be in Lake Charles through the end of 2017, finishing his graduate program, and then he'll go where he gets a job. Braunsdorfs have a strong homing instinct so I predict it will be in Texas. Anything is possible though. His girlfriend is Louisianan. I think I just made that word up.

So today it's just me and Neil for Christmas Eve. We'll cook up some Omaha steaks, thanks to my mother-in-law, and open what Neil calls pjösk - which he says means gift of small value in Norwegian or Swedish, but I couldn't find it with Google. In fact, the closest slang word I could find was sercy, which is used in the Southern USA to describe a small, possibly unexpected gift.

In my mind, pjösk meant junk gifts, the kind you might buy at the dollar store. Certain of Neil's relatives seem to believe it's the number of wrapped gifts, not the content that counts, and in fact have taken it to a new level. They must start shopping the day after Christmas, because sometime around October we get several huge shopping bags full of wrapped gifts. All this is not meant to look a gift horse in the mouth, since the gifts are worth their weight in entertainement value alone.

To make it more unusual, store tags always are cut off the items, which frequently come in department store gift boxes. Early in my relationship with Neil, I tried to exchange a shirt that didn't fit, only to learn that it wasn't purchased at that store. Random sizes are a hallmark of these gifts, so when all the kids would come over, there was a lot of laughter and trading. I got a couple of my favorite sweatshirts because they didn't fit Laurie.

One sad thing is, Neil always puts a lot of thought into getting these relatives a meaningful gift. One year we bought them a Keurig, which we later learned (covertly) that they'd returned. I'm mean enough that I'd be giving them a case of K-cups every damn following Christmas. Neil is nice. Now he gets them gift cards.

Another year he gave them a gift card to a restaurant they like in their locale. They went there and ate up and when the waiter ran the card there was no money on it. They made such a huge fuss that their meal was comped, but they didn't tell us until much later, long after Neil might have tried to sort it out.

This gave me another idea, even meaner that the K-cups. We'd pick up gift cards from the racks you see at stores, not put any money on them, and send them as gifts. I laughed just typing that. Of course that's just me, Neil would never contemplate anything like that. He hasn't a single mean bone.

Can you tell that I lack Christmas spirit? I thought so.

I don't care whether (or not) someone says Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to me.

I do mind that every public place has a Christmas tree and Santa Claus and carols playing.

I'd spend every December feeling disenfranchised and marginalized if I let myself dwell on it, which I try not to do. Overly. Much.

Anyway. So, since today was a low-impact day, we decided to tackle a cleaning project. We have these crazy arched windows in the living room. The blinds only go up to the bottom of the arch. There are three windows and when we moved in, nine years ago, I bought large colored vases to set on the shelves in the arches, to partically block the sun. There they have been collecting dust ever since, and we decided to take them down and wash them.

I don't know about other dust but Texas dust is wicked. It's tacky, sticky. You can't easily remove it, say, with a feather duster or a swipe with a damp cloth. No, you have to wash it off with soap and water. So I started scrubbing away the dust and this is what I found out. Bad things can happen to large vases that have sat in full sunlight for nine years. Some of the bottles had been coated with color (as opposed to being made out of glass in that color) and as I scrubbed away, the sun-baked color flaked right off.

Out of 18 bottles, five cleaned up nicely. The others are all in some state of partially flaked off color and scrub-resistant grime. We put them back up temporarily for sun blockage, but I will be replacing them. If today wasn't Christmas Eve, I'd have gone right out to buy new ones. At least it solved one disagreement for us. All along I've said that the vases stay with the house. Neil was all for taking them, or selling them, or donating them. Today he was ready to recycle the lot of them.

I know that new ones, especially nicer ones, will reopen the decision, and maybe our future buyers won't even want them. I just know I want to replace them. What should have been a project with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment wound up being irritating and adding to my to-do list.

Assuming I had a to-do list. Which I do not.

Bead sales have been slow-ish but existent, a couple of sales a day or so. I made some more dream beads for Beads of Courage.

For Anderson, age 5 (picture attached)
" My dream bead would be a big robot. It would be colorful and have bumpy gears and robot buttons on his body."

For Emma, age 16
"I would love a bumpy bead with some correlation to flowers or trees. Deep, vibrant colors are my favorite."

For Kristina, age 16
"I would love to have a bead of the Tardis from Doctor Who. It is a time travel machine disguised as a British police phone box. It is blue."

For all its flaws, I'm really proud of that Tardis.

Beads of Courage invited me to participate in the 2017 Beads of the Month Program. For a total of 100 beads about 1.5 inches in size, BOC is offering to compensate the artist the amount of $5 per bead. Postage is at the artist's expense.

OK, it's a noble cause, beads for kids with cancer or in this case, beads for fund raising to buy program beads for kids with cancer. At first I agreed I would do it for the month of May. But the more I think about it, the more anxious I feel about making 100 identical beads in that size. Even identical in the artisan bead context of same color, size and design, its beyond my comfort zone. I think I am going to withdraw from that program. As much as I like making beads and as willing as I'd be to make 100 $5 beads of some kind for BOC, having to make 100 of the same bead of that size would be nothing but stressful.

I'll let them know next week.

In the meantime, I made a little slideshow of some of my recent beads. Be kind.

And oh, all right, a smidge of Christmas spirit.

I see trees of green
Red roses too
I see them bloom
For me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

I see skies of blue
And clouds of white
The bright blessed day
The dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow
So pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces
Of people going by
I see friends shaking hands
Saying, how do you do?
They're really saying
I love you

I hear babies cry
I watch them grow
They'll learn much more
Than I'll ever know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Yes, I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Oh yeah.

(Bob Thiele [as George Douglas] and George David Weiss, first recorded by Louis Armstrong)

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