Sunday, November 12, 2006

Holiday Planning

The hardest part — at least so far — about holiday planning has been giving up the old routines. After 27 years, Lisa and I had the holiday thing down pretty well. We tried to visit my parents at Thanksgiving, and her family at Christmas; we threw a single big open house-style party on a Sunday close to the Solstice; I went to her work party, and she, wisely, didn’t come to most of mine. (Her tolerance for penis-shaped lipstick —no, really, don’t ask — was even lower than mine.) We had a tree covered with ornaments that we’d collected over the years, and we spent the Saturday of the weekend before our party decorating it and drinking eggnog, and then the rest of the season keeping the cats from knocking it over. (Yes, that explains the two hooks screwed into the undersides of the living room windowsills: a little twine goes a long way toward preventing accidents, although Jack, the Cat Who Climbed Christmas Trees, is no longer with us.)

This year, of course, everything has felt horrendously unsettled. I did decide to go ahead and visit my folks over Thanksgiving, but even beyond the obvious there are all kinds of little differences. First, I’m flying down. This also means I don’t get to go to the Kentucky Horse Park, or any of the farms, or to visit all of Lisa’s Lexington-area friends, all features of Thanksgiving trips past. Last year — was it only last year? — we got to see Da Hoss and Cigar up close and personal, thanks to Lisa’s obvious interest and the generosity of the Horse Park staff. We even saw more than John Henry’s butt, which is usually all one sees when he’s in his stall. We also got to visit the retirees at the Our Mims Retirement Farm, and for a bunch of geriatric mares, they intimidated the heck out of me! Frankly, I feel a bit lost without a horse fix this time of year. I have plans to indulge in some horsepower — a visit to the antique car museum on Petit Jean Mountain, research for an ongoing project — but no horses.

I’ve also decided not to try to throw our big party this year. First of all, the house still isn’t in order. I still have a closet full of yarn and fabric to move to what was Lisa’s office and is in the process of becoming a sewing space. I still have to figure out where to pay bills and handle household finances that isn’t the dining room table. Et cetera. It’s like one of those sliding puzzles, where everything has to be done in the correct order, or you get completely screwed up. Second, because of the Arkansas trip, the logistics are almost impossible. I’d only have two weeks after getting home to do everything, and I’m just not sure I can do it by myself. And one thing about this party has always been that it’s been something we did for everybody else. Not that I object to potluck, and I’ve been shameless about asking for help in other areas, but this was a chance to give back, to provide for others. I’d rather not have the party than change that feeling.

But those are all excuses. Mostly, I’m just not ready. I don’t think I could get through it without bawling, and I don’t want to do that. This party has always been joyous, and I want to keep it that way. Instead, I’ll throw a house re-warming once I get things in order — with any luck, in January, when we all need a break.

Christmas... is tough. Christmas Day I’ll spend with Lisa’s family, sisters, brother, brother-in-law, two nephews. It’s not so much the celebration that I’m dreading as the quiet morning and coming home afterwards to the empty house. I don’t know if I want a tree. I don’t know how much decorating I want to do. I don’t know.

But one good thing has happened. Lisa’s sister and her two boys came up to have lunch, and the boys, 15 and 13 now, were very concerned about my holiday plans. Was I coming to their house for Thanksgiving, they said. I told them, no, I was visiting my parents. How about Christmas, then? Yes, I said, I’d be there for Christmas. That’s all right, then, the younger one said. That’s the one that matters. And then they told me which manga I should buy to read on the plane to Little Rock.

If I’d ever had any doubts about being part of the family — and I confess, I didn’t — that would have put them to rest. And I appreciate it almost more than I can say.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Yesterday I went off to Home Depot to buy faucets, because on Monday I’m finally having most of the plumbing replaced. (This is not as horrendous as it sounds, because the plumbing in this house is mostly an afterthought, and hangs conveniently from the underside of the beams down in the cellar. It is, however, galvanized steel, and was put in some time in the 1930s, so… it’s time.) As I came in the back door, I noticed that all the cats were in the kitchen looking skittish. The dog, uncharacteristically, didn’t bark. And I looked out the kitchen window to see a fire truck pulling up beside the next-door parking lot.

This didn’t bode well.

I went into the living room to see what the fire truck was up to, and saw an ambulance and a police car in front of the house. Definitely not good. I opened the shutters to see what was going on, and was confronted with the nose of a car.

A Volvo.

A Volvo station wagon, sitting on two of the front flowerbeds and my front steps.

You have to understand, my house, like a lot of the houses in town, doesn’t have a real front yard. Instead, I have two raised beds, both about two feet high. One runs the length of the short end of the house, and contains either two or three enormous rhododendrons. (We’ve never been able to figure out just how many plants there really are in there, but they bloom beautifully in the spring.) The other is about three feet wide, and runs between the house and the sidewalk along the street side. Between the two are the steps that lead up to the long front porch.

Or that’s where they were. Apparently the Volvo’s driver had some kind of a seizure, lost control of the car, and drove her right side wheels up onto the two beds and over the steps. Honestly, I’m not sure one could do it while conscious. The steps and railing splintered, the granite block that tops the second bed has been moved about eight inches, and the railroad ties that edged the first bed have been knocked around pretty badly. Amazingly, she missed the house entirely — the right front fender had stopped about four inches from the corner of the foundation — and she was not otherwise injured, though the seizure had left her disoriented. And the Volvo? You know, everything they say about Volvos seems to be true. It had a broken bumper where it hit the corner of the first raised bed. Something had ripped loose in the undercarriage and was leaking water, and the left rear tire was flat. And that was it. I was, reluctantly, impressed.

And I was even more impressed by what happened later. I was calling around, talking to my insurance guy, finding out how to get my mail delivered (because the mailbox was smashed and you can’t get to the mail slot in the front door without stairs), and a guy drove up and got out to look at the steps. I went out to see what was going on, and he introduced himself as the woman’s husband. He’s a boatbuilder, and he offered to come by on Saturday with a buddy and replace the steps. No quid pro quo, no nothing, just because he wanted to make it right.