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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Holiday Blog!

I wish someone would poll everyone in America re. whether holidays caused them more pleasure or pain.

Of course, for a true tally they'd have to finesse the data for the percentage of us who compulsively lie. And adjust for the myriad lack-of-free-will-in-decision-making influences, like whether we had a warm breakfast or fondled a bra before questioning. 

But once all that has been settled, I’d like to know the TRUE TRUTH about holidays in regards to the joy / misery spectrum.

The graph might break each holiday into four time-sensitive phases: 
1. Pre-holiday. (Eager anticipation / suicidal dread)  
2. Actual real-time holiday. (Enjoyment / anger / annoyance / paralytic boredom) 
3. Immediate post holiday. (after-glow / relief /  PTSD)
4. Distant holiday memories.  (Warm, fuzzy nostalgia / bitter guilt and regret  / homicidal rage.)

The X axis or Y would be number of living humans, and we'd keep total indifference as our base line.  OK?  Or am I just way too sophisticated and mathy here? Maybe I'm talking about a pie chart.

Anyway, let's start with the easiest and most obviously divisive holiday: Valentine's day. Factors may include age and male or femaleness. At one extreme would be, You don't have a sweet heart but wish you did. And at the other would be, You have a sweetheart who feels precisely as you do about Valentine’s day and how it should be celebrated.
In between would be gradations of,  You have a sweetheart who adores you but thinks your Valentine wishes are loony. Or you have a half-assed "sweetheart" who doesn't really give a hoot about you or your Valentine wishes. Or the person you want as your sweet heart hates your guts and wishes you'd die screaming in flames. 

Do you suppose our poll would show that Valentine's Day causes more happiness or unhappiness among the humans? 
Then there’s New Years Eve, packed with its high societal expectation of wacky, glamours fun among  attractive pals, with a big, sexy, smooch at midnight. Would our tally reveal more people feeling happy on New Years Eve? Or more people feeling like shit?

Similarly, Mother’s day.  You and your mom couldn't be closer. Or, your mother is dead, or you hate her, or she hates you. You aren’t a mother, or your kids are dead, or they hate you, or they like their step mother or mother-in-law way better.... On balance, more joy or pain?  

And now, 'tis time for ye olde winter holidays, and all their accompanying warm, fuzzy, community, historical, family, fireside, food, candy, candles, gifts, snow, and holy-glow stuff... 

Well, wherever you fall on the Ho!-Ho!-Ho! vs Boo-Hoo! Meter, I wish you the best. I really, really do.

Peace & Love

Monday, December 17, 2012

Candlelight Vigil

News of the Newtown massacre came in staggered, horrific bits. We discussed the incoming details as if some possible arrangement of these facts would eventually make sense. But there is no sense to be made, and after the initial tears and rants we felt no better.

Someone posted a link on facebook that said you could just type in your zip code to find where the closest Candlelight Vigil was being held. I hadn't been looking for such a thing but it turned out there were three or four within 30 miles of me. 

The website also offered the option of hosting your own candlelight vigil by simply clicking a box, and setting a place. Much to my own surprise, I did just that, and named our park as the venue. 

The vigils nationwide, were to be held from 5 to 6:PM Saturday night. So be it.

By the time I’d sent emails to a few neighbors, nine people had signed up on the event page, to attend my vigil in the park. The number quickly climbed to 14. I didn’t recognize any of the names on the list.

It seemed unreal that community could be created like that, by clicking boxes on an online form, but when I next checked, the number of attendees on the event page had leaped to 31. 

I grabbed a table cloth for the picnic table, candles, matches, and the fake peace lilies my son and his girlfriend and I had bought, and headed to the park, not knowing what to expect. 

It had been ten years since my first and last vigil. That  was for my husband’s co-corkers Euna and Laura when they were being held in N Korea. That one had loads of press and fancy, high profile speakers. This one, as far as I knew, would have me, and if they showed up in time, my family, my dogs, and 31 strangers who might expect me to have a plan.

A couple of young boys were shooting hoops at the park. A few toddlers and their parents or grandparents were in the play area. That was enough to choke me up. 

I’d raised my kids at this park. 

I spread the table cloth, and placed the peace lilies in a grocery bag, hoping that was enough to identify our table, since I’d failed to make signs of any sort. I used my car key to poke holes in the bottom of paper cups, and started jamming the candles into them. The cups were supposed to catch the dripping wax. 

The first woman approached, tentatively across the tidy park lawn, with a bag of candles. There was that moment where it seemed presumptuous of me to act as host since I was no closer to the deceased or the bereaved than any other stranger was. It felt unseemly, as if I was forcing myself into the center of someone else’s private heartache. But awkward or not, that too, was irrelevant. 

More women came, alone and in pairs. We all shook hands, exchanged first names, messed around with the candles. The talk was of sleeplessness. We'd all had trouble the night before, kept awake by thoughts of those poor children, of their parents, those teachers, those moments. 

We didn’t know how many candles and cups we’d need, but we kept at it, as women do, preparing, setting up. More people appeared from different directions as twilight took over. Men, women, old, young, couples, children, twin babies in a double stroller. A few dogs. There were about 40 people by 5:00, when we lit the candles. The sun disappeared entirely as a woman read the long, sad, list of the victims names and ages.

A man spoke next, at length, about gun control, until I (rudely, my husband says) cut him off to ask if anyone else wanted to speak. People did, mostly about gun control. There was anger regarding the easy access to firearms versus the difficult access to reasonable treatment options for mental illness. A photographer from the local paper shot pictures. 

People continued to arrive. More candles were lit and passed around. At some point my husband counted at least 70 people there. The newspaper reported 60. 

A former member of the state legislature spoke about gun laws, as did a member of city council. People discussed protesting the local gun show. I stopped listening to look around at the mix of strangers, brought together via the Internet, to meet this one time, in candle light. 

Eventually I thanked everyone for coming together, and expressed my hope that we'd never have another reason like this to do so again. We had a moment of silence and blew out our candles. Some people broke into smaller groups to talk, others wandered off into the darkness. I rolled up the table cloth and threw away the ripped, waxy cups. My family left and when the crowd had thinned to almost nothing, I followed them home. 

Had anything been accomplished? Did any one feel any less sad, any less alone? We do what we can, but it is so hard to see the point of things at times like this. 


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Favorite Thing-ing

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens are fine, but schnitzel? Seriously? Schnitzel up at the top of the list with chocolate and foot-rubs?  

Slicing onions for soup, and humming that ditty to the accompaniment of the rain, I had a nostalgic moment of favorite thing-ing.It was prompted in part, by the shattering of my favorite coffee cup, which, until its demise, I hadn't realized was my favorite.

It had been given to me by a friend, and had Lucy and Ethel on it. But what won my heart wasn’t its sentimentality, or what it represented, it was the cup itself, its heft and capacity. 

Without it I’m not exactly bereft, but there is something slightly less magnificent about my mornings. 

I don't think of myself as particularly materialistic although I admit I have worn favorite shirts over the years way past what's decent, and delayed ripping them up for cleaning rags much longer than was reasonable. And I know that the times of my life lived without a go-to shirt, were never completely comfortable. 

Similarly, having once found and owned the perfect purse, of precisely the correct size, depth, number of pockets, weight and length of strap, and carrying it to tatters, I never again achieved that degree of purse-contentment.

But I wonder what makes us love this or that thing? What makes the right things so right?

And now in the gift giving season, how can we possibly guess what might be that thing for another person? 

Did I even suspect that I was creating the standard when I first slipped into that cheap maroon jacket? Or that from that moment forth to the cursed day I left it on the back of a chair in a diner, that I was living in the golden-age of jackets?

Did the person who found it and wore it away, feel the same way about it?

At least, on this rainy winter day, I can say that in my life I have known the perfect jacket, the perfect coffee cup, the perfect purse and a few perfect shirts, and can consider myself well-thinged.