Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Wanted: The Holiday Cheermeister

The first Christmas with The Boy (we were “together” last Christmas, but in separate states) was beautiful. He sat beside me on the couch, in the snowflake pajama pants my mom gave him the night before, opening presents and downing coffee to fight the effects of staying up until 4:30 playing video games with my little brother. Mom added his name to personalized family decorations we have had around the house for years and even bought a few new ones. Dad joked that on these The Boy’s name was written in washable ink until after the wedding, but we all actually knew it was a joke. He had his own stocking, and though it didn’t match the rest of ours, it tried. It felt like it was supposed to feel, and that is like it never has before.

I sat in my new L.L. Bean coat on my own passenger seat, the backseat filled with gifts for cousins and uncles The Boy had loaded in the cold rain. I whined about the weather.

“Someone’s the Holiday Cheermeister!” The Boy quoted the live-action Grinch. He was joking, but if he said it today, he’d be right.

I’m dressed entirely in winter white; the new “sea vine” coat is in the closet. Work is pretty barren, although I’ve had things to do. I’m mired in the possibility of a new opportunity that, so far, feels like dating in sixth grade. Egos and politics and shoulds and shouldn’ts. Hurt feelings and fake loyalties and perceived betrayals. Apparently, despite that I am, in fact, a girl and was a liberal arts major—this girl can negotiate with the boys. And today it has occurred to me that all that ability might net me is the right to brag about it.

The Boy’s Mother and her husband will be in town momentarily and until Thursday. The Boy and I will still be working, all the while feeling guilty for not being able to entertain people we assured we would not have time to entertain. Unfortunately, just because obligations feel like they shouldn’t be more important, that doesn’t mean they aren’t.

The weekend brought visits with two old friends—the kind that make you feel warmer every time you see them, not emptier. And that’s the best kind.

Tonight I think I’ll wear my new coat. Perhaps a splash of color would do me good.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Do You Hear What I Hear?

My car sounds like a siren every time I begin to drive from a hard stop. Obviously, this bothers me, but not because something terrible might be wrong with my car. I t bothers me because as I began to pull out of my parking spot in Safeway’s lot last night, the guy walking in front of me gave me a terrible look. So that’s it—I’m bothered because strangers will hear my car and think…I don't know--what do people think about noisy cars?
“That girl’s fender is probably caved in because she hit a pedestrian, and it makes that noise because she’s a moron.” I don’t know. It really does look like I hit a pedestrian though, and when I explain to parking garage attendants that “a person hit my car,” it doesn’t really help my case. Maybe my car is just lobbying not to be sold. Goodness knows none of the other machinery in and around my life has been behaving properly.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I’m a little sad to be the cause of The Boy’s first Christmas away from his family, but I’m thrilled that he’ll be here with me (and that I’ll be here, period. I’m trying not to think so far ahead as to recognize that next year it’s my turn to be away). What does not resemble Christmas is that I am doing very little, at this point, to prepare for it. All of my elf-like insanity (look! Mega pixels!) over the past month has apparently paid off, and nearly everything is done. I have more baking to do on Friday, but otherwise, we are in good shape and under budget. I recognize that those who know me are not wowed by the “under” part as much as you are by the “budget” part.

But yes, I do know what a budget is, and I am actually quite capable of adhering to one. I always told people, particularly in the now-defunct “young adult” group at church (which at one time was really just the “young marrieds plus a few losers”) that all I needed to do to reign in my finances was acquire a husband. One marriage veteran of two years assaulted me with the passion of her response, informing me that I had no idea what I was talking about. I can’t speak to the dynamic of her marriage, but so far, my premarriage has worked out nicely in that respect. I am still not excited about justifying needs or explaining expenses, but I’m figuring out that that’s what teammates do, and my teammate is figuring out that he can trust me anyway. I just presented him with a spreadsheet, detailing all the money we spent on Christmas. We were over $100 under. To all those single gals out there, here’s a hint—the way to a man’s heart may be through filling his stomach, but the way to his ring finger is definitely through protecting his wallet. And also quoting Seinfeld. Alas, mine is but the voice of one woman.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Car Adoption and the Worst Party Ever

Given the number of comments I’ve received from crickets, the latest of whom claimed my blog is getting, “stale,” I can only assume that I have been missed. Isn’t that nice.

While I’ve been away from you, I’ve been a very busy girl. That first holiday party was absolutely The Worst Party I’ve Ever Attended, involving a rented-out tavern, a vague conglomeration of food offerings, a dj who, without a shred of irony, played Madonna’s, “Like a Prayer,” and an open bar. The limo was overrated, as they tend to be, but judging by the Nas and 50 Cent buzzing and blaring through the blown-out speaker by my head and the bottles of Grey Goose circling the car, I’m not sure the guys in the limo noticed. The only other women who attended with us weren’t really from the same world as I am, so I spent the evening with the boys. And I was overdressed. I wore my hooker boots, thinking that if ever there were an occasion for them, a Christmas party would be it. Then I proceeded to stand in them for four hours. Balancing a drink and a plate full of cocktail wieners, cheese and crackers and a slice of turkey breast, I teetered in my heels. What good are utensils if you don’t have enough hands to use them? Thus went the night. No one seemed able to waste the “opportunity” that an open bar/limo ride home combo provided, so it was a loooong night.

Stopped at a Sunoco in College Park for a bathroom break, somebody’s girlfriend asked to borrow my shoes. I looked down at her bare feet and asked what happened to hers. “I don’t know,” she said, looking genuinely perplexed, “but they must be somewhere.” I zipped off my boots and sat in stocking feet wondering how I got there. We finally returned to Baltimore six hours after we left, and five hours before I had to get up. I vowed never to attend that type of party ever again.

That weekend, due to the Nor’easter in New England, the Mother and her husband did not make an appearance in Maryland, leaving us time to join Costco. Hundreds of dollars later, we had only crossed three things off our list. In the candle aisle at Wal-Mart, The Boy yelled, frantically, “Who ARE all these people?” An innocent passerby suggested that the earlier I learn to accept The Boy’s insanity, the easier my life would be. Somehow, we mostly finished our Christmas shopping.

I baked all day Sunday, resulting in my giving the earliest gifts in the office. When I handed out cookie tins and mason jars of garlic and rosemary infused olive oil and fresh mozzarella, everyone wrinkled their noses. “What are these?” They asked. It was only December 12th. I told them it was then or never.

Classes wrapped up last week, and I finished up with at least one A. The other class was borderline, so we’ll see how that goes. In that class, we all brought snacks, and the only guy in the class brought pretzels and hard cider, thus marking the first time in my life I’ve drunk beer in school. I know, to some of you, I’m about 10 years late.

Two holiday parties and a fake-out ice storm on Thursday, and we headed to Connecticut (again) with a quickness on Friday morning. We have recently acquired a new car for me (and by “acquired” I mean that it has been purchased through an auction, but not yet by us).
I won’t get to have it until the end of February, but I got to visit it on Friday. It felt much like adoption. And you can tell I have no kids.

Friday and Saturday we had the fake Christmas doubleheader, with a 14-year-old’s birthday party thrown in just to shake things up. We drove home separately last night, I in The Boy’s Saab and The Boy in an ’03 Mercedes CLK convertible he is delivering to NC as a “favor” to his uncle. He called earlier today, and I couldn’t hear anything but wind.

“Sorry, baby,” he explained, “tractor trailer.”

Yes, on December 19th, he had the top down.

“You don’t understand,” he said, “it’s warm down here in North Carolina. It’s 53.”

I’m sure the heated seats and heat on full blast didn’t influence his attitude at all. I can just imagine him with his dealer plates, oblivious to all the people driving by simultaneously laughing and rolling their eyes.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Turkey Redux

Much like Jewel, that snaggle-toothed songstress of yore, I’ve been down so long. Well, not literally down, but certainly bogged down, at the very least. Best to catch up in fragments, lest I avoid catching up at all.

Thanksgiving in Connecticut outdid itself. It was the adventure I expected it to be, and then some. The “some” in question involved meeting The Boy’s former lady love, which, even under the best circumstances, is straight-up, down-right awkward. My face flushed, my throat closed in on itself, my hair and flotation devices refused to behave—and all this at a time when I was supposed to be stunning. When faced with one’s predecessor, one is supposed to be non-threatening, visibly if silently apologetic, and accidentally gorgeous. I can assure you I was none of those. I think my head was tilted the whole time (attempting to achieve visibly apologetic), with my sweaty palms on my face to try to reduce the nerve-induced redness (having accepted there would be no declaration of “gorgeous,” I decided to go for anything involving “accidentally’). Taking all those factors into consideration, I may have achieved non-threatening, but given the gravity of the situation, I probably didn’t nail that one either. So, when asked by The Stepmother at brunch on Sunday if I had “met a lot of new people,” I certainly could respond that I had.

Thursday morning, recovering from the confrontation the night before, I teared up, realizing this was my first Thanksgiving without Pop, and by extension, my first without his (should have been) world famous creamed corn. The Boy sympathetically squeezed my hand, and we were off.

Thanksgiving the day, is really more of an experience than a Thursday. There were two meals, naturally, as there are two remarried parents to include. The first involved The Boy’s tiny, preternaturally preserved paternal grandmother. I am happy to report to my father that late onset greying seems to be prevalent in that side of the family, as the grandmother, at 70, is still mostly raven-haired. He swears The Boy’s father, who is more likely to be seen under a car than in front of a mirror, dyes his hair. Now I can pretty safely say he does not.

The Grandmother did most of the work and made it look easy, and we had a nice time, with The Boy begging off the pie so as not to offend his mother, who had made his absolute favorite pumpkin pie.

Fortunately, the second turkey was stubborn, and the dinner that was scheduled for 3, then 4, finally occurred at 6. Right before we began loading our plates up, The Boy grabbed me by the hand and led me into the kitchen. To the stove. He pointed at a pot on the back burner.

“Look, baby.”

Creamed corn. Even in Connecticut. I think he’ll be milking those extra points well into the new year.

Overall, another successful trip, and one in which we scheduled our next trip, the weekend before Christmas for our own fake Christmas. The Boy makes sure to put the emphasis on “fake” when he talks about it, as this is his first Christmas away from home in his entire life (I know that because I’ve heard the fact, as if for the first time, 47 times since Thanksgiving).

The result of these pre-Christmas festivities (The Mother and her husband will be in town this weekend, weather permitting for a Very Special Christmas Celebration), is chaos—CHAOS—in and between our little homes. In the new house (heretofore to be referred to as The Home), the furnace has taken a vacation. It’s going to be 12 degrees tonight. So The Boy is ripping what’s left of his hair out (he shaved off the head spikes, much to my delight) being master mechanic (in the absence of our home warranty that should be going into effect any day), and I have a crazed look in my eye as I budget for, coordinate, gain approval on, acquire and wrap gifts for two and a half families for five separate Christmas extravaganzas (plus the office holiday parties). Can you say oy vey about Christmas? I don’t know about the implied linguistic intermingling of faiths there, but OY VEY.

Tomorrow marks the first of two (yes, two) of The Boy’s office Christmas parties, tomorrow’s being the only one that involves a stretch Excursion limo and lots of drunk young “professionals.” Actually, that last part probably applies to both.
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