about the state of my house, the piles of unsorted papers and journals on my husband’s perch in the front hall, the jumble of shoes and boots blocking the doors, the drawer full of mittens (I spent hours finding and matching a few weeks ago) that has been rooted through so many times I can’t look at it without cringing, about the stuff I’m always moving to the basement and attic and the fact that one day I will have to figure out that to do with it but don’t want to. Ever.
about my children, mainly that the world treat them well (not just well but gloriously so) and when it doesn’t that they are equipped to overcome obstacles and disappointments with dignity and grace and come out the other end stronger and wiser.
about my marriage, about learning how to be more patient and open and kind and understanding and loving…
about the launching of my book, the cover, the subtitle (which they want to change), about asking for blurbs, about not getting blurbs, about print runs and earning back advances and reviews, both not getting them and getting them, and then if I get them whether they’ll be good and about not taking them so personally that they stifle me from writing another book, about the other book, whether there will be another one and whether it will sell and its launch….
about my health, my children’s and husband’s health, the health of all my family and friends, the general healthiness of the universe… because I read that worrying about health or anything for that matter can cause health problems and also possibly more messiness, marital tension and bad reviews.
about my hair.
about this post, that it reveals something about me that will make you… I don’t know. Forget it. I’m NOT going to worry about it… at least not today.
Happy New Year!
Deb Gail will be speaking on a panel at the Backspace Writers Conference this summer! And the inimitable Ron Hogan was kind enough to post a picture of Gail and two of her kids and the puppies on GalleyCat (scroll down to Thursday).
The Debs Favorite Books of 2007:
Deb Lisa’sfavorite book was Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear by Lisa Earle McLeod
Deb Jenny’s favorite book was Puff: A Novel, by Bob Flaherty.
Deb Jess’s favorite book was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Deb Gail’s favorite books were Throw Like a Girl by Jean Thompson and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Deb Eileen wants to know how do you pick just one favorite book! She did love The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.
Deb Danielle also has a tough time chosing, but loved Es Cuba by Lea Aschkenas, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling and A Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb. And she’s sorry for the long list!
Wow, it’s my LAST POST! Tish did such an elegant job with her last post, no long good-byes, good info on what her upcoming year looks like. I want to be elegant. But I have such mixed feelings about this!
This year has been so busy that in some ways I am relieved to give up an “obligation,” to turn it over to those with more energy and more exciting things to say. But The Debutante Ball has been so much more than an obligation! It’s been a place to play, a place to come for support, a place to learn, a place to make friends and meet readers and writers.
It has been important to me. It truly has. And I’m not really one to imbue random, frivolous things with import. The posts and the running of the site itself have been important. My fellow Debs have been important. Our readers have been important, whether they commented or not. It has been an important part of my regular life.
So there’s a feeling that something important to me is being given up. Willingly, to be sure, but it still makes me sad.
And then there’s pride. I am so proud to be the first year handing over to the next year. It’s just exactly the way we planned it. I love that! And I am so proud of our new Debs. So proud of how their enthusiasm, talent, and skill has taken the site to a new level. Look at these fabulous guest bloggers! And, I have it on good authority, that there are more exciting things on the horizon.
I’m proud of the new Debs books! I’ve had the delight of reading most of them, and oh, what treats you are all in for! I knew these women were talented and funny and brilliant, but when I read their work, well, I’m just honored to be in their company. These ARE the writers everyone is going to be talking about. And they’re HERE!
Such pride. (And I seriously suggest that nobody get all smart-ass on me and mention anything about “going before a fall…” in the comments. We’re not talking about that kind of pride.)
I even feel a bit of panic, as if I am the child and the parent at the same time. How can I let it go?! What will become of it without my constant attention?! How can I BE let go?! What will come of ME without its constant presence?!
Seems a little silly to be so attached to a grog, I suppose.
But I am. Attached, that is. I’ve adored my fellow Founders, and I adore all the new Debs. I wish great things for you all, and I will always support your endeavors.
(Any idea how hard it is to stop typing? Wrap it up, Kristy.)
I’m outta here.
I will, indeed, look back, but just to wave and grin and happily watch you all succeed.
<—– Kristy, smiling, waving, even though you can’t see it.
I’m thumbing through my mental filing cabinets, trying to remember the holiday traditions my family is supposed to have. But see, the problem is this: our traditions are kind of flickering, waffling a little, not quite sure if they want to stay or go. Get every family member a gift, or just pick names? Open gifts on Christmas Eve, or Christmas morning? Christmas brunch or Christmas dinner? Midnight mass or morning service? Colored lights or clear? Brandy slush or wine? Paper or plastic?
The only constant is laughter, delicious food (always a changing menu), and a house full of love. And this year, my frighteningly talented sister Maddie suggested a new tradition: a “make or bake” gift exchange, as opposed to the usual orgy of store-bought fare. (A little background: She is an art teacher, and her boyfriend is a chef.) Immediately, my brother and I shook our heads.
“No way. That is a very, very bad idea,” Jake said.
“What!” Maddie answered, somewhat indignantly. “Jess, you could write something, and Jake could…”
“Teach a child to do something for you?”
Jake is a teacher, so this was a perfectly reasonable response. We gazed around the room at the stacks of recently-opened gifts.
On my mother’s pile:
I bought her a decorative bowl and a draft blocker in the shape of a long cat.
Jake bought her some photo boxes.
Maddie had painstakingly and elaborately hand-painted a lovely wooden box my mother could use to store keepsakes in.
On my father’s pile:
I bought him a red shirt and tie.
Jake bought him a purple shirt and tie.
Maddie had artfully painted a set of bookends: one side containing a framed picture of him and his baby grandson beaming at one another, the other side consisting of the letter “M,” for our family surname. I nearly expected it to breakdance for a full four minutes, turn to my pitiful little JCPenney tie and say, “You got served.”
And I haven’t even gotten to the clever, hand-made decoupaged and painted flower pots, a gorgeous paper mache ornament, handmade magnets, and some homemade truffles and biscotti nestled in fluted paper cups, tied with real ribbon in cello bags, and tucked into Chinese take-out containers decorated with Christmas shapes and snowflakes. The kicker? They made all of this with a four month-old in the house. And he’s their child, so he’s probably not leaving.
“Oh, my gifts were all handmade, too,” Jake said as we watched our little not-so-homemade gifts get pwned. “In a sweatshop by some Malaysian children.”
Next year, I’ll be bringing my A game. I’m busting out the pinking shears and oil paints in June. Then we’ll see who the favorite is.
Everyone on my mom’s side of the family has a homemade stocking. They are made of felt and usually have a snowman with a variety of jaunty hats, vests, buttons, etcetera, and the person’s name in letters along the top. (The exception is the one my aunt made for my grandmother in the 60s which is decorated with many flowers and has the word “PEACE” instead of my grandmother’s name.)
This year, my almost-92-year-old grandmother (Fast Eddy, aka Edna, never to be called “grandma”) made the stocking for my almost-2-year-old daughter. She had some input from me (the usual snowman has a tutu) and some help from my mom (sequins for buttons) and aunt (of the 60s stocking) but mostly it’s her creation and it looks great.
But stocking-making hasn’t always been so straightforward, especially when it comes to inlaws and outlaws (boyfriends, girlfriends, sheep–just kidding!) People don’t always realize that if they’re dating someone in my family and they get a stocking made, they may as well be engaged. On the other hand, if they’re already married and have NOT been made a stocking, they’re either on shaky ground or the person they’ve married has made an unusually bold and rebellious move by not making them a stocking. (Or, it could be one of the guys and he just, um, forgot.)
Sadly there have also been a few mis-made stockings over the years–”outlaws” who received a stocking but never quite made inlaw status. It was always a shock to lose someone once things had gotten serious enough to merit a stocking, but there are a few (now-reformed) heartbreakers in our midst, plus the occasional ingrate who didn’t realize he/she had become “engaged” and casuallly ran off with someone else, so it couldn’t be helped. There were even rumours of name-switchiing a few years back when the boyfriends/girlfriends of certain people had a low survival/fast replacement rate, but I don’t believe it. I’m certain those orphaned stockings were donated to charity or “the needy” or possibly given proper burial, cremation, etc. You don’t get to take your stocking with you, but surely no one would be so cold as to just switch the names out and pass a stocking off as new. Though in hindsight, some of them may have deserved it…
My daughter is crazy about Eddy and I’m thrilled I’ll always be able to tell her about Eddy making her stocking. Hopefully when the tradition passes on to her she’ll be judicious, cautious even, about making stockings for non-family members. And I’m certain she’ll never be so callous as to switch out the names, despite her great promise as a heartbreaker.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!
Christmas Day 2007 will forever be referred to as “The Day the Gravy Exploded”, joining the ranks with such other exciting and memorable days as “The Year The Cat Stepped in the Stuffing” and “The One Where We Got Five Feet of Snow on Christmas Eve and Lisa’s Big Christmas Present (a waterbed!) Was Across The Street In The Neighbors Garage.” *
*This was back in the late 70′s when a waterbed was a cool gift. (There was a sort of scavenger hunt involved — sadly, not quite as magical when you have to shovel for 7 1/2 hours to get to the grand prize.)
In my family, the disasters are always more fun than the picture-perfect Christmases. We’ll all be gathered in the kitchen, drinking, and someone will make a crack about how the the turkey was nearly set on fire back in 1974, or how my mother, in her effort to be supportive to her newly-vegetarian sister had the crazy idea of serving a quiche on Christmas Eve, rather than our traditional ham with cherry sauce. We’ve lovingly tortured her on that one for years.
The screw-ups and disasters are always met with laughter and occasionally, a bit of culinary triage. Any mishap is met with a top-notch disaster recovery team of relatives who can smooth the lumps out of gravy, make a turkey with crispy wingtips look like something Martha would envy, or whip out an emergency pie crust in 45 seconds flat. (Old Crisco, don’t ask.)
And while we may giggle about near-disasters behind the stove, the feast that makes it to the table usually looks pretty fabulous and tastes even better. And no one would ever be any wiser.
In our family, what happens in the kitchen, stays in the kitchen.
From the year mom and I whipped our cream into butter, to the year the weird pineapple-avacado-lime jello with pistachio ice cream turned into a scary green soup, to the year the fan belt broke on the car on the way to Christmas dinner at Grandma Vernie’s house. In the middle of the desert. With 7 people in the car.
Christmas Present. Christmas Past. Christmas Imperfect. I love them all.
There were several memorable things about which I debated writing for today’s post: the many wonderful traditions my immediate family shares over the holidays and the many wonderful traditions gone awry (like the time we went to our favorite Christmas tree farm to cut down a tree and our young children selected the perfect tree and we hauled it back to the barn to pay and while we waited the farmer’s dog lifted his leg and peed all over it. Our kids were so upset that we weren’t going to keep it that they hurled themselves on the ground and cried relentlessly until we gave up and agreed to have the farmer douse the thing with buckets of water to salvage it).
But because today is Christmas Day, I decided to reach way back into my memory to recall how my family spent Christmases when I was a child:
Without fail each year the six of us loaded into the station wagon on Christmas morning immediately after the presents had been ravaged, headed across snowy mountain passes the 100 or so frigid miles (one brother passed gas the entire way thus we’d have to put the windows down to air the car out continually) to my grandparent’s home. Theirs was a drafty, slumping, Civil War-era house that still boasted lead windows, a warped staircase (with a to-die for banister we kids always slid down), a saggy back porch, a dank root cellar, and a solitary bathroom (shared by nearly 40 inhabitants that day) whose sink had old fashioned handles you had to twist on for hot or cold and the water only remained running while holding the handle in the “on” position. You can imagine how hard it was to wash your hands with warm water—either scalding hot or ice cold were the options.
The kitchen was the place to be, and my grandmother, a fabulous cook, always had pies in the oven and a turkey and ham cooling on the old-fashioned farm-style table that took up most of the room. My very large extensive family was usually gathered in there—it was close to the keg out back, and the bar was set up on that counter too, so the bourbon was close at hand. Plus everyone could pick at the food surfacing from the oven and stovetops (Grandma usually had spaghetti sauce simmering for the following day, and my Uncle Len had a pot of goulash slow-cooking as well). My grandmother always had a stash of popcorn balls for the grandkids which we hoarded along with candy canes from the tree.
We kids (there were over 20 grandkids at varying times) built forts in the living room, banged out wobbly songs on the piano, and played dress-up with our 5 aunts’ many gorgeous tulle and beaded prom dresses from the 50′s. We’d saved up Wrigley’s and Juicy Fruit gum wrappers all year for this visit, so we could assemble those zig-zaggy chains with gum wrappers just like the long strands of them we’d find in our aunts’ old bedrooms, but they never came out quite the same. We helped ourselves to my Grandma’s jewels (all junk), make-up, perfume (Jean Nate), and talcum powder (the kind with the fluffy powder puff), snuck extra sodas and Christmas cookies when the grown-ups weren’t looking, opened a continual rush of gifts as more relatives arrived on the scene throughout the day, and ended the evening with a very large game of poker—even the kids got involved.
So many people stayed at my grandparent’s house that those who traveled the farthest were graced with the few beds. Since we came from relatively nearby, we were always relegated to shivering in sleeping bags on the cold floor. My father invariably slept on my grandfather’s recliner and my mother on the couch. The next day dawned too soon, as all the young children were up and ready to go before the sun rose. I think some of those parents regretted that early hour, what with the consumption of Jack Daniels and Wild Turkey the previous night.
The party continued on for another day and then we returned home, tired, spent, and feeling a little blue that Christmas was so very far away.
My grandmother, who I cherished, outlasted my grandfather by several years, passing away shortly before Christmas about ten years ago, thus ending a tradition that expanded exponentially as my siblings, cousins and I married and added to our own families over the years—we’d long outgrown the available space, for sure. I suppose this is how the baton is passed on to each generation to pick up with their own traditions and allow them to blossom and grow over the years. Which makes me thankful for our own many wonderful holiday memories, including, and perhaps especially, when things don’t end up quite as planned.
May you all enjoy a healthy, happy and safe holiday!
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