The latest addition to my daily pandemic outfit is a black fleece jacket I’ve owned since 2002. You wouldn’t think something black could be this impressively ugly and, yet, here I am confirming it is. It’s incredibly pilled. It’s incredibly big. And it has these sleeves cut so wide that, in a pinch, you could probably pack a thigh in there and still have room for supper. The overall result helps the dictionary define the word “frumpy.”
And yet, several times a day now, I reach for this fleece jacket, zip it up and silently praise it for still zipping, still fleecing, still facing North.
The reason for this stylish little number is on account of another stylish little number: our new babydog Hugo, who joined our household last week. Hugo certainly wasn’t part of our plan so soon after we lost our beloved Fitz, but a very sad Tilly made this new addition the right thing to do — and, we’re learning, for us.
I’m going to date myself pretty badly here, but remember when you were a kid in school and your pencil went dull? If you were a vain child like I was, it bothered you a lot. Suddenly, your pretty cursive (Your grand capital G! Your elegant capital S!) looked mushy. The lead on the page was faded. But you had a whole paragraph to write about tectonic plates and, other than the continents themselves, that wasn’t going anywhere.
So you would look in your pencil case to discover the rest of your options were likewise subpar. Also dull. Too short. Missing an eraser or, worse, sporting the kind of eraser that, if used, enhanced rather than erased your mistake. Yes, there was your shiny Lisa Frank pencil, but she was unsharpened and would stay that way because you were saving her.
You thought about how long it had been since you’d made a trip to the pencil sharpener. You knew your teacher, Mme. Martel, didn’t like the kids who made them too often. But it had been a few days.
So, you got up, you went to the back of the classroom. And, honey, you felt yourself relax.
The other day, I was in Gucci Kroger’s adjacent liquor store to buy a bottle of bourbon.
After I made my purchase, I peeked into Gucci Kroger itself to see what was what. Low and behold, the grocery store was nearly empty, with a clear, wide path toward the cheese counter. So, I adjusted my mask. I fluffed up my grey hair. I decided, on the spot, I was going cheese shopping.
For eight glorious minutes, I picked up and sniffed wedges. I debated on crackers. I considered quince. I settled on four selections, two bloomy and soft, two hard and nutty.
After six months of soulless ClickList, it felt like the most luxurious eight minutes of 2020.
“So, we’ll watch Elf tonight?”
These words came from my husband this morning as I was blearily spreading Vegemite on toast. I blinked hard and shook my head. Was William actually asking to watch a Christmas movie? Was he planning in advance what movie we would watch?
For the thousandth time this year, I had to pinch myself to make sure I was awake.
But post-pinch, there he was with an expectant look on his face.
“So, Elf then?”
I nodded and handed him his lunch kit.
When it comes to Christmas, people tend to get separated into two camps on a number of topics. Colored lights vs. white lights. Fake tree vs. real tree. One tree vs. five trees. Kenny & Dolly Christmas vs. Mariah Carey Christmas. Turkey vs. ham vs. rib roast. Cheese ball vs. …
Never mind. Everyone agrees on a good cheese ball.
A few nights ago, we were sitting in the living room when a car pulled into our driveway unexpectedly. Seeing its lights, my instinct was to look around for a place to cower. Being part Grinch and full introvert, I never expect something good will come from an unexpected visit. If I’m honest, I always fight the worry that someone weird is going to come to the door and try to sell me something.
Soon, though, those feelings evaporated and were replaced with ones of pure affection. For it was then that the incredible Meg emerged from her car swinging a festive Christmas bag.
If you’re looking for a partner in crime to help you indulge in your every last craving this holiday season, look no further, kids, because I am your girl.
You want a candy cane? Suck away. You want gingersnap cookies? How can you not? You want a whole bloody cheese ball? Hell yes you do.
In my world, the very best thing about Christmas is the beautiful food, in large part because the very best thing about living is, again, the beautiful food. So if you feel like you need a green light? You feel like you need to blast away some guilt? You come to me.
The lights hang in the kitchen.
The red lights hang in the kitchen.
The red lights shaped like bells hang in the kitchen.
The red lights shaped like bells affixed with gold bows hang in the kitchen.
The red lights shaped like bells affixed with gold bows that sing Christmas carols hang in the kitchen.
They sing Silent Night.
They sing Feliz Navidad.
They sing Good King Wenceslas.
They can flash in tune with each carol.
They are the tackiest purchase I’ve ever made.
At the same time, they may also be the best purchase I’ve ever made.
And that is what Christmas 2020 looks like in our house.
About five months ago, our little dog Fitz decided he loved car rides. It happened suddenly one day when I was getting ready to run a stack of errands. As soon as I picked up my purse, there was Fitz at the back door in determined athletic stance. Then, he turned slightly, jutted out his chin and said, “Yes, mother, I am coming with you.”
So, I picked him up, put him in his car seat (yes, I’m that dog mum) and he immediately sat down, sniffing with satisfaction.
This incident came soon after the first time I took Fitz to University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center. Fitz hadn’t been feeling well for a while and, with the help of our incredible vet Dr. Hutchison, we got him scheduled for a brain MRI at UT. The imaging showed Fitz, just 3 years old, had a very large brain tumor, one that we subsequently had treated with radiation.
It’s the morning of the election. Outside, it’s crisp and quiet, one of those clear days where weather feels permanent, like in a kid’s drawing with a house, a tree and a long-rayed sun in the corner. It’s a little ironic as I’m pretty sure most of us feel stormy instead, wondering what’s going to happen tonight and for the rest of the month.
I’ll admit I feel unqualified to write about the election, which is why I haven’t before. While I am a citizen, I am not from this country and feel like whatever I say will be laced with the bias of my birthplace.
And yet, how do I not write about the political landscape on this day? Do I proceed with the column about pencil sharpeners I’d had in mind? Do I pretend, as I have, that I’m bumping along happily during a pandemic, surrounded daily by political turmoil that doesn’t affect me?
That’s not honest. That would be like standing on the side of the Grand Canyon and electing not to look down. I am too tired — we all are — by the division that cuts through us to pretend.
So, I was social distance walking (SDWing) with my friend Tina in our subdivision the other day. We’d just reached the halfway mark when a perky SUV slowed down beside us. I quickly recognized it was my extremely friendly neighbor, the same one who brings me fresh rhubarb every summer, the same one who shoots down mistletoe for me so I can use it as decoration for New Year’s Eve.
So, I was all smiles when he pulled up.
“Hey, Tara, you getting ready to sign up for Social Security?”
Confused, I social distance leaned in (SDLI).
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Are you getting ready to sign up for Social Security?”
Then he rubbed his hair with his hand.
And then, aghast, I realized he was joking. Joking about my head full of grey hair.