I went shopping after work, meeting HAO and her roommate at the mall. I was in prime form, completely incapable of considering any gift for my mother without weighing all the possible subtexts and ulterior motives. HAO reported afterward that her retiring roommate had not appeared any more alarmed that evening than she ordinarily does in my presence. Possibly she had a saturation limit, beyond which any excess goes unnoticed.
During this evening of shopping, I learned about another weirdness in HAO's family. Her mater used to have Done trees. Thus HAO was no help in selecting an ornament for my father's girlfriend, who is the most obliging sort of Person about Whom One Knows Nothing Yet Is Still Compelled to Give a Gift: Sheryl a) knew what she would like and b) could describe it. She said she would like a Christmas tree ornament. I found a painted glass panda bear at the Nature Company and wanted one myself. I restrained myself only because I Forbid myself to buy myself anything while Christmas shopping. Which makes sense, generosity- and budget-wise, but doesn't make sense discovery-wise because of course it is only while Christmas shopping that I find things that I desperately crave.
Which is why I violated my Rule and bought myself a penguin from the same display. Not a dangling ornament, this is a clamper, like all my bird ornaments. (Yes, I liked bird ornaments before I became a cockatiel.) My mother's ornaments include at least two glass birds with long gossamer tails, and so when I began to buy ornaments, of course I needed ones like those. The penguin has only the perching clamp in common with the birds of paradise, however. He is sober instead of tranquil.
HAO's opinion was that these were pretty things but not Christmas tree fodder. This is when I found out that they never hung any ornament they might have made out of glitter and popsicle sticks and gobs of Elmer's. How sad. We always decorated our trees in three loosely-defined zones: the back of the tree, which couldn't be hideous because it was visible from the front door through the banisters but certainly could have less stuff and of that lesser stuff, the uglier stuff; the tippity-top of the tree, where the birds perched and our most favoritest ornaments resided in places of honor; and then the lowest tier, the Labrador-tail and exuberant-child zone. And almost the only ornaments we had that weren't breakable (or weren't easily reparable) were the sticky, clumsy ones we'd made ourselves.
Thanks to DEW, I have had my very own ornaments since I was ten. She must have taken a Christmas crafts class that year, because all of my ornaments have "dew 1978" painted on them somewhere. The only plastic ornament I have is an opaque pearly white globe with a snowy winter barn scene painted on it--painted by her; have I mentioned she is an artist and any artistic talent I have allowed to atrophy inside me I inherited from her? Plus three plaster or enamel ones, Santa, Rudolph, and a rocking horse. And my favorite, a wooden sleigh painted wood, with the little drummer boy painted on top.
"The Little Drummer Boy" was my favorite carol for many years: my mother's living room rug was that New England Cape Cod staple, the braided rag monstrosity, and I would march in the circles of colors, singing and beating my several-years-old drum (which I would drag from the garret only during Christmas). My other favorite was "Do You Hear What I Hear?" which CLH and I would act out in an annual, audience-less pageant.
Besides those two for sentiment's sake, I also love Sting's "Gabriel's Message," on the first volume of A Very Special Christmas, "Adestes Fideles," and "Silent Night."
Anyway. So the three of us wandered the mall, with me searching for Inspiration without Subterfuge, which should be an organization, helping people to find presents they don't have to analyze. I only thought of that because the cadence of that phrase reminded me of Médecins sans Frontières. HAO asked if this was just a reconnaissance mission. Yep. But I did get Sheryl's ornament and Open Me, I'm a Dog for CLH and a tiny rubber ducky for RDC; everyone else I planned to give books. Except BJWL, for whom I considered towels.
Towels are impersonal, practical, a housewarming, joint sort of gift, an excellent choice for your newly married mater and her husband. Even I couldn't interpret them to mean anything else but "I know you and your desires (what you might have of desires) so little that I have chosen this impersonal practical item that everyone needs."
But I didn't buy them then. The impulse buy has been the downfall of many.
Then I took the bus home.
Ahaha, how simple I make that sound. This is Denver, right? Okay, it's meant to be arid plains and the only reason we have all these non-native trees is that settlers, understandably, wanted the place to look like home, so instead of moving home or having fewer children so no one would have to expand past the temperate climates, they began to steal water from the Colorado River and pipe it under the Rockies. Okay, well, that didn't happen until the 1930s, but anyway. Again, okay, it's meant to be arid plains but we do still expect winter snow, right? This isn't D.C., is it, where an inch of snow reportedly shuts down the city, even though an inch of snow is perfectly reasonable in that latitude? Well, Denver's just as bad. Three inches of snow meant my bus was 35 minutes late.
When I got home and yumped [sic] into the shower, my feet were so cold that water that felt normal on the rest of me felt like it was poaching my toes. So I'm just as bad as I complained: I wore city shoes that day.
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Last modified 18 December 1997
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