Tag Archives: Christmas

To catch a fugitive: Christmas Edition

30 Dec

Image source: google images

My sister lives about 30 minutes from my parents, so our tradition is to drive up and have dinner with her family on Christmas Eve. This year was no exception and it was almost 9pm when we pulled out of her driveway to return to my parents’ for the night.

Ten minutes later we were stopped at a red light near Briarwood Mall. Through the intersection, we saw three cars, all parked in weird places and at odd angles. Steam rose from the hood of the third car. “Do you suppose there’s been an accident?” my mom asked.

We were still puzzling it out when the third car suddenly reversed and peeled out, flying toward the mall and away from the accident at a break-neck pace. “Do you think he’s fleeing the scene?” my dad asked from the backseat.

That was the only nudge my mom needed to zip through the light and investigate. She pulled through the intersection, pausing next to the remaining car, where a man was standing outside it on his phone, looking incredulous. “Did that guy hit you?” my mom called out to him.

The guy confirmed that he had. “And did he just take off?” my mom continued. Again, the guy nodded. “Yeah – he just hit me and left. Can you believe that?”

“I’ll see if I can get him,” my mom told him, goosing her Prius into  action. Had she owned a police light, she would’ve rolled her window down and smacked it on the roof. We sped into the Briarwood complex, the parking lot and surrounding streets deserted from the earlier crush of shoppers.

As we started winding our way along the street circling the mall, something caught my mom’s eye off to the side. There, parked at a drive-thru bank, was a car with its lights off, steam still rising from its hood. “That’s him!” she yelled, cutting a wide, obvious u-turn to circle back to the bank.

Time-out as we assess my mom’s performance as a private eye for a moment:

  • Pros: eagle eye, fearlessness
  • Cons: discretion, stealth

No sooner had we pulled into the bank parking lot than the “perp” hopped back in his car and sped away. (He’d been standing outside it, presumably assessing the damage and calling a friend to pick him up). Mom, no shrinking violet (see pros listed above), pulled out right after him yelling for me to call the police.

What then ensued was was a game of cat and mouse as we tailed this guy all through the Briarwood parking lot, with my mom trying to get close enough for us to read the license plate, my dad trying to figure out the last four digits on the plate, and me shouting the letters we could see to the police dispatch, all as the guy did his best to lose us. It was a scene worthy of Home Alone.

Finally the guy DID manage to lose us – mainly because I urged my mom to stop matching his speed. (Sorry, mom!) We’d only been able to identify three of the seven digits for the police, but they also had the make/model and year of the vehicle, so between that and the fact that his radiator was probably out of fluid and would grind the car to a halt soon, they seemed fairly confident they’d find him.

“If only you guys had let me really chase him, we could’ve nailed his ass,” Mom sighed.

“Well, if you’d been driving my van, we could’ve used my binoculars to get the plate without needing to chase him,” Dad sighed.

At that I had to laugh, imagining the call the police would’ve received about US if my parents had gotten their Christmas wishes:

Image Source: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_nkdggYHwcLc/S2nAWRTFJ3I/AAAAAAAAAuE/hvEaRCQoHMY/s320/prius2042.JPG

“I’d like to report a Prius driving recklessly in the Briarwood parking lot. It’s going about 60 mph, ignoring the pavement markers. It appears to be driven by two white-haired grandparents – and one of them seems to be trying to birdwatch!” 

 

However you spent YOUR Christmas, I hope it was memorable! 

‘Tis the Beacon for the Season

24 Dec

Image Source: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-15op1DWkm5E/UME2G9SpPzI/AAAAAAAAjWM/PZ6ynAd7O4Q/s1600/small%2Bcar%2Bbig%2Bchristmas%2Btree.jpg

Shortly after arriving in Michigan, I sent my sister a photo of my parents’ Christmas tree with the message, “Can we discuss how ginormous this tree is?” It’s like the dream tree from The Nutcracker. I’m not exaggerating when I estimate it to be 16 feet tall.

As someone who has struggled in the past to drag home an 8’ tree and get it upright in a stand, I’m in awe of my septuagenarian parents for somehow managing to wrangle this beast on their own. It seriously doesn’t even look like it would fit through the door.

It’s so massive that when the UPS guy showed up with a delivery, my mom caught him squatting on the front stoop, trying to look in through the door. When she asked if she could help him he said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tree that big,” so she invited him in for a proper viewing. He was so blown away she half-expected him to return with his wife.

This 16-footer is not the tree of my childhood. No. We lived in a small Cape Cod-style home when I was growing up, tucking a tree into a corner of the living room only after we rearranged the furniture to make room for it.  My mom – for whom Christmas is THE event of the year – always lamented that she couldn’t have a bigger tree. So now she’s making up for lost time.

Oh, we still had our fair share of memorable trees when we lived on Ideal Street. (And yes, that was actually the name of our street in small-town Michigan.)

Like the year the tree fell in the middle of the night, sounding like a burglar had smashed through the picture window of the living room. Or the year I got a pellet gun for Christmas and used the ornaments for target practice while my parents were out of the room.

One of the most re-told Christmas tree stories in our family is of the year I had my driver’s permit and was allowed to drive to the tree farm. We’d left our minivan (which had a MANUAL transmission and drove like a bus) near the entrance of the property as we walked the lanes to find the perfect tree. Once we’d made our pick, my dad began sawing and sent me back to retrieve the van.

From my perspective: As a new driver, it was challenging to handle the irregular terrain while working out the nuances of shifting, so I simply worked my way up to third gear and stayed there. From my family’s perspective: After cutting the tree, they looked up to see their red minivan flying across the field to them, bouncing as it hit each raised row. I still remember the hand gestures as they tried to get me to slow down and take a more gentle approach. Didn’t happen.

One of the cool things about where my parents live now is that I can look out the window and see our past Christmas trees, propped against other trees all down through the woods leading to the river. Sure, their needles have all fallen, but they provide cover when a hawk comes flying through, looking for prey.

Objectively, it’s kind of a crazy tradition, putting a tree in the middle of your home for a few weeks each year and wrapping it in lights. And yet, they’re so much more than simply pretty decorations. These trees serve as beacons, pulling people across the miles each year to spend time with their families and friends, if even for a few days.

So Merry Christmas to you! And if you don’t have a tree up, then seek out someone who does – they’ve already invited you.

List: Acceptable Christmas Creep

11 Jan
Holidays: Creating more AwkwardFamilyPhotos than school picture day.

This is NOT the kind of Christmas Creep I’m talking about. 

I’m squarely in the camp that thinks the Christmas season should begin after Thanksgiving and end on New Year’s Day. Even one day in either direction and I’ll judge you if you have holiday lights up. And every year, I get a bit more judgmental.

However, now that Christmas is behind us, there are a few things I kind of miss. I might be willing to make a few exceptions to the “acceptable holiday window” if it meant I could find these seven things outside of December:

  1. Envelopes in my mailbox that don’t contain bills. It’s like a month of freakin’ summer camp, coming home to find real mail in there every day. Now? Back to my crappy pen pals: AmEx, Pepco and Wells Fargo. Bleh. 
  2. Pretzel Chips in holiday flavors. If you haven’t tried them, you really need to hunt down a bag of dark chocolate + peppermint bits. Two words: Holy. Shit. Actually, on second thought – HORRIBLE idea. I would need a forklift to get me off the couch if these were available year-round. (Note: Being a hoarder, I currently have four bags of these in my cupboard. Which should last me until approximately Friday.) 
  3. People helping each other out. Sure, it’s great that people tend to hop in and help out the less fortunate in December, donating Christmas meals or gifts for families or volunteering at soup kitchens. But think how powerful it would be if we acted that way all year round?
  4. Trees in our living rooms. I often think, “If aliens ever landed on Earth in December, how would we explain that a fair chunk of the population has randomly chopped down trees and dragged them into their homes?”  Anything you couldn’t explain to an alien is, well, kind of awesome. 
  5. Random airings of classic holiday movies. Basically, I’m talking about National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Christmas Story. A random scene here and there is like comfort food. Although – what am I talking about? I don’t even own a television.
  6. Party lights! I don’t even put up a Christmas tree, but I do love my little string of white lights. In fact, I love their little glow more than that of the table lamp on the other end of my couch. Perhaps I should just adopt party lights as a year-round means of lighting my place. Oh wait. I did that in college. To accentuate my beer can pyramid. Nevermind. 
  7. Cinnamon Brooms at the door of Whole Foods. Definitely beats the smell of urine that usually greets me. Frankly, I think hanging even ONE cinnamon broom near the entrance would help.

That is all. Now pardon me as I go string my MLK Day lights. And decorate my Valentine’s Day tree.

Perspectives on Christmas

26 Dec

Image Source: http://www.fantom-xp.com/en_35_~_Christmas_magic_laptop_backgrounds.html

At 14 and 10, my nephews are at challenging ages to shop for. When they were younger, I could hit an easy  home run by springing for the one gift on their wish list that they were sure even Santa wouldn’t bring.

Now, however, their tastes run more expensive. While I could afford to pull the “Crazy Aunt” card and get them the electronics they’re pining after, I don’t think it’s healthy for kids to keep up with the Joneses.

So yesterday morning, while we waited for my sister and her family to arrive at my parents’ home, I looked at their wrapped gifts under the tree and had second thoughts. I imagined them opening my presents, then looking at me with the eager eyes of puppies, convinced I had hidden their “big” gifts as some sort of game.

After gifts had been opened, however, I realized my second guessing had been ridiculous. Although we tend to go a bit sparse on the gifts compared to many, we were still surrounded by much, much more than most people in other countries would even dream of.

And – silly me – I’d forgotten: they’re not *those* kinds of kids. They appreciate what they have. So if there was disappointment, they did a good job not showing it and only expressing gratitude for what they had received. Besides, once we started playing some board games together (Taboo and Smartass, to name a few), the pile of “loot” was even less important.

~~~

Meanwhile, I wondered about another Christmas scene unfolding some 500 miles away.

Continuing one of my favorite traditions, my friend Betsy and I adopted a local DC family for Christmas. It’s a win-win-win as far as I’m concerned: I can indulge my urge to do some legitimate Christmas shopping (since I tend to either make donations or shop for my nephews online), spend time with a good friend, and do something truly in the spirit of the season.

This year a mother, a father and their two-year-old son comprised the Alexandria, Virginia-based family we had adopted. The program’s coordinator emailed us their wish list and included a note, “They’re a nice young family, working hard to make ends meet.”

So three weeks ago we walked to Target and picked out some nice outfits, toys, a few things for their home and a generous gift card. The gifts looked lovely when wrapped – enough to neatly fill the space beneath a tree come Christmas morning.

Although they’re down on their luck, I hope they were able to forget it for a day – and carry with them the knowledge that they aren’t in it alone, that people really do care.

~~~

Image Source: http://bloggingtothemaxey.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/coexist1.png

Then, as I got ready for bed to put an end to my Christmas Day, I happened to see a story on the news about Mitzvah Day in Detroit.

Talk about a lovely idea… Jews and Muslims work with church groups in the Detroit area and go around playing Santa, taking toys and meals to homes of the disadvantaged. As one man on the story said, “It may be as close to World Peace as I’ll see in my lifetime.”

~~~

Today we visited some friends who are hosting an exchange student from China. This was her first American Christmas, and although the family kept things low-keyed and only gave her two small gifts and a stocking full of toiletries, she kept sorting through the contents of her stocking, examining it all with quiet incredulity. Noticing her interest in all the gifts, someone asked if her family exchanged presents for any holidays.

Nothing like this, she said. Including birthdays, this was the most she had ever received in terms of presents.

And this is a kid whose family can afford to send her to the US in an exchange program. Not exactly poor.

~~~

So… for those of you who stressed about finding the perfect gift, or who are about to buckle under the weight of January’s credit card bills, something to keep in mind for next year:

The magic of Christmas doesn’t have to cost a penny. You don’t have to have a small child in your home to find it. Just be grateful for all that you have. Share with those who don’t have as much. And I promise: you’ll feel rich. It won’t matter what you put under the tree.

[And now, in my next post, back to your regular, snarky/pithy/biting programming.]

Crust be with you. And also with you.

24 Dec

I’m mildly obsessed with efficiency, so it’s not surprising that the madness surrounding the holidays – all the people and all the lines – brings out the worst in me. Fortunately, it brings out the best in others, or I would’ve found myself in a real pickle this morning.

My parents sent me to the grocery store to pick-up a last minute item, and I located it quickly. But then, when it came time to pay, the checkout lanes were overflowing with people. I looked down at the single item in my hand and then – miraculously – spotted an opening in the self-checkout area.

I bolted for it, just beating out a slowly moving couple headed in the same direction. Triumphant, I scanned my pie crust, thinking I’d model efficiency for everyone standing behind me. Except, just after the scanner registered my item, I realized there was already a PILE of groceries sitting in the bagging area.

About that time, a guy came over and said, “Hey there! I’m almost done,” not realizing that I’d already scanned my item.

I fell over myself apologizing, as I pointed to the screen. “I’m so sorry, but I think it already scanned it…”

He looked, and – sure enough – my pie crust was among the forty other items he’d rung up. “I’ll get a cashier to come void it,” I suggested. He glanced at the line forming behind him.

“Nah,” he said. “Forget it. It’s Christmas. Your crust is on me. Merry Christmas!”

And Merry Christmas to you, sir. Or – as I’m going to start calling December 24: Crustmas.