As usual, I came home
TicTac this year with entirely too many new sweaters crammed into my
suitcase. (Eight of them, if I'm counting correctly: dark green, light
green, dark pink, light pink, gray, black, red and an ugly Christmas
tree turtleneck that I've already given to the Goodwill.) As usual, I
have nobody to blame for this wretched excess but myself: my family
learned long ago that giving me a sweater is a complete waste of time
and wrapping paper. I may wear it once, just to be polite -- for the
photo opportunities, if nothing else -- but the moment I get home it is
immediately relegated to the back of the closet, along with all of the
other climate-inappropriate clothing I've accumulated since moving to
California: the suede-and-fur gloves from my ex-husband, the Eddie
Bauer parka that probably cost more than my last automobile, the
microwaveable wool socks I've never even removed from the cellophane,
and -- most guilt-inducingly of all -- the mountain of sweaters from
TicTac Trips Past, most of which I've purchased myself. The sad fact of
the matter is that a sweaty pre-menopausal woman simply cannot wear
sweaters on a regular basis ... especially
if she is a sweaty
pre-menopausal woman living in the temperate climes of the East Bay. I
know this, and I accept this, and for 355 days out of the year I'm
perfectly OK with this. But a weird unreasonable sickness seems to wash
over me, the minute I land in the frigid Pacific Northwest each
December. It's as though I'm possessed by The Spirit of Inappropriate
Impulse Shopping, and it wants to go to Fred Meyer RIGHT NOW. Let's
go buy some SWEATERS! it
shrieks. Lots and lots of
pretty SWEATERS! One SWEATER for every day of the WEEK!
The next thing I know
I'm posing in front of a Christmas tree, perspiring in cashmere again.
As usual, somebody fell
tragically ill on Christmas Day. This year it was Daughter #1, and we
never even saw it coming. One minute she was playing Santa -- handing
out presents to her brother and her sister and her amicably divorced
parents, her usual cheerful perky Christmas Morning Elf-Self -- and the
next minute she was curled in a pathetic fetal lump on the living room
sofa, moaning that she "hurt all over." By 11 a.m. she was sound asleep
in her brother's bedroom. By midafternoon her fever was nearing thermal
meltdown. When dinnertime rolled around, she completely blew off her
Dad's barbecued turkey and green bean casserole: she didn't even want
any pumpkin pie. (That's when we knew for sure she wasn't playing
When we got back to her house
that night, she went
directly to bed and slept straight through the night, while I sat in
the guest room down the hall and quietly read back-issues of People
Magazine. She was still asleep when I left for the airport the
following day. I gave her a kiss on her hot damp forehead -- it was
like planting my lips on an overheated carburetor -- and told her to
get well soon. Anguished, she mumbled something about "ruining
Christmas for everybody."
Don't be silly, I said.
Getting sick is part of the tradition.
As usual, the things I
about the most were the things that turned out the best. The
World's Cutest Nephew loved his gingerbread house. My Dad and Valerie
were not only expecting us this year -- that hasn't always been
as you may recall -- but Dad was actually wearing a Christmas tie and a
Santa hat when he opened the door. Plus I had plenty of clean underwear
this trip, I slept like a baby every single night, even without my
husband laying next to me, AND
I managed to almost
completely avoid the dangerous subjects of politics, weight and
inappropriate eye makeup.
As usual, it was the gifts
on my Amazon Wish List that meant the most. My son's senior
framed in mahogany ... a lighthouse lamp from Kacie ... an abalone
bracelet from Jaymi, which hasn't left my wrist since Christmas
And -- as usual -- it was the
made this year's Christmas trip memorable. Coffee with my mother. Lunch
with my children. Cookies with my nephew. Singing in the car. Hugging
my dad. Watching my ex-husband open the special photo album I made for
him. Driving around TicTac with Kyle. Shopping at the mall with Jaymi.
Kacie laying her head on my shoulder on Christmas Eve, just like she
used to do when she was a little girl. These are the memories that
resonate most clearly in my heart as I putter around the apartment this
morning, finishing the last of my unpacking, signalling the official
end of yet another Christmas in TicTac.
Now if only I could
figure out what the heck I'm going to do with EIGHT new sweaters.
to throw a rock?