Archive for December, 2010

The Sign Christmas Is Here

Remember when you were a little kid and you were served morsels of anticipation, bit-by-bit, until Christmas arrived?  That’s how it is for me here in Coupeville at Christmastime.  The small town charm really comes to life this time of year.  First you’ll see a wreath or two; you’ll notice the guys running the Christmas lights down the pier; then the garlands appear around the shops on Front Street; the plywood snow people start lining Main Street, nearly every pole assigned their own frosty; glittery must haves begin to fill the windows down at Aqua; garlands line the windows of  Deb’s shops and those along Front Street; eggnog lattes pop up on Local Grown’s menu; Beth over at bayleaf serves up good cheer in the way of bubbly.   Perfect they are, but still not the sign I’ve come to rely on; the one that says Christmas is here.

At the beginning of December I received a festive green envelope; my name handwritten on the front right under Special Invitation, but there was no return address.   I adore snail mail, especially the mysterious kind.    Perhaps inside I would find my Special Invitation was to the first Christmas open house of the season.  Walking home from my mail box, a number of gala events, sweet as sugar plums, danced in my head.   I’d have to buy something new to wear.   A bottle of bubbly from bayleaf would be the perfect gift.   This is what Christmas is all about – friends gathering together to share good cheer.  Once home, I pulled  up my calendar; ready to mark the evening.  I opened the festive envelope with my handwritten name on the front.

Across the front of the holiday greeting card I read SPECIAL INVITATION !  I opened to card with Ho, Ho, Ho anticipation.   What the…?

You may not have a hearing problem!  It could be excess earwax.  See for yourself with a FREE video otoscopic inspection of your ears.  Are you hearing, but not understanding certain words? To that I say: it depends on how many syllables the words contain.  Are you frequently asking people to repeat themselves? To that I say:  What?  Are you having difficulty hearing on the phone? To that I say: Only if the person on the other end is asking for money.    I turned the card over and over in my hands as if magically an invitation to a party would appear, but it didn’t.

The hard coal (yes, coal) fact the envelope didn’t hold an invitation to a Christmas open house was disheartening, but since I live sans TV, I’ll admit: tiny camera…free…watch a “guided tour” of your ear canal on a TV monitor brought back fond memories of “must see” TV.   My call to the “RSVP” number at the Miracle Ear Hearing Aid Center was the final blow.  “No,” I was emphatically told by Miss Holiday Humbug, “neither Santa nor any of his elves would be performing the procedure.” “What?” I asked.    Miss Holiday Humbug repeated herself.   “What?” I asked again.  I knew my hearing was fine when I heard the click on the other end of the phone.

So, you’re probably wondering what the sign is that tells me Christmas is here.  Yes, you are.   I’m happy to say I found it today, leaned against my front door, wrapped in plain brown paper and hermetically sealed with packing tape.  As of today, Christmas is officially here.   Now, you know there’s going to be a sharp left turn coming up, so fasten your seat belt, and you anagram geeks, Will Shortz wannabes get pen and paper ready…this is a difficult one to solve:

On a wintry night, many, many, many years ago, a wise ass man bearing a gift came to my home.  No, it wasn’t frankincense, myrrh or gold.  My old friend Bob was the wise ass man bearing the gift (and now, his good spouse Joe plays a wise ass man, too).  Right here, I’d like to say: if the third wise ass man is out there bearing gold (a lot of gold) contact me.

One Christmas my mother handed down her circa 1940’s ivy strewn NOEL candle holders.  In her honor, I would put them out every Christmas.  (Oh, you anagram geeks have figured it out, haven’t you.)   After a few rounds of Scotch, Bob had a ho, ho, ho, ha, ha, ha moment and, on the sly, switched my NOEL to read LEON.   Quick as I am, I didn’t notice this until it was time to take the Christmas decorations down a week later.   Although my life is blessed with many funny folks, it wasn’t hard to know whose lapel should bear the  funny bone prize.  It was denied, of course.  Where’s the fun in admission?  Game on.  Shortly after Bob visited the following Christmas, I found a LEON ornament hiding on the Christmas tree.  It took me far less time than a game of Clue to put two and two together.   It wasn’t Colonel Mustard, it was Bob who LEON’d me the first time.  Checkmate.  Since that very first LEON, LEON has shown up in various places and in a variety of ways – ornaments, by train, tucked in drawers, made of plastic, wood; coated with silver (but not enough to sell for a profit), filigree and paisley to name a few, but there was one LEON enjoyed by my entire neighborhood.

One morning, after another Christmas open house and a healthy dose of those ha, ha, ha rounds of Scotch, my doorbell rang; way too early.   On my porch stood several of my neighbors, more standing across the street.   I lived in California at the time where the sun shines in December.  I shielded my Merry Merlot soaked eyes and made my way outside.  “Where are our Christmas cookies?  And who’s LEON?  Is he your new beau?”  On my porch stood gold letters a good foot plus high announcing LEON.   I could have cut the visit short and said LEON was my new beau, but the only LEON I could think of at the time was Spinks.   Rather than explain the LEON phenomenon, I diverted their attention with bags of Christmas cookies; went inside and made the call to Bob.  Ho, ho, ho, ha, ha, ha.

For some folks the sign of Christmas is the star in the east.  For me, the sign of Christmas will always be the arrival of LEON.  Bob and Joe, thanks  for sending me  the Sign.

Here’s a hint for you anagram novices and my dyslexic friends who have yet to solve the puzzle:  LEON = NOEL or LONE, but that’s not funny; neither is LENO.


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I started this post the day after Thanksgiving, but I’ve been on the move.  It’s been a full two weeks for me, but I wanted to share with you Part 2 of Winter Driving 101 and a smidge of the Thanksgiving gathering.  Originally, I thought I’d entertain you with pumpkin pie making photos – you know the kind of high tech photos you see at those great sites like  The Pioneer Woman or Smitten Kitchen and then I realized; hey, this is me. I don’t do high tech or fancy.

So, let’s take a look at Winter Driving 101, Part 2.  In my last post I left off with my car sliding down the drive and leaning dramatically to my side, pulling my big girl boots on and walking up to the road to catch the bus (that never came); coming back home to bake cookies and drink mulled wine while I waited for Spring and the inevitable thaw.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait that long.  Good friend, DZ and her lovely sister, Fabienne, returned to town and came to my rescue.  They came to my door filled with verve and determination.  Oh, there was a bit of a twinkle in their eyes and I do believe they were holding back full on guffaws to spare me added embarrassment when they saw my latest predicament.  DZ didn’t waste any time, jumping in my old Eddie Bauer Limited Edition Explorer, throwing it into reverse and pulling it out of the spin I left it  in.  DZ then proceeded to power it up the drive to the top.  I was impressed.

We then proceeded down the road to Rosehip farm for produce.  On the way, DZ showed me how to drive in snow (as if that’s going to happen).  She showed me how to brake, pull over and check the road with my boots, and recommended driving down the middle of the road when no one else was around.  My first question:

“What do I do if I have to slam on my brakes?”

“You don’t slam on your brakes in snow.”

“But what if I’m going to hit another car?”

“Then find a bush or slowly drive off the side of the road, level of course, until you stop.  There will be less damage to your car.  But you never slam on your brakes in snow.”

The whole time DZ was talking I was remembering how badly things went for me on skis when I was 16.  You can feel the sharp left turn, can’t you?  Here we go.

When I was 16 I went skiing for the first time.  Since that was somewhere around the dawn of time, the skis were a good 18 feet long and there were no fancy ski boots that automatically released to save your legs in case of a severe fall, and who needed goggles to protect their eyes.  No, this was hardcore skiing.  So I’m standing in line for the rope tow.  You youngsters probably don’t know what a rope tow is.  Ask your parents.   Oh, God, you may have to ask your grandparents.  Now I’m in line to go up the hill, but no one has taken the time to teach me how to grab on to the rope tow, not to mention what to do while I’m on it, or – and here’s the most important wedge of knowledge that would have saved lives – how to let go of the rope tow.  I watched the others grab on and noticed you really had to grip that rope and there was  a healthy lurch that went along with it.  I watched how their skis stayed right in the grooves made by the other skiers who had enjoyed their ride up the hill that day.  But I couldn’t see their release when they got to the top.  That was a mistake.

I might add here that I looked marvelous in my powder blue ski pants and my cream-colored sweater with matching knit  headband.   Eyeliner and lip gloss in place, I was ready to impress.   Oh, my turn.   Did I mention you have to hold on to your ski poles, too?   Okay, ski poles are in place…my knees are bent…my heart is in my throat…I grab the rope, lurch, lurching…hey, I’m doing it.  I’m going up the hill…and I’m going up higher and higher…I don’t want to go higher and higher because I have no idea how to ski down.  I decided right then and there it was time to release the rope tow.   I had to swing my right ski out, followed by my left ski (all 18 feet of it), while I planted my ski poles into the powdery white stuff.    Sounds simple enough.  It wasn’t.  I threw my right leg out and it landed at some ridiculously precarious angle.  I planted one of my ski poles and swung my left leg out…oh, that didn’t work out the way I thought it would.  My right ski had a mind of its own and it took out the skier behind me, who took out the skier behind him, who took…yes, I wiped out the entire rope tow line behind me.  It was like one of those great Japanese domino events, but no one was cheering.  Somehow I stayed standing during the pileup.  “Sorry.”   Now all I had to do was ski to the bottom of the hill.  Have you ever heard of moguls?  Moguls make skiing exciting.  I started down the hill, slowly (tips of skis together), as I watched the rope tow crowd rally from the falling domino fiasco.  I started picking up speed (it’s all relative, people) and I hit a mogul.  The next thing I knew my skis had left the ground.  I felt my skis cross in front of me and whack both of my knees and then I was sliding down the hill on my face with my skis in the form of an X trailing behind me.  As a novice skier even I knew this was not good.

Eventually, I stopped sliding, once I reached the bottom of the hill and right at the feet of a really cute surfer looking guy.  “Bitchin’,” he said.    I pulled off my skis and tucked them along with my ski poles under my arm and trudged back to the cabin where we were staying.  It was a long , painful walk.  On the way back, I realized I was just like that Olympic skier – you know the one (if you’re as old as I am); the poor shmuck ABC  sports always showed as he wiped out on the downhill race; “the agony of defeat” voice over riding on the back of his skis.   It happens.   However, my cream-colored knit headband was still in place.  I reached into my ski pants pocket and pulled out my lip gloss and gave my lips a new coat.  “If you can’t do good, look good,” my friend Tia always said.  But I digress.

If La Nina brings a snowy winter, I’ve got a feeling I’m going to get to know the IT bus drivers really well this winter.  When we got back to my place, DZ pulled her Prius down the road in front of the house (where I had started out the day before).   When it was time for DZ and Fabienne to leave, DZ wasn’t able to drive her four wheelin’ Prius up my drive either, but she left some very fancy tire tracks.Back at my door, DZ told me she couldn’t get up the drive and asked if she could borrow my car to get home.   I couldn’t help but give her the same smile that greeted me just hours earlier.  “But of course.”

Peggy and Ralph, two of the best in the way of good neighboring, were the lucky ones to pick me up the next day and take me into town with them for the Coupeville Community Thanksgiving Dinner over at the Rec Hall.  I’d say a good 200 townspeople showed up to partake of turkey and all the fixins’.   Denis Hill, better known for his amazing panoramic photos (check them out at http://www.whidbeypanoramas.com) was one of the turkey carvers.  That’s Denis with the knife.  Although it looks like it in the photo, I’m happy to say that Denis wasn’t carving his other hand.   And notice that Denis is not the subject in focus…I had my eye on the turkey.

My dentist, Dr. Julie Grove, who headed up the event is pictured here making sure the turkeys were edible.  I’m reticent to make any glib remarks since Dr. Julie might get wind of this post.  Best not to irritate the woman who may drill on my teeth some day.

At the end of the event, which by the way, was like being with 200 hundred relatives that all got along with each other, DZ, Fabienne and Jay headed over to my place to put chains on DZ’s car so she could get up my drive.  I did what I do best…I went inside and heated up the mulled wine.

Oh, by the way, I never went skiing again.

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