Tag Archives: Christmas

A Disaster Waiting to Happen

Antique stereocard image of Santa captured by children, 1897

The holidays are piled up at the end of the year like an obstacle course with a high potential for causing injury, and I approach them as such. When January 2 comes around and I discover that we’ve survived them all relatively intact, I cross myself and breathe the proverbial sigh.

Here in the United States, the whole mess begins with Halloween. This year, thankfully, no one was lost in the corn maze or sliced off a finger while carving pumpkins, and no one bit into a razor blade hidden within a looted chocolate. I remember how terrified I was of this happening to me circa 1979.

It wasn’t long after this past Halloween, however, that I was hit from behind while driving to work. I escaped injury and any liability for the accident but my little commuter-mobile went into the shop for more than a week and over $3,500 in repairs.

This year we celebrated Thanksgiving at our home with my parents and my sister and her family. It was crowded but warm. The bird was roasted to perfection and everything was going along like a holiday card until my daughter decided to chip her (permanent) front tooth on, of all things, a bongo drum. There were tears, tears, tears, but after a few days and a trip to the dentist all was well again.

During this quiet but vaguely threatening lull that separates Thanksgiving from Christmas, we’ve so far been spared any really horrible disasters. My son did frighten himself into a two-day bout of insomnia by reading Hound of the Baskervilles, and the cat has launched an encore performance of her role as vomit-artist. But we got the tree into the house and decorated it without incident.

If our luck holds, we’ll pass under the razor wire of Christmas Eve with nothing more than a few scratches and emerge a week later from New Year’s Day with little worse than a headache. At any rate, I’m signing off for the remainder of 2013. I’ll be back again in January, if I’m still living.

Thanks for reading, and happy holidays.

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Marginalia. no.315

Each toy seems prologue to some great amiss

~ Shakespeare, Hamlet IV,v

Christmas season can feel that way when you have more than half a dozen nieces and nephews to buy gifts for, not to mention children of your own, and your checking account plummets with the mercury.

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New Year’s Notes

I took some time off work and tried not to look at screens. I looked, instead, at people, at books, at the rather impressive rain, at various animals, plants and things, and at the moon through my son’s new telescope, which was a Christmas gift. How sad it would be if we suddenly had no moon.

In the eighteenth-century, William Herschel thought the moon’s craters might be ring-shaped cities. In The First Men in the Moon (1901), H.G. Wells imagined the craters were huge mechanical doors to an oxygen-rich interior where Selenites lived safe from the absolute zero of night on the surface. It’s been cold on the surface here too. There was ice in the grass this morning.

My daughter has assigned names to all the neighborhood cats. She’s made a field guide with pictures of each. There’s Sam and Jenny, Orange Soda and Orange Cream, White William and Cinnamon, others too. The neighborhood cat she admires most is called Alice Featherlegs. Alice is a short hair, dirty blonde, a bit chubby, eager to roll on her back for a belly scratch.

In old Rome a soothsayer that read omens by the behavior of birds was called an auspex (a haruspex read the livers of sacrificed animals). Today when we say that a moment is ‘ausipicious,’ we mean, without quite meaning it, that the bird-sign is favorable. My daughter reads omens by cat-sign. If she gets a “cattish feeling” and then Alice Featherlegs appears, it’s a very special day and wonderful things might happen. She might get a letter in the mail, or a gift, or dessert after dinner.

Assuming I don’t surprise myself by dying before September, this is the year I will turn forty. I’ve started it with a head cold. This put a damper on any New Year’s Eve plans we might have cooked up, but the wife and I kept vigil until the required hour and I sipped a bit of medicinal scotch to bury the old year and bless the new. I’m feeling a bit better now.

I don’t often make New Year’s resolutions, but this year I’ve resolved to read less. According to my notes, I read more than seventy books in 2012. Some people read more than that, but it sounds like a lot to me and, frankly, not all the books that I read were worth it. If I read a little less this year I might have time to think a little more. I might also have more time for re-reading, which I’ve decided doesn’t technically count.


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