OMG, thank You for true friends. They get us. They pray for us. And when holiday craziness hits, they will meet us at the mall for cookies (buy six, get one free) and diet Pepsi.
On our first outing, my husband eyed me. “Some people need 12 hours to find their way out.”
“Ha!” I say.
But that’s all I can say. Maybe, I’ll exit before Thanksgiving. Or Christmas?
Like my mother before me, I possess zero sense of direction. Unfortunately, our daughter inherited something of our deficiency.
Her husband and mine took over. “No way are these kids getting lost with you.”
His brother backed away. “Grandma’s trying get rid of us!”
The men hurried the kids into the maze. Onlookers, fingers poised to dial 911, glared at my daughter and me.
The maze looked friendlier. I have always liked rustling cornfields, with thousands of leafy stalks whispering autumn secrets. Once we entered, though, other participants vanished. Where, exactly, were we?
My daughter said, “Let’s retrace our steps. We went this way, didn’t we?”
At the next intersection, I boldly pointed the way. “We came from this direction.”
“You think so?”
Cornstalks moaned with the wind. My skin prickled, but I summoned the confident tone that faked me through years of parenting. “As long as we see the barn, we’re fine.”
Suddenly, from the opposite direction, it pounced on us like a daytime goblin.
My daughter, who once hitchhiked a Mexican highway without fear, halted, eyes wide.
I checked my phone’s GPS.
“Recalculating …” The GPS Lady snickered. “Recalcu — bwahahaha!”
My daughter’s GPS Lady joined in. They loved the corn maze.
Us? Not so much.
Even if we never returned to eat pumpkin pie. (Sniff.)
Finally, my daughter straightened her shoulders. “We’re going about this all wrong.”
“Sure. Let’s walk away from the barn. At the next fork, close your eyes. Pick a path, any path. At the next one, I’ll do the same.”
“Right! That always works with interstate ramps.”
We found an exit. Before relief gave way to gloating, the guys emerged from another.
“Grandpa and I figured the way out from the sun’s angles!” one grandson crowed. “Did you do that, Grandma?”
“You used a GPS.” My husband sounded as if we were running a Ponzi scheme.
No, we had used our own special system, based on navigational instincts those guys couldn’t begin to understand.
My mother would have been proud.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever experienced a corn maze adventure?
October’s traditional holidays — Columbus Day and Halloween — have recently come under fire. The Internet graciously supplies us with alternatives, so now we can venerate these dehydrated fruits? — vegetables? — this month.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to celebrate in July, when tomatoes truly become one in spirit with plump, red humans who also roast and wrinkle in blazing sunshine?
October is also Class Reunion Month. However, we do not have to begin emergency diets, because has anybody ever held a class reunion in October?
But wait just one politically correct moment. Does this imply people who are not bald can’t be free on October 14? Sorry, but I doubt mass servitude of hairy people will fly as a holiday. Not even with Hallmark.
Neither do I celebrate Reptile Awareness Day (October 21). Are we supposed to kiss a crocodile? Snuggle with snakes? Once a family in my town discovered their new home’s previous owner had bequeathed them his pet python, who popped out of heating ducts to say hello.
I lived a half mile away. That’s as close to reptile awareness as I want to get.
If anyone wants to take up a better cause, I suggest he lobby to remove the bad-mood stigma from my favorite month.
True, our stressed society could benefit from the International Moment of Frustration Scream Day on October 12, releasing pent-up feelings toward TV political coverage, souped-up leaf blowers and motorists who honk at stoplights. Following up with National Kick Butt Day on the 13th might, paradoxically, prove a bottomless delight.
But October has gone overboard with National Grouch Day (the 15th) and Cranky Coworkers Day (the 27th). It has even been chosen as National Sarcastic Awareness Month. Gre-e-eat. We’re supposed to cheer every 16-year-old who rolls her eyes? Maybe even crown Miss Supreme Sarcasm?
We also are expected to choose a Menopause Queen to celebrate World Menopause Day on October 18. Riding a parade float, she and her royal court will throw plates at cowering crowds while a band plays “We’re Having a Heat Wave” and hot-flash drill teams fan each other with flags.
October used to be a nice, simple month.
I’d hoped November would improve the holiday outlook. But, no. November begins with Plan Your Epitaph Day (November 2). I see that on the 19th, we are to celebrate Have a Bad Day Day.
How about we skip ’em all?
Instead, let’s celebrate Thanksgiving every day!
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite way to celebrate October?
I do see her point, however. August boasts no holidays — not even a fake holiday like St. Patrick’s Day. Nobody throws big parties on the eve of August 1, as they do in January.
The hotter the weather, the more we chill. Dressing up is wearing matched right and left flip-flops. Days pass before we turn the calendar page.
When we do, though, a tiny tadpole of awareness wiggles into our days.
It’s August. Something’s different.
August presents an end-of-summer reality check. I purchased a “miracle” swimsuit in May. Now I realize the only miracle is that I paid big bucks for it.
August affects mothers in peculiar ways. They buy pencil boxes, though no one in human history has ever proved pencil boxes serve a useful purpose. Kids talk Mom into buying cool new backpacks, though 23 uncool backpacks languish at home.
Mothers also obsess about imminent changes in schedules: “Go to bed now so you’ll be ready when school starts.” My mother, who had five kids, did this. As of August 1, we went to bed at 4:00 p.m.
Even the sun listens to Mom and retires earlier in August. Yet during daytime, it unfurls golden rays as if leading an everlasting summer, ticker-tape parade. While eating home-grown, ice-cold watermelon in the backyard, we experience a different kind of reality check:
It’s been a great summer.
By August, every able-bodied person in the Midwest has ridden a Ferris wheel and consumed a warm, crisp elephant ear.
While still recovering from that gathering of DNA-related strangers known as a family reunion, we rendezvoused with cousins who long ago sneaked into drive-ins with us. We kissed sweet baby kin’s brand-new cheeks and gave grandmas and grandpas a smile.
In August, homeowners stop vying for the Yard of the Year. Instead, we concede the grand champion ribbon to God for His spectacular pastures of goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace and Sweet Williams.
He treats us to evening concerts by cicada choirs that sing their best in August. Fireflies, now veteran presenters, perform spectacular light shows at dusk with few technical glitches.
Whether we own farms or only farmers’ tans, the ripe cornucopia of gardens, tasseled cornfields and leafy rows of soybeans reassure us: After harvest, we will celebrate with plenty of food on our tables.
All during August — the not-so-special month.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What do you like best about August?
Me? I might wow observers, but for different reasons: my ratty bathrobe and jammies. What else would you expect of a grandma writer juggling Christmas?
What’s that? Your Creator made you to be strictly decorative?
I told my husband a similar story. A little tired of my ratty bathrobe, he didn’t think so.
However, when Dr. Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, met your ancestors in 1828, he brought several home. Before long, your forbearers became wildly popular.
Poinsie, how did you become an important floral symbol of Christmas? Not that the Bethlehem stable was landscaped with holly or mistletoe. Jesus probably didn’t even have a Christmas tree.
Does it make sense, though, that Americans celebrate a winter holiday with a tropical plant that hates the cold more than Midwestern snowbirds? If you had your choice, Poinsie, would you have stayed in Mexico, where you and your kin reach tree size?
I thought so. For a long time, you’ve lived out of your comfort zone. Still, you strut your colorful stuff every Christmas and brighten the holiday for us all.
Until one minute after midnight, December 26, when you wilt a little. A lot, actually.
Admittedly, we all wilt, and wrinkles eventually find us. But after one grand entrance during Christmas, you begin making demands. If I cherish any notion that you will bloom again, the light must be just so. The temperatures must be just so. At night, you like to be moved to a cooler area. I must ensure your beauty sleep in complete darkness from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. from October through December. Even headlights shining through shades can disturb your blooming.
You do remember, don’t you, Poinsie, why I keep pet plants instead of pet animals? Let me remind you: because plants don’t bark or lick. And they’re easier to care for.
I used to coddle fussy poinsettias. I lined windows with scraggly, leaf-shedding plants. I watered and fed. I plucked. I pampered. I encouraged.
But they wilted all the more
Finally, I tossed them all out behind the garage. Every. Single. One.
Now don’t you think you could act a little less fussy?
What do you mean, I could be less demanding, too? I don’t ask for much. Just my favorite snowman coffee mug with my brand of coffee. My solo bathroom. My schedule. My music. My hot-food fetish fulfilled, though I have to re-microwave my plate three times during supper.
Poinsie, you’re saying I should demand less?
Now, you’re just meddling. Flowers should be seen and not heard.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you had a heart-to-heart with a plant lately? Did it mess with your life, too?
Have you ever worked the night shift?
Years ago, I waitressed from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m. at a Denny’s Restaurant in Oregon.
I didn’t see angels.
As a nursing home aide, I sometimes drew night shifts around holidays. Ghosts wandered dim hallways, one hunting chickens to fry for threshing crews who had labored 60 years before.
I didn’t see angels.
As a young mother, I frequently drew the night shift. My babies wailed, slimed, puked, and worse.
No angels anywhere. I couldn’t even see my shift’s end.
I should have realized that millions throughout the ages have worked lonesome wee hours, too. Take Joseph, a first-century carpenter. When busy, practical Joseph worked night shifts, angels never appeared.
Not until his fiancée told him she was pregnant — and that God was her Child’s Father.
No amount of coffee could clear her head. Or his.
No cutesy cherub, that other-worldly being was so impressive that Joseph bucked family and culture. He married the girl who generated snickers wherever she went.
“What are you thinking, Joseph?” His friends rolled their eyes.
He wasn’t thinking. He was listening to an angel.
When the baby was born, did the shepherds’ arrival mean as much to Joseph as Mary?
For angels had invaded their night shift, too — a huge choir who lit up the sky like Vegas, singing about God’s peace and goodwill through Baby Jesus.
Their story convinced Joseph that Jesus was the Messiah. The stepfather continued to listen to angels.
Even when one instructed him to take his family to Egypt because a king wanted Jesus dead. Even when, after finally adjusting to their new life, an angel told Joseph to return to Israel.
All during night shift.
I rarely work overnight hours now, but Denny’s servers do. Nurses, doctors, and many others: stock clerks, factory workers and truck drivers.
Those caring for sick children and elderly parents.
Many who battle demons of loneliness and misery throughout the night shift.
Few expect to see angels.
But the Bethlehem angels’ song still echoes, announcing Jesus, God’s Gift who offers peace to everyone — especially those laboring in darkness. Those stuck with tough hours. Those who have drawn life’s short straws.
Our Extraordinary Ordinary: When the angels show up, will we listen?
Yes, Thanksgiving has passed. Though the holiday virus has infected my mental workings, I’m not out of touch with reality yet. After all, it’s only December 1.
No wonder my gas company turned off the heat. …
Back to the original subject. Every year we celebrate Christmas at Thanksgiving. At Halloween, even. Yet, doesn’t Thanksgiving at Christmas make more sense than Black Friday? Let’s start a new trend! I’ll go first:
- I appreciate energetic individuals who decorate their homes with flair during Advent. Their stunning light displays delight my grandchildren without this all-thumbs grandma hammering a single thumb.
- Blessed are the procrastinators who, like me, have not removed pumpkins from their porches. The same people leave their Christmas lights up until July. You have no idea how you spread good cheer to me and others who will show up two months late for our own funerals.
- I’m also thankful for online Christmas shopping, as my grinchy feet have nixed walking marathons in malls and stores. What a boon for me and for others with cranky, uncooperative body parts; cranky, uncooperative children; or cranky, uncooperative spouses.
- Yet, I am thankful that my feet, in their more magnanimous moods, have allowed some shopping trips. Miss the opportunity to sing along with background carols? Never! Miss people-watching at the most interesting time of the year? Perish the thought!
- Nasty store clerks are legendary; yet yesterday, I encountered one who, amid coupon craziness, promised me the best deal possible — and delivered.
- On the receiving end of gift-giving, I am thankful my husband has developed excellent judgment in selecting presents. The past few decades, I have received nothing like one of his early gifts: a dried-blowfish lamp brought back from Florida.
- Nor have friends given me a Santa Yoda yard ornament or singing deer head. One friend, whose sister gave her a plunger-waving snowman that asks restroom guests what they’re doing, has never re-gifted me with him. For that I am deeply grateful.
- Also for commercials on TV that do not revolve around spending buckets of money for Christmas. Both of them.
- Finally, for my car clock that ignores the time change. While an initial glance at it strikes me with panic — “I’m an hour late!” — I savor the rush of relief when I realize I’m not.
Hubby threatens to change the clock. Sure, it gives a false sense of security. But it allows me to chill.
Oh, well. There’s still plenty of time to celebrate Thanksgiving this December.
With every “Merry Christmas!” I’ll remember and thank the One whose birthday it is.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How do you celebrate Thanksgiving at Christmas?