Is there any time better for derailing a self-proclaimed control freak than the holidays? I mean the Christmas holidays, and not the beachy summer vacation I’ve been coveting since we had our first cold snap, and forget about poetic hoary frost: I’m talking single digits, when the deck boards outside our back door explode as you step on them, like a 24-gauge shotgun at close range, sending a certain sensitive Labish Retriever exploding out of his skin. This year we had that cold in late November, when my Serious Down Coat was still stashed at the bottom of the cedar chest, instead of in February and March when we expect it. And then came rain and gloom but toasty temps in the 40s, which meant au revoir to the snow that had been hanging around for a couple of weeks or so, and howdy to mud for miles.
As for the header photo up there, see if you can you pick me out of lineup. Hint: sitting on the front row. Hint: in my Brownie Scout uniform. Hint: the only Brownie properly outfitted in white gloves, which any self-respecting Brownie in those days knew were required apparel for a ceremonial occasion, which class picture taking most certainly was. Now, then: can you understand why I was mortified when that picture came back?
If you’re still unsure, look again:
That’s right: neck tie askew. In 1971 you had to tie your own necktie—there were no cheater snap-style ties like modern Brownies wear. Tying a square knot in fact was something you learned to do in Brownie Scouts. I worked diligently on my square knot tying skills, and so was annoyed beyond imagining nobody pointed out to me on that day my neck tie was off center. Maybe I’m less a control freak than an obsessive compulsive, although those two seem like they’re proper bedfellows. I refused to go to ballet class one afternoon because mom was in rehearsal and another mom who said she’d help get my hair into a classical bun did it wrong, leaving lumps and bumps all over the place in my coif where they should not have been—true story. Lumpy hair is enough to make any ballerina wanna-be grumpy.
Meanwhile, after days on end of grumpiness around here, Chef David has been considerably less grumpy after power was restored at the bakery Friday night a week ago. A few days earlier a fierce winter storm (Winter Storm Carter, if such things interest you) cut a swath through a section of the state and knocked out the power, and it stayed out for a solid four days. We were fine here at home, just had a bit of bothersome snow, enough to make you slow down a little in traffic, but that was it. No wind to speak of, and certainly no power outages. The part of the state where the Chef works, though, was pummeled. This is so much the story up in these parts: what you get really does depend which way the wind’s blowing. Add a mountain range, and it’s anybody’s guess as to who’ll bear the brunt: your town could be fine, and the next one over could be socked in (next time around it’ll be you). This time it was bad for the commercial bakery on the other side of the Greens, what with freezers and coolers and such powered down and no end in sight, and bad for a person who could only sit on his hands from afar, think about how far behind production would fall during this busy time of year, and keep monitoring his phone. That’ll do in your holiday spirit.
Our holiday spirit came back on line more or less in parallel with the bakery’s power. Yesterday we went to a place where you cut your own Christmas tree (or the nice guys who work there come along behind you with the heavy equipment and do it for you). The one we chose is beautiful, although it sure as heck looks a lot bigger in its stand in our living room than it did outside in the tidy row where we found it on the farm; we had to move around a bunch of furniture to make it fit and still have room to walk in the room. There are needles all over the floor, which this obsessive-compulsive control freak will try her level best to ignore until the lights are on and the tree is properly trimmed. But oh what joy in unearthing all the Christmas books, the childhood tomes and the special editions of beloved works by Capote and Dickens, et al., which soon will appear in a bockety Seuss-like pile on the coffee table (I’ll allow it this once), and the ornaments and lights that transport us to specific times and places and memories, and all that beautiful seasonal music on the scores of CDs in the boxes that hold all the tree trimmings.
I leave you with a few happy images from the last days and weeks and wish you much joy, and minimal fretting, in whatever traditions you observe this time of year.