Weird Moment

In 1977-78 I was dating MC, an handsome older student at the local suburban high school I attended. The crush I had on him was severe and everything he liked, did, or touched seemed just magical to me. It is safe to say he was truly my "first love". At the time, I was 17 years old and taking a heavy academic load at school and did not have a part-time job. I remember wanting to buy him a Christmas or birthday gift (can't remember which) but had no money to do so; I asked my mother for some allowance or pocket money to shop for him. His favorite cologne at the time was Aramis, which seemed truly sophisticated to me in 1978 as it was only sold at Neiman-Marcus. Without remembering why or where I came up with the idea, I do remember I wanted to buy him something made by Aramis, and settled on the idea of a soap-on-a-rope, which was the least expensive item in the product line. My mother and I had a hideous, colossal yelling screaming fight about the issue, that went on for days, and she refused to give me the money to buy it - she said it was too expensive. A recent google search for this item turned up a pretty consistent price of $14.00 currently, and I extrapolate back to think it cost about the equivalent of that much, 30 years ago.
Instead of giving me the money, my mother went to some discount drugstore and bought a cheap soap-on-a-rope for me to give him, instead. I think the one she bought was made by Pierre Cardin and looked strangely phallic in shape. It was truly embarrassing to look at (and odd that my mother, so Puritanical in her view of the world, didn't "see" it.).
I vacillated for days, agonizing over the issue, b/c it boiled down to essentially no money = no gift or else the ugly creepy totally-not-the-right-one my mother had bought. Eventually I caved and gave MC the cheap hideous thing, figuring it was better than nothing. He was charming and polite and accepted it with grace. I felt agonizingly embarrassed.
Skip ahead 30+ years....I had completely forgotten about the incident. (Maybe this was why I got a job shortly thereafter, and have worked continually ever since, so I have almost never put myself in a cashless, powerless position like that, again. ) Imagine my surprise this Christmas when my two sons opened their gifts from my mother this year....and they each got Aramis soap-on-a-ropes. My mother had no idea why this was the thing to buy them - in her aging forgetfulness, she had also forgotten the original incident. I know, b/c I queried her at length. She just knew they were special, but couldn't remember why.


Dreaming of a White Christmas

Snow is such a rarity in north Texas....and a White Christmas has never officially been documented since records started being kept in the late 1800's - until now. 2009 draws to a close with two, yes two ! Texas snowfalls in the month of December, one the very first week of the month, and the most recent one falling on Christmas Eve. It was such an unusual, exciting event, people felt they just had to get out and dance in it !
The snow started falling in the morning, but did not stick to anything for hours, because it had been sunny and in the 70's the day before. That's Texas weather for you. By mid-afternoon the ground temps had cooled enough that the snow, still falling (and not, I must add, our normal ice pellets which pass for snow around here, either, but real fluffy flakes of it) finally began to accumulate. Frantic last-minute Christmas shoppers attacked the mall in a frenzy. Traffic all over the DFW metroplex slowed to a snarl as highway overpasses began to slick over. (Sand trucks ? Snow plows? No one knows what those things are around here; we are the only people we know who even own a snow shovel- and we brought it with us from Va. They don't sell those things south of the Mason-Dixon line.) Fortunately hubster, who had just returned from visiting relatives during the Great East Coast Blizzard of '09, managed to fly in before the Texas snowstorm hit, and just narrowly avoiding being stranded on a plane or in an airport somewhere else and missing Christmas.
It was an unusual, welcome, beautiful Christmas present. Many churches started canceling their Christmas eve services, worried about folk driving in the weather as the sun went down and road conditions grew worse. Our little family carried on, easily making it to church but by the time the service was over, the drifts made it impossible to see where the road ended and the curbs began. We made it home safely, just in time for our family feast. My sons are getting to that age where they'd rather play video games than slide down the hill in the nearby park on giant pieces of cardboard ( what passes for sleds around these parts), and that saddens me, a little.


Я люблю все русское!

My family's ethnic identity is German on my father's side, and mostly English (little bit of French, little bit Cherokee) on my mother's side. Yet for some reason, even as a youngish child, I became fascinated and fixated with various aspects of Russian culture. I think it all started with the PBS production of "War and Peace", which I remember held me spellbound in the early 70's for the several months that it took to run its course. Anthony Hopkins just sizzled in his break-out role as Pierre, the bumbling idealistic aristocrat rebel-without-a-cause. (He was the first of several of these types I was drawn to.) My bff Monica and I soon were re-enacting various plot lines from this long soap opera with our little dollhouse villages and reciting bits of dialogue while avoiding strenuous activity in the hideous p e classes we shared, which we likened to working in the Gulag or Napoleon's March home from Moscow in the bitter winter snow. (One of hubster's fave anecdotes in the field of metallurgy concerns the buttons on the French army's uniforms....) The tv mini series of "War and Peace" inspired me to read Tolstoy's novel at age 12, and I found that it was not (as it is often jokingly referred to) a particularly Herculean task. No longer than Twilight, Gone With the Wind, an Anne Rice or Steven King novel or any other dense tome that people love to bury themselves in, the only tricky thing is keeping track of the 30+ main characters with long Russian 3 or 4 part names. I simply give them nicknames, and skim through the long passages substituting the nicknames for the 3 or 4 part-ers when I read. I enjoyed War and Peace so much that I frequently re-read it, along with other Tolstoy works , and soon became immersed in other Russian authors such as Chekhov, Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Gorky and Solzhenitsyn.
I also loved the movie "Dr Zhivago" as a child, and was inspired to read Pasternak's novel from which the movie drew its inspiration. If you ever undertake this task yourself, you will quickly realize that the plot of the film comprises only about half of the novel, and that the author's chief allegory of the literary work (each woman Zhivago gets involved with represents a different stage of the Revolution) is completely lost, as the final third of the novel (and final lover of Zhivago) is entirely omitted in the film. The love story between Zhivago and Lara is blown out of proportion and the author's point is completely obliterated in the sappiness of their movie romance. That happens, sometimes, when a novel is turned in to a film.
I wasn't one of those little girls who grew up taking ballet lessons ( lord knows why, my mother dragged me to art lessons and sewing lessons and many other kinds of lessons) but I wanted to be. I never got to experience the thrill of partaking in a student performance of "The Nutcracker" ballet until a little friend of my younger son was coerced into playing all the boy roles, because his sister was one of those little girls who studied ballet, and as each year passed, she rose through the ranks of her particular academe, starting out playing flowers or snowflakes and eventually working her way up to major roles in our small town production. So it became a kind of holiday tradition to show support and go watch my son's friend sullenly be one of the boys at the party, or Clara's brother, a dancing Chinaman, etc, as he danced alongside his sister, willingly or not. Who knows? Perhaps some of the great male ballerinas got their start in similar fashion. I couldn't help but think of this as I recently watched the San Francisco Ballet's "Nutcracker" production on tv one night. What a fresh new vision (costumes, set, staging) for this (sometimes stale, yet beloved) holiday classic. I haven't been this entranced since seeing Baryshnikov perform it....truly magical. The music never ceases to enchant; I love even Disney's version from "Fantasia". (It must be noted, I am a true curmudgeon, and many Disney films.......dare I say it ? Grate on my nerves. Too many singing __________! (fill in the blank: mice, butterflies, candlesticks, sea creatures, frogs, whatever.) Yet I can watch "Fantasia" endlessly and never grow irritable. The music is that wonderful.

Those of you who know me have heard the many bizarre stories about my mother-in-law, especially in the realm (that's another blog entry!) of gift giving. Yet a few years back, she gave me a truly wonderful present for Christmas, why I have no idea, and I have treasured it above all others. It seems she had recently visited St Petersberg, which I really want to do, esp after reading my book club's selection The Madonnas of Leningrad awhile back, a beautiful little book and not long or difficult to read. It is the story of the Siege of Leningrad, and how the citizens, esp the employees of the Hermitage, survive. As they are slowly starving to death, they play a game of remembering ALL the artwork - which has been hidden away for safety, and all they have to look at are bare walls - and where it hung, what it looked like, the artist, its provenance. Along the way, reality and fantasy begin to blur....... If you love art history or WWII, you will love this book! Anyways, my m-in-law had been to St P, and for some quixotic reason, bought me a beautiful enameled jewelry box painted with a scene from "The Firebird" on it. It charmed me immediately, and ( almost) made me forget all the tense moments we have had, previously.