Sunday, December 25, 2022

A Santa Fe holiday.

On the theory that nobody wants to think too hard on this Christmas night, I offer you pretty pictures.

The local tourism folks tout Canyon Road as the place to go to buy art here in Santa Fe. There are galleries all over town, but they are pretty much wall-to-wall on Canyon Road. And every year, the merchants sponsor what they call a "farolito walk" on Christmas Eve. I'd never been, so last night I went. 

Lynne Cantwell 2022
Lynne Cantwell 2022

Anatomy of a farolito.
Lynne Cantwell 2022

Here in northern New Mexico, a farolito is a paper bag in which is placed dirt (to anchor it) and a votive candle. Elsewhere in the Southwest, they're called luminarias. But here, a luminaria is a tiny bonfire like the one on the right. People light the bonfires to give folks viewing the farolitos a place to stop and warm up -- because, you see, this is no drive-by. The city blocks off Canyon Road for this event, so everyone has to walk along the road to see the farolitos. Some of the galleries are open, although not all, and folks also offer hot drinks for sale -- apple cider and hot chocolate -- along with some sweet treats. But the main attraction is the lights, not all of which are of the candle-in-a-paper-bag variety. 

Chile ristras get the light treatment.
Lynne Cantwell 2022
Lynne Cantwell 2022
Not to be outdone, the plaza -- a few blocks away -- is also all lit up for the season. And we are nothing if not ecumenical here.

Lynne Cantwell 2022

Lynne Cantwell 2022

Whatever your religious persuasion -- or not -- I hope you're having a great, relaxing weekend.

These moments of bloggy illumination have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

Sunday, December 18, 2022

My holiday gift to you.

I'm having some trouble finding stuff to watch on TV right now. All the limited-run shows seem to have paused over the holidays, which I guess makes sense because everyone is busy getting ready for their celebrations. But I've binged everything I'm interested in, and it seems like all that's left is Christmas rom-coms. 

I don't mind a good rom-com, to be clear, but most of these aren't. Even star power guarantees nothing. I watched one last night that starred Julie Andrews and James Garner. I was embarrassed for them -- the script was terrible. Of all the places the writers could have gone with the secondary plot, they went for cliches. And yet the movie has a 7.2 on IMDb, which I guess shows you that people don't care about the plot of a Christmas rom-com as long as they get their happily-ever-after at the end. 

Anyway. I haven't written any new books this year, but I do owe you a holiday ficlet. This one isn't exactly a Christmas rom-com -- a thousand words doesn't give you enough room for the usual complications -- but it's got a holiday tree and presents, and it has "Christmas" in the title. Also, the characters aren't from any of my books. But I hope you like it anyway.

By the way: Even though this ficlet says it's for Christmas, like all of my holiday ficlets, it covers the waterfront. So happy Hanukkah, happy Yule, happy Kwanzaa, and happy whatever else you celebrate in this sacred season in which the light returns.


wacomka | Deposit Photos
Christmas Gifts 

Kelly grabbed another tissue and wiped her eyes. Christmas rom-coms always made her puddle up, but this year it was worse than usual. She and Rob had moved cross-country to Washington, DC, after his graduation from Stanford Law School. He had a great job with a big law firm, and everybody said he was on track to make partner in record time – but he was stuck at the office every night and most weekends. She told herself she was reconciled to being alone so much, but her blubbering this year over terrible plots and happily-ever-afters belied that.

Even now, on Christmas Eve, Rob was late getting home. Something about a regulator dumping a big document request on his team. “The feds always do that,” his secretary, Sasha, had told her. “They clear their desks by sending out these requests just before Christmas, so they don’t have to work over the holidays.”

Ten more years of this ‘til he makes partner? Kelly thought. I don’t know if I can take it. 

She had hoped they could get back to California for Christmas. But when it became clear they were staying put, she had reluctantly pulled out their decorations. She gazed now at the twinkling tree as the credits rolled. The ornaments reminded her of happier times: the wine bottle from Napa, the little bear on skis from Palisades Tahoe back when it was Squaw Valley. They’d been so much in love – so there for each other. Kelly wasn’t sure that was true anymore.

The key turned in the front door lock. She flipped the TV off. Hastily, she wiped her eyes, smoothed her hair, and put on her brightest smile. “Merry Christmas, honey,” she called.

Rob came into the living room of their apartment, stamping his feet and shedding his coat. “Sorry I’m so late.” His greeting had become habitual. He crossed to the couch and kissed her, then went to hang up his coat. “Merry Christmas. It’s brutal out there.”

“It is?” She turned. Sleet was pinging against the window. Wrapped up in her own unhappiness, she hadn’t even noticed.

He plopped down on the couch next to her and took her chin in his hand. “You’ve been crying again,” he said.

“Yeah,” she said, laughing a little. “Dumb movie.”

He sighed and pulled her head onto his shoulder. “Dumb job. I’m sorry. I know it’s been rough on you.”

“But in just a few years…” she said, trying to rally for him. 

“Yeah.” He sighed again. They sat that way for a few moments, their arms about each other. Then he said, “Hey. Let’s not wait for tomorrow to open our gifts. Let’s do it now.”

“But we’re supposed to do a Zoom with the family at ten,” she reminded him. Ten a.m. Eastern, seven a.m. Pacific. She was getting good at calculating time zones.

“I know, but we can open our gifts to each other separately, right? They don’t have to be in on that,” he wheedled. “Let’s do it now.”

“Okay, I guess.”

He was up off the couch before she stopped speaking. “Great!” He dug under the tree, sorting through the packages – their families had sent them a lot of presents. “Here’s the one from you to me...” It was a large box, wrapped in red paper. He shook it briefly with one ear to it, which made her laugh. He grinned. Then from way in the back, he pulled out a small black-and-teal bag and handed it to her. “Here.”

“Thank you,” she said, as he resumed his seat on the couch next to her. “You go first.”

He ripped the paper off. Inside was a tiny toaster oven. “Oh,” he said.

“You always say you’re eating dinner out of Sasha’s candy dish,” she said. “This way you can have a decent meal. I got you a subscription to a meal service, too – they’ll deliver to your office every day. See the envelope on top?”

“Yeah, I see it,” he said in an odd tone. He set the appliance box aside.

“I thought you’d love it,” she said, baffled.

“I do,” he said. “I do. But open yours.”

Still bemused, she pulled the tissue paper out of the bag. Inside were two envelopes. She looked up at him, more confused than ever.

“Open them,” he urged.

The first contained lift tickets to Palisades Tahoe for New Year’s weekend. “Wait,” she said. “We’re going to Tahoe?”

Now he was smiling. “Open the other one.”

Inside the second envelope was a letter on the stationery of one of the biggest startups in Silicon Valley. It began, “We are pleased to offer you a position in our corporate legal department…”

“We’re going home?” she squealed. She threw her arms around him, laughing.

“Yep! The pay is slightly better. And I’ll be home every night for dinner.”

“Home,” she said. She liked the sound of that. A lot. “But why didn’t you tell me you were applying?”

“I didn’t want to get your hopes up,” he said. “You’ve been so unhappy here. I didn’t want to make it worse.”

She put a hand to his stubbly cheek. “I love you, Rob.”

“I love you, too, Kel.” They kissed for quite a while.

She pulled back and looked at the toaster oven. “This kinda makes my gift useless, doesn’t it?”

“Kinda,” he said with a laugh. “Do you have the receipt?” 

“I do. And maybe we can switch the meal service to our new address.” She picked up the lift tickets and sighed happily. “Is it so terrible that I want to start packing right now?”

“I thought you might say that,” he said. “I have boxes in the car.”

“You really do think of everything,” she said, and kissed him again.

These moments of happy holiday blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe! 

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Assault by meme.

Now that I'm an official old fart, I get to yell at clouds and stuff, right?

This week, Facebook served up a meme that's definitely worthy of a scream or three. Here it is: 

I did not need to be reminded of this, but here we are.

Yes, we were forced to wear these in the '70s, in both junior high and high school. It was basically a onesie, with snaps instead of buttons. It was made from cotton broadcloth that didn't stretch. The legs of the shorts were much longer than these -- mid-thigh, maybe. I've learned from comments on the Facebook posts I've seen that they came in multiple colors; ours were light blue. I had no quarrel with the color; I like blue. But the fit was not flattering to anyone.

When I saw this picture, repressed memories came flooding back, and not just about the uniform. I hated gym. I was bad at everything -- except badminton. Badminton, I was good at. But everything else required physical strength or endurance, and I had neither one. 

And then there was the locker room. Having to change before gym class was bad enough -- I'd do it fast, with my back to everyone. But after class? We had to shower. In a big communal shower room with no dividers between. And I was a big girl in a class full of skinny girls, which only made it worse. I'd hold my wholly inadequate towel in front of me, douse myself fast, and hurry back out to the lockers -- right past the teacher standing at the shower room entrance, checking off names to make sure we went in and, I suppose, came out damp. 

Hygiene and cleanliness were far more important in the '70s than privacy, at least to the old farts in the school administration. Or maybe the showers were a state education requirement, I don't know. All I know is I hated the whole thing. And I'm grateful that I will never have to wear one of these outfits again.

On to a more cheerful subject: I decorated the Yule tree yesterday. So far, Tigs hasn't messed with it. He didn't mess with the tree I had last year, either, so maybe we'll all survive. 
Lynne Cantwell 2022
These moments of cloud-yelling blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Old fart birthday, new holiday tree.

On Wednesday, I'll be 65 years old. 

Sixty-five used to be a major milestone; at last, you'd reached your senior years. But these days, like so many things, official old fart status comes in dribs and drabs. AARP lets 50-year-olds join, for crying out loud. Those people are practically babies! 

The IRS will penalize you for withdrawing from your 401(k) until you hit 59 1/2; after that, hey, knock yourself out. Social Security considers early retirement to start at 62. Even 65 isn't the magic retirement number it used to be -- if I'd kept working full-time, I wouldn't have been eligible for "full retirement" benefits until 66 1/2. (Your mileage may vary; "full retirement age" for Social Security is based on your birth year, and if you're younger than me, well, plan to work longer.) The only thing that's still a lock for 65-year-old Americans is Medicare.

Other than that, you're only as young as you feel, and so forth. But some things do change, regardless of how you feel. Take, for example, the holiday tree.

I always put up a tree. Just one, thank you. Last year I made sure I had some sort of tree-like decoration in every room, but there's ever only one full-on decorated Yule tree in this house. I know, I know, some folks my age don't bother to decorate if they don't have anyone coming home to appreciate them -- but screw that. I decorate the tree for me.

And I always get a real tree. Always, always, always. I remember when I was a teeny kid, my dad would go buy a tree off some lot and bring it home, and Mom would decorate it, and it'd stay up 'til January 6th -- and then Mom would take it down and complain for months afterward about the mess from leftover needles. So we finally got an artificial tree. That's the tree I really grew up with. It was not one of those aluminum abominations on which you'd shine a spotlight with a rotating, color-changing disc. Oh no, ours was green. With metal brackets on a green pole that you stuck the individual branches into. And a top part, a sort of mini tree itself, that you shoved into the top of the pole. It was my job to put the tree together every year. Then Mom would do the lights and the tinsel, and I'd hang the ornaments.

As I got older, I was put in charge of setting up the tree from start to finish -- except for the tinsel. I didn't have the patience to put on each strand individually. (I still don't, to be honest. Sorry, Mom.)

Anyway, I got pretty sick and tired of putting Tab A into Slot B of our fake tree. Plus it didn't smell like Christmas; it smelled like the attic where the tree was kept for 50 weeks out of the year. So after I moved away from home, I'd buy a real tree -- sometimes from a lot, often from a Christmas tree farm (the key to getting an absolutely fresh tree is to cut it yourself), but always a real tree. And I wouldn't get it 'til after my birthday, because it's bad enough to have a birthday in the middle of the holidays without Christmas creep eclipsing your cake and whatnot.

But y'know, the price of real trees keeps going up. This year, the average price for a real tree from your corner lot is supposed to be close to $100. For that kind of money, I could get a fake tree, use it for two years, and be many, many dollars ahead.

So I did. Behold: my new fake tree. 

Lynne Cantwell 2022
It arrived yesterday. It came with the branches already attached -- no Tab A in Slot B, just bend them away from the trunk and each other -- and with the lights already installed. It needs a little more shaping; I only set it up today to make sure it would fit in that corner of the dining room. (It's already dropping needles. Take that, Mom!)

But I'm sticking with one tradition: This is as far as it goes today. I refuse to finish decorating 'til after my birthday.


These moments of bloggy bending to the inevitable have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!