Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas 09: The Clean Up

Much like Hurricane Ike, Christmas came through and spread debris and leftovers all around. The main difference is that the weather was cool, and everybody had a nice time without any fear of the house blowing away. But like a hurricane cleanup, a unique set of precautions must be noted during the cleanup to ensure a successful disaster. Hurricanes have live power lines, snakes and looters. Christmas brings other hazards.

Not that there wasn’t any big wind; Christmas Eve brought a cold gale blowing 20 or 30 miles per hour. My youngest commented earlier in the day that it sounded like we were at the beach, with the constant drone of the wind rising and falling sounding like the relentless surf. My Mom was the first to allude to the hurricane similarities. On the way to the Soderberg Farm and Chicken Resort we saw a horse that had been facing the wrong way in the blow; he was turned inside out.

The wind was OK, because it had rained for a couple of days, and for several weeks earlier. Had all the rain come in the space of about 36 hours, it would have been Ike-level water. The steady breeze had dried everything off as much as possible, but it is still not advisable to walk across our front lawn if you weigh much more than about a hundred pounds.

The comparison continues to the hand-outs and their wrapping. When Christmas gifts are exchanged, the ratio of usable and valuable to worthless debris and packaging is high on the wreckage and garbage side. With small children, the danger is greater for losing something essential/expensive, and that number recedes only slightly as the audience age increases. There is a Walmart ad on television that ran Christmas morning showing two guys rifling through their garbage cans in the snow between their driveways. Surrounded by bright wrapping paper, one says to the other, “What are you looking for…?”. The other guy holds his gloved fingers about an inch apart and says with a resigned certainty, “The comb for Rapunzel Barbie.”

I haven’t ever had to dig in the trash for the missing pieces, but have at times feared that as the next step. My usual procedure is no doubt perceived as a buzzkill, but it consists of a roll-call for every gift and any essential parts. This includes any cash or gift cards that were produced. Then begins the paper/box removal detail. Since there is a good bit of jewelry involved in our Christmas gift exchanges, I like to think that the reason we have no MIA James Avery earrings is my “post-joy checklist”.

This comes in part from a story my Grandmother related (every single Christmas) about the time Grandaddy was cleaning up after the opening of gifts, and tossed an envelope from his boss into the fire, only to find later that it contained a $100 bill.

Another hazard is the leftover food, which is usually directly proportional to the amount prepared in anticipation of a huge feast. The problem is frequently an overestimation of consumption. If there are any teenagers or young men around, planning for 10 easily becomes planning for 15. A characteristic of females is usually a calculation of need per person, even factoring in teenagers and young men. So if there are a total of 10 humans to be fed, including three teenagers and one young man, the normal factor of 150% would actually be sufficient. But looking through the filter of a female food planner’s eyes, there is a perception of the 200% rule. After the meal, there is usually nearly 100% left over that needs to be dispersed and dispensed back to various refrigerators. This requires Ziploc bags and Tupperware-ish containers to be at the ready.

This year was really a little different, though. At my parents’ house, the provisions were pretty much correctly anticipated and we took nothing home in Ziploc bagz or any other container. Likewise, at my sister-in-law’s house, the amount of food was fairly close to the amount of appetite. Of course I am not complaining that there was leftover brisket and shrimp. And some of the cauliflower salad, along with some homemade mac and cheese. There was even a good amount of “good potatoes” left and we actually get to eat them ourselves! The teenage boy that was there was full a little early, and that threw off the average some.

So this year was more of a “tropical storm year”; nothing lost on the Christmas floor, no 10 pounds of dressing to tote home and throw away on Valentines Day. But there’s always next year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve at Our House 09

My oldest is home from Texas A&M for the rest of this week (gig 'em whoop howdy), so our house is back up to full capacity.

After they all finally rolled out of bed at about a quarter to ten, we were lounging around the living room watching the run-up to the Winter Olympics. My middle one remembered an assignment from the 8th grade where she had to re-write the "Night Before Christmas". She said that I oughta post it on the GeezerChron, and I said, "If you can dig it up, I'll post it today..."

Well, she did, it's pretty good, so here it is.

A Zoo Christmas

‘Twas the night before Chirstmas and all through the zoo
Not a creature was stirring, not even Shamu.

The bats were all hung in the cages with care
In hopes that Saint Nick would soon be there.

The snakes were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of mice ran around in their heads.

When outside the cages, there arose such a clatter,
The tigers sprung from their dens, to see what was the matter.

Away to the cage door they made a mad dash,
When they dove for the door, it made quite a crash.

The parrot sat on a branch and he laughes,
“Santa’s sled, hey, it is pulled by giraffes!”

Santa swings from the trees by his arms to the cages
It was like he’d been doing this stunt for ages.

Fruits and veggies, and seeds; bananas and steaks,
There were even some nice little mice for the snakes!

“On Longneck, on Spotty, on Too Tall, on Stretch,
You giraffes are too fast for even reindeer to catch!”

The giraffes pulled the sled as they started their flight
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

That is my wish for all of you! Uh, not the "...nice little mice..." part, the "Merry Christmas" part.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Makes Great Leap Toward Geezer

Last night was the Alvin High School Choir Winter Concert. My youngest is a freshman, but is in the varsity choir: YaY for my kid!. The auditorium was decorated nicely, with some projected cutouts of conifer trees shining on the walls adjacent to the stage. On either side of the stage were a couple of Christmas trees decked out in lights, ornaments and ribbons. Behind the risers, there were lights and big ornaments hanging from the bottom of the top curtain.

The auditorium was packed and there was a sense of anticipation. As the lights came down right at 7:30, there was a pause as the choir directors took their places and the accompanist readied her piano. The music began, and from all corners of the room, the choir made a slow processional carrying candles singing “O Come, O Come Emanuel”. That was very impressive. It was also very refreshing to hear the singing of a Christian song, without references to Christ bleeped out. In a public school no less!

The rest of the program was filled with traditional and variations-on-traditional carols and songs. The highlight of the bill, however, was when one of the directors, Mr. J. Gallagher, took center stage and sang “O Holy Night”.

His rendition, from the beginning, was powerful. Everyone in my group later admitted to seeing a similarity to Josh Grobin, the young sensation that all parents, grandparents and refined young folks are enamored with. For good reason. Mr. Gallagher was very reminiscent in his style, vocal quality and power.

As he sang, I noticed that the entire audience was totally silent. Not a sound in the entire hall, save his voice and the piano. He sang the entire song, all verses. The words were like a cool drink of water. Nothing left out. The mention of the world “in sin and error pining”, and

“…His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.”

This song pulls no punches.

We sat there in the dark, a young, powerful baritone basically singing a sermon about the reason for Christmas as the redemption of the world, and I found my eyes welling up. The whole experience was deeply powerful.

At the moment the last chord of the piano was dying out, the crowd exploded in applause and shouts. I am quite sure the sound of hands clapping was amplified by the sound of all the chillbumps colliding on everyone’s spines collectively. I have never been moved so much at a school function, and judging by the thunderous ovation in that room, I suspect many others were moved as well.

Following that song, a couple more perfunctory carols were performed, but the glow that “O Holy Night” left carried the program to its conclusion and beyond.

So Christmas is a LOT closer than it was just a couple of days ago, at least in my mind. Thanks to Alvin High School choir and its excellent directors for that.

Merry Christmas everybody, and listen closely to that song next time you hear it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Post Warning

There is a new post forthcoming, or fifthcoming, depending on the flow.

We went to the Alvin High School choir concert tonite, and was pleasantly greeted by harmonious tones and stuff.

Will try to have something by this time tomorrow.

No promises. Of course, you may consider this a threat.

Potatoes, potahtoes.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Christmas Arrives…

…Or at least sends it’s RSVP.

It hasn’t felt a lot like Christmas lately. It could be the fact that I am still looking for a permanent job. Elf-ing is a pretty closed profession, and Santa Claus-ing is even more restricted.

I was in the local Kroger store, using the free wi-fi, and upon leaving I passed through the Christmas tree display. As I strolled through as cool as a big old guy toting a laptop in a bag can possibly stroll, I was overcome by a desire to start running in between the rows. I wanted to dart in and out between the trees and hide from the adults. The smell took me back 40 years and the only thing that prevented me from cavorting through the evergreens was the fear that the police would be called.

But I did enjoy the pine-scented air and that fleeting sense of being a kid again. Besides, my knees and back would've made me pay for a couple of days, and that's without falling on my patootie.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Snow Day

“Pandilarium”. That’s the word that Jeff Foxworthy made up as a redneck describing a weather-related incident. He was speaking specifically of a tornado. What we experienced yesterday was a Snow Day. Not as devastating, but almost as disruptive.

The previous record for the earliest snowfall was that of December 10, I am too lazy to find out what year. Suffice to say, we don’t get much snow around here on the Texas Gulf Coast anyhow, so any time it does, it sets SOME sort of record. I remember that day (not the year, they all blend in together), since I was working in an office. The extent of the revelry was limited to adults shivering under the entrance awning , staring stupidly at the sky, grinning. When the low temperature got to be unbearable, after about 7 or 8 minutes, all of the aforementioned adults filed like cattle back to their pens. Yesterday I found that this low-key reaction is NOT universal by any stretch of the imagination.

As you may or may not know (or care), I have been substitute teachering until which time I can secure a full-time position that does not involve riding on the back of a garbage truck. It was in the venue of a local high school that the snow day came and blessed us with the blanket of beautiful white silence.

Well, it was silent and beautiful until the hordes of squealing teenagers bolted out of their classes and into the grass at the front of the school. One science teacher just down the cell block, er, HALL from me, ill-advisedly took her class out to “observe” the snowfall. As her excited students shoved their way to the stairs, I heard one kid say, “We’re going out to study the Global Warming!” Hilarious.

The actual snowing of the big, fluffy but wet snowflakes the size of a silver dollar only lasted about an hour and a half, but resulted in almost 2 inches on cars in the parking lot. But the off-the-reservation-AWOL shrieking and freaking out lasted until the riot police were called in. When the principal finally gained the upper hand, the halls were teeming with wet, panting, beaming teenagers not wanting to lose the magic of the moment.

There was a final negotiation over the school’s PA system that stated if everyone would stay in class the rest of the day and not run outside like a bunch of mental patients, the five days prior to the Christmas Break would be designated “jean days”.

I guess it worked, because by the end of the day, he came on the PA again to award the coveted semi-break from the dress code that nobody adheres to.

The rest of the area experienced similar disruptions to the point that snow and ice dominated the news for the last 36 hours.

I’ll bet you guys in the parts of the country that experience snow regularly are shaking your heads in wonder at us bumpkins down here in the semi-tropics. Just remember this when we scoff at your “95° heat waves” next summer. Till then, we’ll smile at nature’s cool, beautiful, albeit brief dusting of beauty.

Heck, it was just LAST YEAR when it snowed December 10 here! THIS IS HISTORIC! Two years in a row has never happened here, at least since the waning years of the Ice Age, which no doubt the dinosaurs caused with their chain saws and weed eaters.