Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I Miss My Moose!

Green glitter, lightly sprinkled on my desk, winks at me as I take a break from  preparations for my first-ever Winter Solstice party in San Francisco. This won’t be a huge rowdy party like those that drew dear friends from far and wide to the Salmon Sanctuary, and before that, to Taraette, the old family estate in Shrewsbury.

Still, this modest soup-and-salad supper will be festive because of the guests: My Family!

My trio of ceramic trees (we Druids love trees) is on display, and I even put up a tiny artificial tree, decorated with cherished ornaments. (See the Dec. 9 blog post.) The stockings are hung – the leopard boot with gold silk trim hangs on the entry door to my apartment while the white felt one with the dove and the peace symbol adorns the bookcase. I even put a tiny furry reindeer on the shelf in the bathroom.

You could say it’s more ‘Tee Hee” than “Ho Ho” around here, but I like it.

Two treasures are missing. When I opened the Christmas Box two weeks ago, I discovered that my Frosty the Snowman snow globe had exploded. Fortunately, Frosty – who was a least 30 years old -- was wrapped in several layers of bubble wrap and foam, so the wee bit of water and flecks of phony snow didn’t get out. However, and this is really unfortunate, someone else in the box also decided not to move to San Francisco intact.

My tiny moose, the one wearing four red high heels and lots of lipstick and with ornaments entwined in her antlers -- was in pieces. Lots of them. Maybe Frosty is to blame – it looked like an inside job – or maybe the moose was just another casualty, but this means No Moose and No Frosty this year.

I tried to replace them. When I took the car in today for an oil change, I learned they needed to do a 45,000-mile check up and that my wait would be three hours. Undaunted, I marched off through the Tenderloin (massage parlors, psychics, “theaters,” bars and, oddly, lots of rotten fruit on the sidewalk) to the glorious Union Square, where people ice skate in the shadow of palm trees. 

I don't skate. I do shop for moose toys, so I headed into Macy's -- what a crazy idea just four days before Christmas! In Macy’s in the “Wonderland Lane” or whatever they call it, I examined a dozen huge decorated trees, looking for a moose ornament. Everything was on sale already, so if I could find a moose, it likely would be reasonably priced. I did not find a moose. 

When I asked a sales clerk, he replied, “ No – no moose ornaments this year. So you remember that moose, eh?” I’m unsure if I remember “that” moose or some other moose – I don’t know where Gerry bought my moose ornament, and it’s been several years. Still, it’s the holidays, so I chirped, “I do! I remember that moose!” We shared a hearty laugh and I went off to look at snow globes. They were all too gilded, too formal. I retreated to the Frontera Grill on  Macy’s lower level and ate a chipotle chicken taco with fresh avocado.

When it came time to leave Macy’s, I couldn’t find the O’Farrell Street door. I meandered around for a while, and finally sent Gail a text: “Lost in Macy’s. Help!” As it happens, Gail was at Macy’s in St. Louis about the same time, and she swears she ran through the store yelling, “Marco!” and “Hooty hoot!” (????) but she never found me. Thankfully, I found the right door and got back to the car dealer.

Next I popped into Trader Joe’s for a bit of this and a few of those. Driving through Cole Valley, I panicked and realized I don’t have enough placemats for everyone coming to dinner tonight. Even though I had two packages of TJ”s frozen spinach lasagna in the car, I found a parking spot and darted into a couple of stores in search of modestly priced placemats. I didn’t find any. That’s okay. Walking back to the car, I remembered that even if I had extra placemats, I have only four chairs. Some people will just have to eat sitting on the couch.

When I got back home, I stopped to visit Earl, my doggy friend at the insurance agency on the corner.  His owner said he had some sad news – in about 10 minutes, Earl had gutted and filleted the Christmas dog toy I had bought and delivered to him yesterday. I explained I knew that would happen, but I was sure Earl had enjoyed ripping it up. Earl wagged his tail in agreement.

Once inside, I opened the mail. That's when some lovely green glitter tumbled off one of the Christmas cards and onto the desk. Good! Moose or no moose, can you ever have enough glitter in your life?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter Thoughts

Winter in San Francisco is wonderful!

One day, it's sunny and up to the mid-60s or higher; the next day it's barely 50 and sheets of rain are pounding the streets. Yesterday afternoon, the fog was so thick I could barely see the house across the street -- an old fire house, now divided into two posh townhouses. One is for sale: See www.8carmel.com. What a grand neighborhood I live in -- and as Joel pointed out, my view is better than that of the pricey townhouse.

Still, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and not just in the celebrated Union Square. Lights are up in many neighborhoods, wreaths hang on doors, carols ring out from sound systems at the grocery store, the dry cleaners and the coffee shops.      

Fully aware of the irony, before I moved to San Francisco I hauled five of my six boxes marked "Christmas" to the resale shop run by the National Council of Jewish Women. "People of all faiths shop here," the manager said when I asked if my merchandise was welcome. I left all of it.

Because I have little storage space in the apartment, I asked P&J to keep a box of my remaining Christmas items at their house. When I picked it up the other day, I noticed my ornaments were missing. I called, and we discovered they had been packed in a separate plastic bin, apart from the larger bin that held assorted small trees, candles and gift bags. I stopped by a day later to retrieve the small bin.

Back home, I spread all of the ornaments out on the table. Distant past mingled with more recent past -- ornaments from my childhood (antiques now, right?), ornaments Joel made in elementary school, ornaments crafted by friends, ornaments given to me as gifts long after I had stopped buying Christmas trees.

Some years ago, at the doctor's office for the third Christmas Eve in a row, the doctor mentioned he could not figure out why I kept getting horrid sinus and respiratory infections the same time every year. "I know you don't have a real tree in the house," he said, "because that would really set off your mold allergies."

Of course I had a real tree in the house, a big one, just like every year.


For the next five or nine or 13 Christmases, I set out my three groupings of small artificial pine trees, displayed a candle or two and added a cheery moose figurine to the scene, and that was that. While friends took days, even weeks, to decorate, I took about an hour. The years I traveled to San Francisco, I didn't even bother with that.

The day after my ornaments and I were reunited, I found myself examining tiny live trees at the hardware store in Cole Valley. They were, in a tiny way, beautiful -- full, lush, evergreen. They also started at $35 for a tree under 24 inches high. Then I remembered the mold allergies. Plus, what would keep the cat from nibbling on a branch or two and then throwing up on the rug?

I marched into the hardware store and for $15 bought a small fake tree, green, strung with little white lights. This tree is not what anyone would call lush, but nicer than the plastic Charlie Brown trees that Walgreen's sells. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is my favorite holiday program, and I appreciate what Walgreen's is doing -- sort of. But this is nicer.

I burrowed through my big Christmas box, located a bright red napkin, spread it on the faux burled wood drum table, set up the tree and decorated. At first, I worried because I had neglected to buy ornament hooks, but many of my dear old ornaments had their original hooks attached. They are only a little rusty. Really.    

Under the tree, I placed a few larger ornaments -- some of them Peanuts themed -- and my favorite photo of Joel and Santa when Joel was just two months old. I added the baby Jesus from the manger set that I had as a child. The manger, alas, collapsed with age before I left St. Louis and all the other people are gone.  Most of them were missing a hand or foot -- in one case, a head.

Susan asked about Joseph just the other day. Regular readers may remember that Joseph from my childhood manger set (he cost 19 cents new) was employed for a time to help me sell the condo. At his post, packed in a Ziploc bag and positioned upside down in the big pot that held geraniums on my deck, Joseph collapsed in on himself, done in, no doubt, by icy weather. Sorry, Joseph.

On the top of my tiny tree I placed an angel given to me when I was 5 -- another antique, made by a friend of my parents. When she gave it to me, she made me promise to always put the angel on my Christmas tree, That was so long ago that my memory of it is in black and white.  Still, the promise has been kept this year.

Around the apartment, I set out my mother's small ceramic Christmas bells, "Joy" rendered in stained glass by a friend long gone, three small ceramic snow-covered trees made by an artist in Michigan, a tiny snow globe with a tinier polar bear inside, a scented red candle and a couple of Christmas-themed books.

That's really all I need, now or ever. 

I packed up much of what was left in the bigger Christmas bin and drove it to the owner of my neighborhood salon. Lison loves Christmas, loves "vintage" decorations and loves my salt-and-pepper naturally curly hair, so it was a no-brainer that the stuff should go to her. She was thrilled.

Two weeks ago, I wrapped gifts while listening to the "Glee" version of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Now that the place is decorated, I guess I need some Christmas music. It's too bad my old Muppets Christmas record with John Denver on it is gone.

I wonder if that's available on CD?