Instant Vacation: The “Kids” Are Home

“Happy Thanksgiving!” “Merry Christmas!” I had a tough time keeping myself from calling out these greetings as I hiked with my family. Last Friday. January 15. But you can’t blame me for being confused. That was the day The Mate and I were having.

Sons One and Two (25 and 23) arrived in time for dinner Thursday night–a gift in itself, since we hadn’t expected them until the 9 pm ferry. For dessert we ate the leftover cake from my Mate’s birthday, which I’d been saving in the freezer. (This cake is SPECIAL: 15 layers and as tall as a tophat.)

The next morning I got up early and made our traditional Christmas morning Danish (from Holly B’s cookbook, of course). When the “boys” finally arose, it was time to open presents–okay, no stockings this year, but then we had no Christmas tree either. (I mean, it IS mid-January. I put lights on our houseplants.)

Dinner was full-on Thanksgiving: turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce (thanks to a friend who had some cranberries in her freezer–try buying ’em fresh in January!), roasted sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts, and Yorkshire pudding. (Yeah, sounds weird, but we like it better than stuffing.) We couldn’t quite face pie after all that rich food…but I made one next day, just ’cause.

Christmas Danish, baby.

Christmas Danish, baby.

‘Cause why? Vacation, that’s why! In my book, when you’re down to rare sightings of your offspring, ANY time with them becomes instant fun-time. Grocery shopping? Sure! Folding laundry? Absolutely! Our best time on this “holiday” weekend wasn’t even that hike; it was working together to make a new compost pit.

I don’t have any digital baby pics of our boys, and I don’t like to violate their adult privacy by posting current pics, so I’m compromising by posting one from 8 years ago. They look a bit different now. 🙂

Gotta grab those precious moments while you can...sometimes literally.

Gotta grab those precious moments while you can…sometimes literally.

So, did I get any writing work done since my last post? How ’bout choosing that new blog theme?

That’s a big fat No. Do I care? An even fatter, happier, more grateful No. Merry Thanksmas!

That Annual Thanksgiving List We All Love to Write

Pretend you’re in third grade. It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and your teacher just gave you That Assignment.

Now pretend it was your idea all along. With me? Let’s do this. Here’s mine:

This year I am thankful for…

…the good health of my family, myself, and most of my loved ones.

…the communal strength, love and support that continues to go out to those in need of it.

…the power of Nature’s everyday beauty that she keeps surprising me with (Spiderweb! Lichen! Wing of thrush!)

…really DARK chocolate

…the way gardening and eating local food is re-awakening in America

…my amazing amalgam of work, which allows me to get my hands sticky, get paid, interact with lovely people, and still retire to the quiet of my writing bench

…those hard-working folks still teaching and nursing and fixing pipes FULL TIME (y’all know who you are; I am so grateful to you–please let me make you pie!)

…friends who push me to improve my Spanish and my guitar-playing.

…mis hijos. Los dos.

…my Mate. Always. Always. But somehow, after 37 years–increasingly.



Know what? I could do this all day. How ’bout you? What’s at the top of your gratitude list? HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

PS–don’t forget to #optoutside this Black Friday!


Road Trip? J/K: Wings Take to the Air After All

Have you been hearing about the Arctic Blast in the middle of the country? Or maybe living in it?

Yeah. We Wings might be idiots, but we’re not crazy. Driving to Vermont suddenly became a choice between snow-packed roads and blowing snow in Idaho vs. icy passes in Oregon. Seeing as this trip was entirely discretionary, we decided to create our own third choice. We’re flying. By the time you read this, we’ll be somewhere around 3,500 feet trying to keep our muscles from cramping in those tight little Coach seats.

As I mentioned in the last post, flying is actually cheaper, since we won’t be eating out or sleeping in motels for a total of two weeks. Once we get to New England, we’re with family. In fact, thanks to the miracles of flight, we’re with family for a helluva lot longer than if we’d driven!

Huh. Wonder why we never thought of that before.

So, now is NOT the time to begin the litany of Everything I Hate About Airports and Planes. It’s almost Thanksgiving! So I, for one (and hopefully The Mate and Wing Son One as well), will be giving thanks not only for family togetherness, but for the option of making it happen this way.


Unless, of course, Red Rover the Intrepid Subaru refuses to take us to the airport. She’s pretty pissed off.

Now’s your chance to weigh in and let me know a) how smart we are; b) how stupid we were to even consider driving to Vermont in November; c) how much more fun the train is (yeah, but have you seen THOSE ticket prices??), or d) what’s your worst Thanksgiving travel story ever.

Easter, Passover and the Bittersweet Taste of Choose-Your-Own-Holiday

Why is this night different from every other night?

a) Umm…we’re not having leftovers?

b) It isn’t–I just like saying that because it proves I’m a little Jewish

c) It’s still Passover, silly–now pass me a chocolate-covered matzoh

d) All of the above

When I started blogging regularly about 14 months ago, all the writers-blog gurus agreed on one thing: Never EVER blog about politics or religion. “You want to reach out to people, not alienate them.” Right. Right. Totally.

Except talking ABOUT religion is not the same thing as talking religion, if you see what I mean. And here we are in the middle of our country’s two major spring holidays, and I’m feeling a little…wistful.

(orig. image courtesy FLIKR creative commons)

(orig. image courtesy FLIKR creative commons)

Trying to get a handle on this feeling, I wonder: is it because my kids are grown and launched and I have no one to hide eggs for? How I LOVED doing that! Learned a few tricks along the way, like:

  • put the chocolate eggs out at the last minute or the crows will get them (or the slugs, but I really don’t want to talk about that)
  • re-hashes of egg hunts, staged in the living room for several days after Easter, are just as fun as the real thing, even with empty plastic “eggs”, proving that it’s the hunt, not the candy, that fascinates my kids
  • if you don’t mind getting sticky, Peeps can be re-shaped into dinosaurs
(orig. image courtesy FLIKR creative commons)

(orig. image courtesy FLIKR creative commons)

Sure do miss those days. But they are LOOOONG gone. And my wistful feeling is pretty recent. So I wonder: am I envious of my friends around the country who are inviting me to Passover seders? The Mate and I used to have them, starting before we had kids. Since we’re not Jewish, this takes a little explaining.

(orig. image courtesy wikipedia)

(orig. image courtesy wikipedia)

First of all…OK, yes, I am Jewish by heritage–at least Jewish enough for Hitler, as I used to tell my students. My German grandma, my Oma, was Jewish, and when her husband’s job brought him to the US in the 1930s, and then he died right before WWII broke out, she made the decision to stay. If she had gone back, I probably would not exist.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize this. Oma (who lived with us) was not a religious Jew, and she did not raise my dad that way. He never had a Bar Mitzvah. No one spoke of Judaism in our household with any sense of connection that I, as a child, could pick up on.

There were all these clues, of course. Oma made braided bread–she didn’t call it challah, but that’s what it was. She fussed and guilt-tripped like the Jewish grandma she was. And then there were our cousins in Israel that no one ever bothered to explain to me. I grew up thinking we were “just German.” And right around the time I became old enough to start asking questions, my Oma was killed in a car accident.

As I slowly took in the reality of my heritage, I became interested in some of its ceremonies. That’s when a college roommate, raised Quaker like me but converted to Judaism, showed us how to hold a seder. We were enchanted by its message of hope and survival and, above all, insistence on inclusive justice. “Always remember YOU were a stranger in a strange land.”

Of course, not being “real” Jews, we felt free to treat the ceremony as irreverently as we wanted. One year when we couldn’t find a shank bone for the seder plate, we made one out of Legos.

(orig. image courtesy wikipedia)

(orig. image courtesy wikipedia)

I miss those days too. When our boys hit high school, one declared he was no longer interested in religious ceremony. We joined another family’s seder for awhile, and then we moved to this island, where, if I wanted matzoh, I’d have to take the ferry to the mainland and drive some miles to find a store that even knew what it was.

Plain old yearning for the past when my kids were young and close by–that I understand. But I think there’s a little more going on right now, when I drive past the church and see the purple drape over the cross. Raised in a household where the highest religious ceremony was holding hands for a moment of silence before dinner, I think I’m a little envious of those for whom these yearly rituals have real power. I can sit in on a friend’s seder. I can attend a friend’s Easter mass. But they aren’t MY ceremonies, and they won’t be. I would be lying if I said I wished they were, but I’m not lying when I say that those who do “own” these ceremonies have something that I don’t have.

Can you miss something you never had? I don’t know. 

Interested to know your thoughts on the role of ritual in your life, especially this time of year. Please share.