Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A New Beginning…

Well, it was bound to happen, inevitable like a sunrise. I couldn’t have told you when it was going to happen and I couldn’t have predicted how much would befall us, but the point is that it finally occurred: Our house has become a toy store. Toys everywhere. Natalie’s “Train Room” (shown here) has been converted into a dumping ground for Santa’s workshop, as every conceivable and imaginable type of toy is represented from workbenches and tools, riding rockets and dump trucks to princess salon complete with chair and mirror and a doll house taller than Natalie…not to mention the gads of stuff that was already there, and that's just a fraction of it; there's a whole room's more of it upstairs. There’s more molded plastic around here than at a Beverly Hills PTA meeting, and frankly I’m surprised the deluge even stopped.

Though last year was heralded as the “Christmas That Wouldn’t Die” because we cycled through a half-dozen gift exchange sessions with various close friends and families, coupled with a “we gotta see the new baby” syndrome that grips families in the wake of a birth, this year the worst is finally behind us and we can get on with our lives again. The Christmas tree is still standing, surprisingly, as Matthew—who see everything in the house as a Mount Everest that must be ascended—didn’t try to poke his head up through the branches toward the summit as I predicted he would do. Although, the tree is nothing but fuming kindling ready to go up at the slightest hint of a spark, so much so, that I demanded that our holiday guests wear rubber booties in fear of static electricity. There are a variety of presents still scattered under the tree and a wide assortment of various pieces of toys that have completely lost their companions. Natalie got a clock with removable numbers in the shapes of blocks, and she likes it, but systematically has dispersed each of the 12 blocks to far flung reaches of the house that will only be found after a complete tear down.

This year, I’m glad it’s over with. Never before have I wished Christmas through much sooner than it was. I wasn’t in the mood for it on the run up the hill toward Christmas and when we finally reached the pinnacle of the day, it was a mad dash to get everything done…and not to mention the post-Christmas blues that most people get, that anticlimactic emptiness associated with the unusually quiet atmosphere that surrounds December 26th. For me, very little time was spent just sitting there looking at the tree, fondly remembering Christmases past…and breathing, simple “I know I’m alive” calm breathing, the sound of the air leaving your mouth and the relaxed feeling of your chest rising on the next breath, escaping reality. I didn’t get to do that this year… I don’t get to do that hardly ever. Sadly, there’s always something to get done, from mowing the lawns to creating a path through the toys so I can safely navigate my way in the dark from my office to my bed without the fear of A) Getting lost in the flotsam, B) Breaking a leg on a Little People Michael—who looks like he’s giving me the finger but he’s really holding an airplane—or C) Inadvertently breaking a toy and then having to pay to replace it because, without a shadow of a doubt, the said broken toy will be Natalie’s favorite toy in the whole world and now that it is broken—even though she hadn’t played with it, seen it or even excavated it from the lower strata of the ever mounting toy pile in a number of weeks—it’ll be all that she will talk about until it is replaced.

Always something to do. Professionally, Christmas is a frustrating time because there’s an entire week where the world shuts down… good luck in calling a city hall to speak with a councilman about the living conditions of his town for an article that is due tomorrow, and good luck in getting anyone to return an email about a book project I’ve started (more on that later) because Christmas is paralyzing to procrastinators—I know, ironic that I complain about it, right?—and good luck in getting paid for a previous project until after the holidays because every sticking soul in accounting has decided to take a vacation for the last two weeks of the year. Sigh.

What I like is New Year’s Eve. Always have, ever since I was a young boy, excited at the concept of a year changing from one to the next. It is a nerdy result of my fascination with the passage of time, but I especially remember watching Jack Benny in his 1945 “The Horn Blows at Midnight,” a silly movie about an angel who comes down to Earth to destroy it on New Year’s Eve. Some New Year’s Eve, they’d show it and my brother and I would stay up as late as we could watching it, celebrating if we made it to midnight.

What I enjoy most about it is the ability to “start again” on a clean slate, which is probably the driving force behind all of those New Year’s resolutions that float around, and now for the next few days we have to suffer through the endless parade of “news” items about the galactically rich and stupid New Year’s resolutions. Who cares if Britney Spears’ resolution is to be less of a tramp or that Brad and Angelina are going to swear off eating baby seal meat (Oh, by the way, there’s an actual AP story online all about Spears’ falling asleep in a night club… really. Bookended on either side of her drowsiness is a feature about Saddam’s execution and President Ford’s funeral. So we’ve got Ford’s funeral… that’s news, right? Then there’s Hussein’s hanging… certainly news, but smack dab in the middle is little Britney snoozing it up at a night club. I just don’t understand how we allow ourselves to be force-fed this crap as news… and now I hear that Demi Moore says that children with Ashton I-wear-my-trucker-hat-sideways-and-I-so-wish-I-can-be-a-legitimate-actor Kurtcher is a possibility. There is also the possibility they might each realize they’re using each other; he’s using her for mainstream acting gigs through her production company and she’s using him to stay young and in the spotlight. You’re 44, act it.)

Sorry about that. Where was I?

Yes, of course, New Year’s resolutions. Mine, of course, is the same one it is every year, and that is to spend less money, which seems just as improbably as it is ever year, but I try. Doing great so far: Spent 45 dollars on furniture for Natalie’s doll house and nearly 50 bucks on an over-priced dried-out shoe-leather of a hamburger, with an additional 1.50 for a mere hint of bacon and an extra 85 cents for a partially solidified slice of Kraft cheese. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, and just because I wrote one restaurant review last week, it doesn’t make me an expert on food; I just know what I like, but comparing the hamburger I had last week to the piece of tire I gnawed on today is like night and day.

Another one of my resolutions is to not write so much. God, I can just blather on, can’t I? I’m sure I’ve bored most all of you to the brink of tears by now, and on that note, I’ll say that it’s nice to be back after taking a break over Christmas and let’s hope 2007 is better than 2006 (not that 2006 was especially bad, but better is always good).

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