This was written a few weeks ago in preparation for my trip to Boston, where I am at this very moment ringing in the new year while being terribly, terribly cold. Enjoy!
In the shower today, I was thinking about this past year. There are some years where you can’t really remember what happened in them–they’re a pretty standard accumulation of the component parts that make up most of your life. This was not one of those.
This time last year, I was preparing to go to Dakar. I spent January through May of 2012 in West Africa, with a stopover in Barcelona and Paris. I had never been out of the country for that long, and I had never been to Africa or to Europe.
While in Dakar, I got used to taking cold showers and malaria pills. I sweated a lot. I drank in parks and was mopey and climbed inside a baobab tree and on a termite mound. I learned how to carry money, ID, and my phone tucked away in my bra after I had my phone stolen on my birthday. I was homesick. My dog died.
This year, my family finally relented: we bought a plastic Christmas tree.
When I say “my family,” of course, I really mean “my grandparents.” My immediate family, due to the fact that my mother is Jewish, has never had a Christmas tree. (We also used to celebrate Hanukkah at Thanksgiving. I had a religiously confusing childhood.) So every year that I can remember up until now, we have gone to my grandparents’ house and decorated the shedding fir tree in which between one and three cats have nested.
The whole week around Christmas is the most heavily-ritualized time of the year for me. The tree is the kick-off. Later on there’s a family viewing of the lights in the town square, then a singalong on Christmas Eve before we do presents Christmas morning. In between, there is ongoing gossip about people my dad went to high school with. We eat divinity and fudge. (Divinity is like fudge if you abandoned all pretense and just made it out of corn syrup. On a related note, my grandmother is from Alabama.) There are obligatory references to state and local Democratic politics, and there is a three-Clinton-reference quota.
On Saturday, the family and I ventured up to Winslow, AR to stay with my grandparents for Christmas. After the 14-hour drive (complete with our very own simple dog) to my grandparents’ my family loaded back up into the car for the 2 1/2 hour drive to Tulsa, OK that we make every year in order to placate my sister and me. It may have been 8 years ago, but dammit, we are still bitter about being uprooted.
In Tulsa I got to see a few of my friends who were in town and eat some Mexican fusion, so it was good times all around. We spent part of the day wandering around Utica Square, in December, in Tulsa, without jackets. You guys, this is freaking me out. The first year we went back to Tulsa, my friends and I hung out at the zoo because we were 12 and what the hell else were we going to do. We had to cower inside the rain forest exhibit to restore feeling to our extremities. This weather is unseasonably nice, is what I’m saying.
Because I am from the Midwest, this mostly makes me idly wonder what God is going to do in order to even the karmic scales. I’m thinking a hail storm, tomorrow. Given that my grandparents’ power just went out (they live on a mountain in a town with 399 people), this may, in fact, be the route that He has chosen to go. Still not worse than a tornado! Continue reading →