Archive for December, 2012

That’s a wrap for 2012

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

By December 26, I was itching to take down the Christmas tree and pack up the garlands and bows. I have always been amazed when I talk with someone who chooses to keep their Christmas decorations up into January as a way to brighten the dreary, dark days of winter. For me, what seemed cheery on December 1st now seems depressing. The branches on the Christmas tree are drooping so badly that every so often I hear another ornament slide off and hit the floor. Instead of seeing the white lights and ornaments on the branches, what jumps out at me are the cords. I find myself picking pine needles out of the cushions – how they got there I have no idea. Everything looks they way I feel…tired.

Plus, with five adults in a condo meant for three people, one of us was always bumping into the Christmas tree; we need every square inch of floor space in the living room to accommodate the 26 pairs of shoes that are spilling out from the postage stamp-sized entry way.

Another reason I was eager to see the boxes labeled “Xmas nutcrackers and candles” back on the top shelf in the garage was because as much as the holidays represent time to spend with our family, this year some of the glow was taken off the Christmas decorations by the Sandy Hook tragedy and relentless media messages about the seemingly inevitable fiscal cliff. Couldn’t I just put that all that bad news in a box, tape it shut, and set it high on a shelf where I could forget about all of it?

So on Friday morning, I was up before daylight, dismantling the mantel and wrapping up the ornaments in layers of tissue paper.  The news wasn’t getting any better but at least by putting the decorations away, vacuuming up the pine needles, and giving the room some breathing room, it felt like the new year was off to a fresh start. Like the Bible says, God’s mercies are new every morning. I’m ready for a new morning and new year.

Basically moving on

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Ethan called us last Wednesday; it was Family Day, the day before graduation from basic training. The majority of soldiers had family coming to Ft. Jackson for the graduation ceremony. We would have loved to be there too; it would have been a thrilling and emotional spectacle but two plane tickets to South Carolina would have made our Mastercard explode.

Ethan, along with the other soldiers was able to use his phone to call us to “coordinate plans” for family day. The energy in his phone call was fueled by Popeye’s Chicken, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and a couple of Rock Star drinks, all forbidden substances for the previous 10 weeks. The family of a fellow soldier had adopted him for the day and taken the two of them out for a junk food bender.

He called us the following day, graduation day, not on quite such a high as the previous day. Without having family there to share in the celebration, graduation wasn’t the momentous event that the other soldiers were experiencing. For him, it was standing for 45 minutes at parade rest and wearing a very stiff and uncomfortable dress uniform that he was afraid to eat or sit down in for fear of spills or wrinkles.

When we spoke to him that day, he had gotten his orders for his next post, the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, but he didn’t know when he would be traveling so we were surprised when the next thing we hear from him, it’s a day later and he’s calling to tell us that he and 100 soldiers from Ft. Jackson are in Monterey at the DLI. Why should I be surprised; the army is all about efficiently moving people from Point A to Point B.

From our perspective, it’s a happy happenstance that he is posted on the west coast; we may get to see him occasionally on weekends and in two weeks, we’ll be able to drive down and pick him up for Christmas Leave.

It’s amazing how quickly a person gets acclimated to their living situation. Three months ago, the strict discipline, emotionally demanding and intense physical training of basic training was something that seemed very foreign to Ethan. But after being immersed in it for 2 ½ months, that became his world. Wake up at 4:30 am every day? No problem. Another 10k hike? Bring it on.

After being at the DLI one day, he says is suffering culture shock from seeing people with long hair (he means hair long enough that you can’t see their scalp underneath) wearing civilian clothes. He is a little bit stunned that here, no one bangs a garbage can lid to wake you up; you’re on your own to get where you’re supposed to be on time. But it will only take a few days and basic training will seem very far away (“Did I really just go through that?”) and he will be settled into the next phase of his army training. We look forward to hearing how the story unfolds.

 

Oh Tannenblog

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

There are many reasons that I am happy that Ethan enlisted in the army; providing me with months of material for my blog is only one of them.

This week I’m going to give Ethan a rest – something that he says that he is sorely and literally in need of as he looks forward to graduation from basic training this Thursday – and turn my attention to the home front (actually the front room) of our little condo here in Sonoma County.

In our old house, the Christmas tree was placed in front of a huge window. And because the house was at the top of quite a steep street, everyone driving up the hill could see our tree glowing in the window. Neighbors used to tell me how cheery it looked to see our brightly lit tree like the tip of an arrow pointing the way home.

In our cozy condo, window and wall space are in short supply, so with the help of a twelve foot extension cord threaded under the couch to the wall outlet, the tree sprouts out of the middle of the room. Although I miss being able to see the decorated tree from the outside, I like being able to have a 360 degree view of it. Since there is not a back to the tree where I can hang all the ugly ornaments, I tossed the dregs of the decorations that were at the bottom of the cardboard box. No more chipped balls rolling around, faded holly leaves and Nutcracker soldiers missing a loop and an arm.

So now, every ornament I look at on the tree makes me happy – there aren’t any of the “I always hated that one.” Each one brings back the moment in time of where we were when we bought it, or who gave it to us, or what was happening in our lives that particular Christmas.

There are little glass balloons that Steve and I ordered from a Horchow catalog when we had money and no kids. There are beautiful Waterford ornaments that a dear friend gives me every year. Next to the poodle in a poodle skirt ornament that Valerie picked out at a store on Kentucky Street shortly after we moved to Petaluma is a charming felt cutout that Jennifer and I bought at Target for $1.99 last year. I remember standing in the store and picking it out, still feeling shell-shocked from moving out of our house a month earlier.

Taking time to reflect; that’s a beautiful part of Christmas.