I’m so lucky! I got the best Hanukkah gifts ever. No, really. My daughter brought me home Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle, all the way from Australia where she spent the semester abroad. My other daughter and son got me a countertop compost bin that I’ve been coveting for a long time. And the hugsband? Surprised me with a very beautiful watch. (Millennials: a watch is a piece of jewelry that lets you know what time it is, and is most often worn on the wrist.) The perfect gifts for me! Of course, having my three children and husband all home, eating yummy food that I’ve cooked for them, and blessing the candles with prayers and songs was the best gift, in and of itself. I hope you get gifts that you love this year, too.
As we in the northern hemisphere just celebrated the winter solstice, here’s a gift of a bit of light from Charles Dickens…
“The sun,–the bright sun, that brings back, not light alone, but new life, and hope, and freshness to man–burst upon the crowded city in clear and radiant glory. Through costly-coloured glass and paper-mended window, through cathedral dome and rotten crevice, it shed its equal ray.” (from Oliver Twist)
Happy holidays and peace to you all!
Just to keep things in perspective, dear readers… I dropped everything and went to Texas last week because my dad landed in the hospital. My folks moved out of New York over 20 years ago and although I visit them, it’s usually easier to have them come visit the family and me in New York. When I do go down, I mostly stay in Austin. This time my siblings and I stayed with mom at the house. And my parents kind of live in the middle of nowhere. Well, it’s nowhere to me; I’m a suburban dweller and a city lover. Mom and Dad live an hour out of Austin (great city!) and about 15 minutes from the nearest (hippy dippy, artsy fartsy) town. An hour out of Austin is decidedly not suburban.
Ok, so here’s A list of the fauna (including field notes) that I encountered in my week+ in the wilds of Texas:
- Cows and steer – I don’t know the difference. It’s all beef to me.
- Goats – I saw many different colors and types. They were cute because I was far away and didn’t have to smell them.
- Vultures – They look exactly like their cartoons.
- Hawks – We have hawks at home. No biggie.
- Tarantula – Yes, really. I shit. You. Not. And I’m sure it’s not more scared of me than I am of it, Mom.
- Road Runner – Move, mother-fucker! I almost ran you over. You’re a freaking bird, for crying out loud.
- Donkeys – I heard them braying from my parent’s yard.
- Rattle snake – Or maybe a bug that makes a sound like one. I didn’t actually see it. It might have just been anxiety. But it could have been a rattlesnake.
- Deer – There were plenty around the property, grazing on the side of the road, splattered as road kill, plus the two (2) who jumped in front of my car at different times, leading to two (2) incidents of swerving and screeching brakes.
- Toad – Which was seen under a log that I lifted, leading me to wonder if venomous toads are only in the rainforest and if perhaps I should be afraid of this one.
- Armadillos – There was one squished and splattered on the side of the road and one just laying there dead on its back. Ew.
- Scorpions – I saw scorpions in my peripheral vision the entire time I was doing outside work. I’m sure of it.
Some notable differences between Texas and New York
- Everyone doesn’t fly the flag of New York State all over the place. I mean, what is even on the flag of New York?!
- I’m pretty sure we don’t have tarantulas in New York.
- In Manhattan you can’t wear jeans to every restaurant you enter.
- Gas prices.
- Cocktail prices.
- In New York my mom sounds like everyone else. In Texas she sounds like a girl raised in Brooklyn.
- That popping sound I heard in the distance wasn’t a firecracker or a car backfiring.
- The cowboy hats and boots have nothing to do with Halloween.
- In New York we don’t have roads with the prefixes RR (Ranch Road) or FM (Farm to Market).
- In Hays County, Texas, my dad is kind of well known as Eppy the Hill Country Clown, who makes kids laugh and twists balloons at the rodeo and fairs all over the county. In New York he’s my dad.
Some experiences I had in Texas that are different than I usually have in New York
- I watched my father travel the road from unconscious and on a ventilator to playing his harmonica in his hospital bed between breathing treatments. Stardust for Mom. Some Johnny Cash for the respiratory therapist. Theme from the Godfather for a nurse. My dad’s all kinds of awesome.
- I mixed and drank a martini using a mason jar and a wine glass. (In the end it actually tastes the same, you know.)
- I slept in bed with my mom. I haven’t really done that since I was a little girl with bad dreams. It was really nice. I didn’t have one bad dream last week.
- Nobody pitched me. Not once. Not even when my dad proudly told the sweet hospital volunteer who was peddling John Grisham books and People magazines that I’m a literary agent. (She just gave me a confused smile, clearly wondering what the hell a literary agent is.)
- I did some major manual labor on my parent’s property, including (but not limited to) painting an entire building and staining a gazillion square feet of decking, almost single handedly. Consequently, every single muscle in my body is now awake and complaining (but their place looks great).
- I got to celebrate my sister’s birthday with her. With oysters. And a caraway infused bourbon drink.
- I barely checked my email. The priority things with which to deal were right there in front of me.
- My brother made me eat barbecue twice in one week. That was two instances of smokey, saucey, Texas deliciousness.
- I didn’t watch even one minute of television.
- I didn’t read any of the three books I brought.
The side of the house, which is kind of the front..
So…those are my notes from the wild. I don’t often share my personal business (or do I?) but this is what’s most pressing on my mind right now. I hope that in your quest for publication, or whatever goal you might be going for, that you remember the most important things aren’t things and the most important achievements can sometimes be as simple as being able to play your harmonica again.
And also, my folks are moving back to New York. So if anyone’s interested in buying a really sweet one bedroom house with a separate office/studio building, on 6+ acres of land, with organic fig trees, just one hour out of Austin, surrounded by nature, quiet, and some neighborly neighbors who are neither too close nor too far away, send me an email! I’ll give you a good deal. The place is freshly painted and infused with lots of good vibes. Plus, my mom can hook you up with one of her book groups.