Last weekend, I found out that the New Phoenix Theater in Buffalo was having a liquidation sale. I was unable to go, but my father went in search of Christmas gifts and some sort of situation for his record player. I have written about this theater before, because that is where I was working when I met both my best friend Sahar, as well as my husband, Mark. He didn’t work at the theater like Sahar did, but he did hang out at the coffee shop around the block, and we met after rehearsal one night. So were I not hanging around that theater every night when I was 20, I might not have met the man I ended up marrying. I know I would not have Sahar, because we came from totally different worlds. I am forever grateful for these two people, and perhaps it is silly, but I am grateful for the building that brought them to me.

I found out a while ago that the owner of the theater, Richard, was putting it on the market. I was instantly sad, and truly desperate for a million dollar lotto win so I could take it off his hands. Alas, that is not reality, though I did hear that local theater folk tried to purchase it to retain it as a theater. Unfortunately, that deal fell through. And so, it will be turned into living space.  Sigh.

Now, it’s a pretty cool building as buildings go. I don’t know it’s complete history, but I do know that it was a sort of convent/soup kitchen situation prior to Richard purchasing it. It’s at least 100 years old, and a beautiful representation of old Buffalo architecture. It has a very scary basement, complete with spider webs and leaky pipes and possible ghosts. The first floor was the stage and seating, as well as a small reception area where photos of local stars lined the walls. On the second floor was the rehearsal hall, and a bar area where receptions were held after shows. Passing that were the dressing rooms, and a staircase up to the third floor, which was a full apartment. Richard lived when I first met him.

Richard always owned the theater, but when I was young it also housed a second company called the Buffalo Ensemble Theater. It was BET who posted a flyer on the bulletin board at my school for a youth theater group. It was called the Explorers, and was run by the Boy Scouts of America. It was coed prior to Boy Scouts becoming coed, and was career focused. So. BET put together a group showing careers in theater. I jumped at this, and ended up being the club Treasurer on day three. 5 years later, I stopped doing shows there when the theater started to dissolve.

But God did I love that building.

So, years later: I was fresh off my first stage managing gig and ran into Richard, so I was thrilled when he asked me to come work a show at New Phoenix. The show he hired me for never came to fruition, but I did end up doing another there soon after. I always hoped I would return to work there again someday, but it turns out that is not in the cards.

Richard retired to Florida, and likely the building will become apartments or something. But when we were young, that place was so magical! I know so many people who discovered their talents there and went on to pursue them, and really…we were just kids. We were just having fun, and look what happened!  Life skills!

Anyway, I’m very much looking forward to Christmas morning to discover what trinket Dad collected for me from the liquidation sale. And I guess I can muster some excitement to see what they do with the building in the future…hopefully it isn’t terrible. It doesn’t matter though, because I will always be grateful for that place, and everything it brought into my life.

Friends, family, and confidence.


That Holiday Feeling

This morning I awoke sad because there was no candy in my shoes. I told this to my Islamic best friend, who was instantly baffled. I explained that it was Saint Nicholas Day here on the Christian calendar, and she recalled a kindergarten memory of receiving a orange in her sneaker. That was the first and last time she participated in such a tradition. It was typical, for me, to awake each December 6th to find Hershey Kisses and candy canes tucked in the toes of my Mary Janes. Of course, this tradition ceased when I moved out of my parents house, but Mom would always try to remember and give me little candies on the day. So, with her currently decommissioned, I was vaguely forlorn that there was no candy in my shoe.

Anyway, I’d mentioned to Sahar that we have another holiday on the 8th, and it reminded me, as I explained it to her, then it’s probably our most ridiculous. No offense to any of my Catholic or Christian readers, but why do we have a feast day celebrating a very special date night for Mary’s parents? A surprising amount of people I know, including those raised Catholic and Christian, think that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception has to do with the day that Jesus was conceived. No, no, my friends. It was Mary who was born without Original Sin, thus becoming perfect vessel for God’s son. And here we are, insisting folk go to church to celebrate Mary’s parents taking the train to pound town. We were in about 7th grade when we figured this out by the way, and I don’t recall anyone saying “hey this makes perfect sense!” Mostly just sex jokes, guys. Not well executed, St. Paul’s School.

I then went on to start explaining Advent, but at this point spelling everything out seems so ridiculous. Advent is kind of like Lent, another crazy Catholic thing. Except Advent is only 4 weeks long, commemorates each week with the lighting of a candle, and you don’t have to give anything up like you do during Lent where it’s all about the sacrificing. Advent is about waiting and being patient-super fun time for the grade-school crowd. I remember we would start the holiday season by making our Advent wreaths: pine circles with four candles attached, three purple and one pink. That’s how we knew it was Christmastime at school. We also knew we would be going to mass every week until Christmas. Like I said, a super fun time for a 6th grader.

But then comes the actual day! It’s  the birth of Jesus! Except for the part where he was born in the springtime, and in an effort to convert the pagans, the church chose Yule as the time of celebration for Jesus.

Once upon a time, Bernadette was in a play at a church with one of her friends. I believe they were Methodists. Anyway, my aunt Ka, the Sister of Mercy, attended with me. The theme of the play was “Jesus is the reason for the season.” I was immediately outraged, because I absolutely hate that phrase, as it is completely false. I don’t mind Jesus being the reason you celebrate, but like…The Druids are the reason for the “season.” Now, I’m not Catholic anymore, obviously. When I celebrate Christmas, I am celebrating a phase of the Earth. I am celebrating a new year coming, and an old one passing through. If you want to celebrate Jesus’s birthday, that’s perfectly cool with me, we just can’t be out here denying facts, is all I’m saying. Anyway, that year, Ka give me a “Jesus is the reason for the season” ornament. My mom thinks it was a genuine gesture; I think it was a little prank. Ka may have been a nun, but she was also very smart, funny, and “got me,” even when mom thought she wouldn’t.

I don’t know where I was going with most of this. Christmas still does not seem real to me this year. I think I might need some help getting into the spirit. Where can I put in for a Christmas miracle; is there some sort of lotto? Anyway, you let me know, and meanwhile I will keep checking my shoes for Hershey Kisses.

Death is a Schoolyard Bully

Me and Death in the School Parking Lot, 3pm.

Oh, how we would fight. A gruesome battle, I’d tell him to drop his weapon and fight me like a human! But you know I would fight dirty. There would be hair pulled, should he have hair.  I would punch him so hard in the nose that I wouldn’t even notice my broken hand bones, only his shattered skull-face staring back at me with hollow eyes.  Then I’d kick him in his metaphorical balls.

I haven’t had therapy in a month, guys.

To say that I am not constantly thinking about death would be an obvious lie, given that my mother has been practically catatonic for several months now. But over the weekend, something happened that made me even more angry with the entire concept of death.  First, some backstory.

Early in our years together, Mark brought me home to meet his mother for the first time. While we were in town, we visited his sister Dawn and her family. I met her son Connor, who was maybe 8 or so at the time, and her daughter Bella, who was still a baby. Connor and I bonded when he taught me how to play zombies on Call of Duty. He was an incredibly sweet little boy with the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen. That was the first time I met him, and also the last. Shortly after our visit, his parents split, and Connor chose to stay with his father. Mark was always a little sad about this, because Connor was extra special to him. He just so happened to have been born the same day as M. Mark told me that the moms-to-be were in a race; he’s pretty sure Dawn won. But because of this, he always thought of Connor on M’s birthday.

So, Sunday morning I went to work, and as I was opening the shop, Mark called me. He was crying, and I immediately thought my mother was dead. Rational brain took over, telling me that it was unlikely I would get this call from my husband and not my father. I begged him to tell me what happened, and he told me that Connor had been killed in an accident. I called my boss, and he came in to relieve me. When I got home, I found a devastated husband. I cried with him, mostly because this boy was just a boy. Mostly, because he’s the same age as one of my boys. Mostly, because of his mother Dawn, who does not deserve this pain.

Later, Mark was sleeping, and I cried again. But this time, I was crying because it’s not fair. It is not fair that a teenage boy departed this world, while my mother is lying in a hospital bed clinging to life. I love my mother, I miss my mother, and I want my mother to get better. But I also know, and have to face every day, that she is currently living my worst nightmare. I wouldn’t wish what she is going through on anyone, absolute least of all her. There are many times that I wish she just never woke up that morning I found her. It seems that would be more fair. And I don’t think I could confront that fact until this weekend.

A lot of my friends and family read my blog, and they all know my mother very well, and I’m sure they’re all sobbing right now. And I’m sorry, truly, for bringing a spot of sadness into your day. But, it needn’t be sad. This morning I told my father were going to have Christmas, if for no other reason then Maureen would simply kill us if we did not. He can’t imagine a Christmas without Mom, none of us can, but we’re going to do what I told him we’re going to do: we’re going to be sad. But, we’re also going to find little bits to make us happy. And it’s going to work! Do you know how I know? Because when my aunt Ka died, that is exactly what my mother told me to do…find the silver linings, and all the little joys.

So, I’m going to get a team together to decorate my dad’s house for Christmas. I’m going to take my girls over there to make cut-out cookies the same way I would every other year. We’re going to go to my grandma’s on Christmas Eve and spend it with the family, and even though somebody is going to cry, we’re still going to eat and drink and be merry. We are going to open presents on Christmas Day, and there’s a real good chance I’m going to cook a ham.

I do not care if I am sad 99% of the time- I will remind myself of what my mother reminds me constantly, the best compliment she has ever given: I am the strongest woman she knows. That’s how come I can beat up that schoolyard bully called Death.

Christmas, Complete

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!! Christmas is OVER.

Though, to be fair, I did quite well this year, with zero meltdowns, panic attacks, or items thrown.  Even though the cooking of my dinner was disastrous.

First, the ham, which was easy, but I forgot to put the cloves on it and was kicking myself a little for dropping the ball.  Oh, but were I to know what was to come!

I discovered the “fresh” raspberries to garnish the chocolate-raspberry trifle were moldy, I then realized the cool whip for it was also still frozen.  So, after some microwaving and finding an extra jar of jam in the cupboard, I improvised the recipe into something that still tasted delicious.  Ok, I thought.  Problem solved. 

I moved on to the asparagus, the easiest recipe I have…you literally cut the ends off some asparagus, cover in Italian dressing, then bake 30 minutes at 400 degrees.  No problems there…had it ready to go as soon as that ham came out of the oven. 

Coleslaw.  This involves using the food processor to slice apples, a major pain in the butt.  I added too much mayonnaise and not enough honey, and everyone said it was great but I could have done it better.  I have done it better.

And then…the sweet potato casserole.

First, dad calls me and tells me they don’t have cream cheese, so I go to three 7-11’s before finally finding two bars at the Speedway on the corner.  Then, there’s no pan.  I forgot to buy a pan.  So I had to go home and get one, and also collect my sleeping husband and get him over to mother’s to help me cook.  When I got back, I realized I needed a mixer, and mom’s broke not two days earlier.  We decided we could manage with the food processor, which was already being used to slice apples for both coleslaw and now casserole.  Then we tried to open the cans of yams, to no avail, because the can opener broke.  So, it took three people half an hour to liberate the potatoes, and then finally I could put everything in the oven.

The biscuits gave me little trouble…just kind of had to wing the recipe, because when I followed it, the dough looked all wrong.  They came out pretty good after tweaking, though.

Anyway, I got high praise on the food.

And I had a lovely morning with my parents and sister too, where I got a new tablet from Mom and Dad and then Mark hooked me up with Kindle Unlimited, so I can try to get back to the reading thing this year, my only “resolution.”  But that’s New Years talk…today we’re doing Christmas.

Overall, it was pretty good, despite the cooking catastrophes, and I weathered the storm quite nicely.  I hope you managed to make it out of Christmas in one piece as well.  Now let’s all take a break for a few days until the next major holiday.

Presents and Presence

So…what didja get for Christmas??

That was my favorite question to ask my cousin Katie on Christmas morning.  I would call her and we would expound upon our gifts for a while before going off to enjoy them. It is one of my favorite Christmas memories.

Now, I know gift-giving is not the most important part of the holiday but c’mon, let’s be real…it’s probably the most fun.

I love getting gifts!  And, I love giving them, even more.  My favorite is when you find the perfect thing for the perfect somebody and can surprise them on Christmas morning.  We have a running joke/competition in our family: make mom cry on Christmas.  Which of us (me, Bernie, or Mark) can dissolve her into tears?  This year Bern won with a paint set…then…a tie!!  Mark got her with a bottle of her cousin’s favorite scotch, evoking many memories.  Me, I got her a coffee maker so I wasn’t expecting to win, but she was very pleased with it. 

Right before Thanksgiving I was at Kevin’s house.  For the new reader, Kevin is my brother-from-another-mother, and I have literally known him my entire life.  We were discussing Christmas.  Kev is kind of hit or miss about the whole thing.  He loves Christmastime, but he loathes gift=giving.  He never knows what to get someone.  Conversely, he hates accepting gifts, because he either ends up not liking or not needing them, then he feels like an asshole and hangs on to the whatever forever, feeling guilty about throwing it away.  I can see his point of view, but I am of the opposite, and swore to him that I would teach him the meaning of gift-giving this holiday season.  He scoffed.

I went on a mission the next morning to find a gift for him, something he both would need and want.  Something I knew about Kev all these years is that he hasn’t had a proper wallet in some time.  He finds them bulky.  He keeps his cards and cash wrapped in a rubber band in his pocket.

I decided to hunt for a money clip.  Something small and sleek that he could use instead.  Then, I found it…a black and silver clip with an imprint of a wolf howling at the moon.  The wolf is totally his spirit animal, so there it was.  I purchased it and waited for it to arrive. 

Two weeks went by before I realized it was lost somewhere in California.  I got an email that Amazon would replace or refund it.  I looked everywhere for another matching one…no luck.  Panic.  And then…it came.  No tracking info listing its arrival, there it was in the mailbox one morning.  Christmas miracle.

We usually do a little dinner after Christmas and exchange gifts but his mother wasn’t feeling well earlier this month so we weren’t sure if we would.  So, I gave him his present early.  And he loved it.  He immediately transferred some of his stuff from the rubber band and put it in his pocket.  I did it, I got him something he would want and need.

But then that punk gave me a fake winning lotto ticket as a gift and I almost killed him.

A few days passed.  Kev called and said he picked up a little something for me.  He didn’t sound super sure of himself, like he wasn’t sure it was an acceptable Christmas present.  Of course, he could have given me anything (except that joke lotto ticket) and I would have been thrilled.  His mother was feeling better, so dinner was on, and he would bring it then.

So last night found me opening a brown paper bag (his idea of wrapping) and discovering…a Bob Ross Chia Pet. 

When I was a kid my friend Christina and I watched Bob Ross a lot. We thought he was great, with his “happy little trees.”  I always liked him.  Plus, I’m a gardener.  And, I saw this in the store and totally wanted to buy it because in my mind this is the most logical Chia Pet since the sheep.  So, really, he knocked it outta the park.

And so, Kevin learned of the joy of gift-giving and receiving.

For Christmas, I got a Bob Ross Chia Pet.  I also got some other cool stuff, like waders for fishing from my momma, the below sweatshirt from my father, and perfume that smells like our trip to the Bahamas from my sister.  Hubs didn’t do special this year, just resourceful…pots and pans and Spotify.  It was a lovely Christmas.  We had dinner with my aunts and Gram, and this past Saturday we did Kiddo Christmas.  Everyone loved their gifts.  I gave L and E their own fishing poles, and E scored an awesome handmade tablet cover from her father.  K got ALL the jewelry to fill her new jewelry box, and M walked away with Doom: Eternal for the PS4.

But that Chia Pet? The kinda silly but definitively thoughtful gift I got from my best friend of 37 years?

That one holds the special place in my heart this year.  Good job, bud.  Good job.

A Corona Christmas

Ok, first of all if you haven’t seen the cute thing I did to my website, please go click over there for a second.  I’ll wait.

See it?  That took two days and a half hour in a support chat.  Anyway…

Christmas is tomorrow.  I used to hate Christmas, and I really don’t know why.  It has always been the hardest part of the year for me, and still is, but the difficulties have lessened with time.  You would think it was because of the horrible Christmas in 2006 when my aunt Ka died, but no, this dislike started long before that, around the time I realized Santa was a sham.  But little things held me…like doing the whole Xmas thing for my sister when she was born in ’96.  I was 13 and already jaded about the holiday, but she made it fun again.  Then one day my therapist suggested I come up with a tradition to do each year that I could look forward to.  I think she meant like go buy yourself an ornament or make a special cookie, but I went all out and started cooking Christmas dinner every year for my family.  With the exception of the dinner during which Ka slipped into a coma, it has always been a joyous affair.

But that is nothing compared to Christmas Eve.

I have never had a Christmas Eve celebration without my Gram.  Every year she throws a party (save one year when she had back surgery and my aunt and uncle threw it instead.)  It is the best party of the year, as EVERYONE shows up.  My Gram has nine children, almost all of whom have kids, and some of those kids have kids.  Not to mention the cousins.  It’s an event, and one I anticipate every year with great joy.

Alas., Covid.

Now., first of all, my family knew that this year, Christmas was going to suck.  We knew it on March 16th, when my Poppa died.  It just won’t ever be the same, no matter how you spin it.  But then, another wrench thrown into the plans as a pandemic forces us apart.  My poor Gram

That’s all I can think of.  My Gram.

My other grandmother, Lois, died when I was 7.  She lived with us, and my Grandma Pat (henceforth and forever, just Gram) lived on the other side of town, so I didn’t see her much.  I do remember though that after Lois died, Gram became a little more present in my life…or maybe I just started developing more memories of her.  Either way, she was there, and I was grateful.  Especially after so hard a loss.

And now she has had probably the hardest loss of her life, her husband of damn near 70 years.

And, she has to cancel her Christmas party.  I would be beside myself.

So, this Christmas Eve looks very different, and it is the first one on which I will not be seeing Gram.  I am comforted by the fact she is coming to my dinner however, which is a much smaller affair than years previous, when I would invite anyone who didn’t already have plans. 

Usually, at this time on this day, I am rushing to finish last minute details.  But there are no cookies to bake this year.  The gifts have been purchased and wrapped for almost a month.  Cards sent some time ago.  I had much time on my hands this Christmas, so I got ahead of myself.  Now, all I have to do today is prep a casserole and make a coleslaw.  Then tonight I will be going to my parents to have a Christmas drink with them.  Then home, to bed, to anticipate the following day.

I think the reason I don’t dwell on the death of Ka on Christmas anymore is because of my family.  Not just my Gram, whom I adore, but my aunts and uncles and cousins who I get to see each Christmas, and it takes me back to when we were kids again.  But my family…they are the ones that were there when Ka left.  Take my aunt Mary…the night Ka died, she was right there, holding my hair back as I threw up my gourmet Christmas dinner at the news that Ka would be leaving us.  She stepped into that aunt role even deeper after Ka died, in the same way Gram did after Lois passed.  Or my cousin Katie.  We were best friends as kids, and grew apart in some ways, as people do when they get older.  But the night Ka died, she took Bern to her house and let her spend the night…she was there for my sister when I could not be.  These are just two people out of like 45, each of whom I have a story about illustrating their love.  I will miss them tonight.

But I look forward to tomorrow, which I something that in my youth I dared not dream of.  I look forward to opening presents with my parents and sister and husband.  I look forward to cooking dinner for Gram.  I’m even looking forward to my Christmas outfit, complete with…makeup!  Gasp!  (I gave up makeup for Corona the way you give up chocolate for Lent.)

Anyway, I wish you and yours a very Happy Holiday. Hold the people you love close to you, even if they are a world apart at the moment.  Love with your whole heart, and hope for a better tomorrow.

PS 920 words.  My finger is killing me.

Winter Solstice

Let’s see how many words I can do before my pinky gives up.

There’s this popular thread on Twitter right now from a Muslim man who is stuck here due to the pandemic and celebrating his first Christmas.  He had some observations.  It was really interesting and amusing to me.  Then I read a blog by a Muslim woman who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but loves everything about it.  Also fun, because she’s from Britain. and they have a few different things going on than us Yanks. Then I texted Sahar, my Muslim best friend, and asked what her deal was with Christmas…she always celebrated, as it turns out, so she wasn’t particularly useful to the conversation.  (Sorry, chica.)

Anyway, this got me thinking, as things do.  I grew up in a mostly white, mostly Christian community.  Christmas was a given, in every single way.  Here are some totally normal things from childhood: dragging an actual real tree into your house.  Staying perfectly still while dressed as Mary during a live nativity scene.  Knocking on doors and singing at people.  Accepting cookies from damn near strangers. 

All totally normal.

Now, I myself have always loved the topic of religion in every form, and I absorb material about world religions.  Each concept fascinates me.  But I wasn’t exposed to much growing up where I did.  I knew one Jewish girl-and she was a friend of a friend.  That’s how hard it was to come by a non-Christian.  And Muslim?  Forget it.  Title of first Muslim I knew goes to Sahar at age 16…only 2 years after I learned what a Muslim even was.

Totally normal thing from my childhood: not telling your kid other religions exist.

Now, Jews I knew, without knowing them.  I got pretty much every bible story ingrained in me from the time I was born, and Jews were featured prominently.  As a child, I thought they were kind of our allies…brothers and sisters who worshipped the same God, but held differing beliefs over who His Son was.  I thought this was a sensible disagreement.  I remember some kids being all “Jews killed Jesus!” and I never understood that line of thinking because did not Jesus say “forgive them, for they know not what they do?”  So, as a Christian, shouldn’t you just…do what he said?

In Religion class one year (because that was a totally normal thing: 40 minutes of bible study each day for a 1st grader,) we learned about Chanukah.  It seemed so fun!  Candles, and a game called dreidel, and 8 FLIPPING DAYS of presents.  I liked the story about the oil in the lamp, too, so I didn’t really get why we Christians weren’t doing Chanukah.

This kicked off that world-religion love, but my favorite part has always been other religious (and cultural) holidays.  My favorites are the Hindu’s Diwali and the El Dia de los Muertos for Spanish-Catholics. 

Then, high school, and Sahar, and a whole world of culture and art and religion and food that was hidden from me.  Wow.

It’s so funny to think that once upon a time my friend Meg told me her friend was Jewish and I thought “gee, that’s really neat.”

Today is the Winter Solstice.  It really kicks off the holiday, in my opinion, which should not be celebrated for a whole month and a half (says she who put the tree up early this year.)  My friend nick celebrates today, as he is Wiccan, despite being raised in the exact same Catholic classroom as me.  When he told me his intentions to leave the church, I was still very much in it and was concerned for his immortal soul and whatnot.  Now that I’ve managed to wash most of that Catholicism out of my hair, I can see with a much clearer eye that he went to what practices spoke to him, and that’s awesome and empowering.  So today is his “Christmas,” so to speak, and I keep him very close to my heart on the first night of Winter, even though we are literally a country apart. 

I don’t say Merry Christmas unless I know that person is Christian; I say Happy Holidays.  You can call me a liberal hippie all you want.  But there’s like a dozen holidays in December alone, and even though Christmas is the loudest solo artist out there, it’s not the only voice in the choir.

Now, I don’t know what Christmas Eve is looking like, so I may or not blog on Thursday.  If I do not, then a very Happy Holiday to you and yours, whatever it is you are celebrating.

Oh oh oh!  To my atheist friends: hope you have a chill Friday.

787 words…a little better, day by day.

She’s an American Girl

I wrote a little while ago about how losing my Barbie dolls was the end of my childhood.  Today, as Christmas approaches, I am thinking again of toys.  This time, it is a different sort of doll. 

Barbies of my day were fashion icons and pioneers of girl power, which was cool.  However, there was one doll that rose up above all the rest of those Barbies and baby dolls, one doll who stood up and eschewed fashion and make-up and didn’t need a bottle or a bath.  One doll to rule them all:  the American Girl Doll.

In 1986, the Pleasant Company released a line of dolls from historical eras, complete with a series of books and a wild array of accessories.  The first three released were Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly.

Now, I read all their books, (plus Addy’s, the first African-American doll they released in 1993.)  Loved them all.  But…I loved Samantha most.

I first learned the value of a dollar when I asked for her for Christmas.  She had a hefty 80$ price tag.  It was maybe 1991. I don’t think I would buy the girls an 80$ doll today, let alone back then.  My parents pretty much laughed at me.

So when Christmas Eve rolled around and I opened my big gift from my aunts and uncles, I was certainly not expecting to get both Samantha and her Christmas outfit.  There is a very pleased picture of me somewhere. (I found it!)

Anyway, Samantha’s time period was 1904, so I, as a budding bookworm, became fascinated with the turn of the century and consumed her books overnight.  For several years, I dressed her up in her Christmas outfit and brought her to the festivities at my Gram’s house, and I often got new trinkets for her from my aunts and uncles.  Then someone started buying me the other books.  I didn’t really want another doll, except maybe Molly (side note, my sister got her,) but I did discover an enjoyment of historical fiction and wanted to read all the books. 

Eventually, Samantha’s hair started falling out when I brushed it.  Then her arm fell off.  American Girl has a doll hospital, and I considered sending her there, but somehow she ended up in the basement, forgotten until the day we moved out of the house when I was in my early 20s.  She was a little moldy by then. The hospital couldn’t save her.

I’m still sad about it.

But, fast forward to now. 

American Girl has made many changes over the years, some I enjoyed-like dolls that look like you and differently-abled dolls.  Some decisions I didn’t like, such as the DISCONTINUATION OF SAMANTHA.

Now though, this year, they have released their newest and “youngest” doll-Courtney.  From 1986.

I want her.

No…I want her books.

I tell Sahar and she directed me to the AG website, where both doll and book are for sale.  I read the description…Courtney is a girl living in the 80s who really enjoys video games, but gets bullied for playing them because she’s a girl.  Um…yes, please.  It went on to say that the book includes a “historical ‘looking back” section.  …Excuse you. 

Anyway, Sahar then texts me and tells me the book will be at my house on Saturday and Merry Christmas.  So I won’t be getting this awesome 80s brand doll, but I will be reading her story, which has always been the best part of the American Girl experience for me.

Seriously though…someone tell me the moment they bring Sam back for a limited release.  Make it happen, American Girl.

Me with Sam. Plus my cousin Katie and my dad.

It takes time.

Thirteen years ago, on the day after Christmas, my aunt Ka died.  It was sudden and unexpected.  She suffered a brief illness and then swiftly was gone, and it broke my heart.

On Saturday night, as Mark was showering and getting ready to go to my family Christmas party, I received word that his favorite aunt had passed, suddenly and tragically.  I had a few minutes with the news myself before he came out of the bathroom, and I struggled with what to say to him.  I remembered the morning after Christmas, 6am, when Sharon (my other mother) came in the door to find me sleeping on the sofa.  Mom was bereft.  Sharon was the one who told me Ka was gone.  She barely needed to say anything, really.  I already knew.  In the same way that my husband already knew when he came into the bedroom and I said “you need to call your mom.”

Mark went to the party anyways, and I don’t know how he did it.  He did pull me aside at one point and tell me that K seemed particularly sensitive to his feelings…she knew.  She was sitting beside me when he mother texted.  She made sure he got a hug every twenty minutes.  In the morning, we went to Tim Horton’s and she ordered two cookies.  I was about to give a heavy mom-speech about sugar when she turned to me and said “peanut butter are dad’s favorites.  That will cheer him up.”

I expected Mark to check out from life for a day or so as that is his usual MO when someone dies, but instead he went hard on the Dad thing.  He woke up and played video games with the girls, then put up their new beds and helped them set up their room.  He picked out a menu for a dinner they could make together, and we went to the store to get ingredients.  We returned to him watching the Bills game, and inviting Kevin over for dinner.  He then proceeded to make some amazing spaghetti and meatballs, and then whipped out the Monopoly board.  He tried to go to sleep early but couldn’t, so we ended up staying up late watching Knives Out (great flick) and then I went to bed.  I awoke this morning to find the whole house asleep…STILL asleep actually, it’s now almost noon.  So, I can only assume they stayed up watching movies after I went to sleep.

Mark said to me at one point that he just wanted to have a good weekend for his girls, and wanted to deal with the grief afterwards.  So of course, I expect some sort of meltdown at some point, but I don’t think it will be that bad, honestly.  I think that having his daughters around for this shocking and sad thing has really helped him.  We hardly ever have just the two of them, but I think the universe knew that’s who Mark needed right now and made it happen.  He would call this nonsense, but I have enough belief in the spiritual for the both of us. 

I was really sad on Saturday night.  I cried at the party maybe three times, and not because of his aunt, whom I have never met, but my own, whom I miss terribly.  Usually I function with the idea that she is away on a long missionary trip to the Philippines or something.  Sometimes the delusion wears thin, and that’s when the tears come.  Still, I think of everything she did for me, and everything she wanted for me, and how much she loved me, and I feel at peace.  But that took time.  I hope Mark gets there-I know he will.  But, it will take time.

Everything does.

Christmas Recap

Well, Christmas came and went in a flurry of activity.  First, we went to my Gram’s for our yearly Christmas get-together for the whole family, which is large to say the least.  My anxiety was a little peaked and I wasn’t really able to eat anything so I very fidgety and in and out of the house all night.  We left a little early, and then I tried to sleep but couldn’t.  I don’t know how much I actually slept, but I was up and ready to go by 7:30, and we went over to my mother’s house to exchange gifts.

I was totally spoiled this year.  Hubs got me an air fryer.  Mom gave me an antique typewriter and a smoothie maker.  Bern got me a bunch of Betsey Johnson stuff.  Dad got me a new Stephen King and a recording of me and my Grandma Lois playing nail salon when I was seven.  That last one really made me cry.

It was a good Christmas morning.

In the afternoon I cooked dinner.  I made ham I couldn’t eat but everyone said was the best one yet.  I made apple bacon coleslaw, Italian asparagus, cheddar biscuits, and what I think was the best sweet potato casserole yet (that I could eat.)  For dessert, I made a traditional English trifle.  It was all delicious.  It was all exhausting.

By 8pm I was in my new Christmas jammies and sitting on the sofa under the Sherpa blanket I got from my sister.  I watched a little television and then fell asleep.  This morning I awoke to a mess, like Christmas whipped though my house and tore it apart.  I expect to spend most of the day tidying.  But first…I’m going to make a cup of coffee and enjoy the quiet for a little bit.  I haven’t really had much of a break since last Thursday, so I intend to savor today.

Next up on the holiday agenda is my parent’s Christmas party on Saturday, then the dreaded New Year’s Eve.  I would like to celebrate in some fashion, but no one has parties anymore and I’m not about to go to the ball drop again.  We went one year and it was cold and expensive and terrible.  I prefer to watch it on TV, thank you very much. 

Anyways, I’m off to find that cup of coffee and maybe curl up under my blankie and watch a movie before I tackle the wreckage left from Christmas.  May your coffee be hot and your presents be thoughtful.