Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ribbons and Bows

And the run for the holiday continues. For the last many, many years I have been one of those pathetic individuals who could be located in the mall on Christmas Eve. Every single year I would vow, with the same sincerity I use when trying to negotiate some detail of my life with God, that next year I would have my act together. Not that there isn't something sort of thrilling about playing Race the Clock as I sweep through Macy's grabbing at anything in some sort of effort to complete my quest before they accidentally lock me in for the night. However, when one does this the Christmas Shopping Error Factor goes way up and it can be a tad unfortunate to watch your 6'8" adult male child open a pastel sweater with an appliqued bear on the front of it, or when you have to explain to your mother that, no, you don't think she's fat, you didn't realize that you had purchased a size XXXXX. And its not like I don't enjoy spending half the night locked in my bedroom wrapping all my last-minute purchases. I mean, surely, no one could find anything more fun than wrapping, right? So what if I go to bed at 4AM forgetting that the ONLY day of the year my children wake with the first light of dawn is coming in 2 hours....

But, despite all those good times, I have decided that this year I will be more on top of it. As though in some sort of unspoken reminder that I really need to grow up, three huge boxes arrived on my doorstep on Dec. 5. All three of these boxes were from my mother. OK, having it together is one thing, but Dec. 5th? Isn't that just a wee bit over the top? Grumbling about how she has to be some sort of freak of nature to be this organized, I haul the boxes inside and proceed to ignore them right along with the rest of the holiday. Well, "ignore" to the best of my ability, that is. Hard to do when you are being carted off to one festivity after another and everyone around you has taken "merry" to another level.

But determined I was, so on the 16th I went shopping. I thought it was going to be a zoo, but it wasn't. (My girlfriend thought it was, but then she doesn't have the Xmas Eve Mania to use as comparison.) I was proud of myself. I had even managed to do this in time to avoid the dreaded OVERNIGHT MAIL (which, in my vast experience is a tremendous failure 90% of the time. Overnight maybe, over which night is anybody's guess. I think they should re-bill it with more honesty - Over the Night of January 7th or something along those lines.) So that evening I returned home, quite the successful little shopper and proceeded to start wrapping the gifts that need to be shipped, amongst them those for my youngest child who will not be home this year.

Now, I hate wrapping. And I'm bad at it. I've always admired people who hand over those beautifully wrapped packages. You know the ones - gold paper, sparkly netted ribbon, perfectly coifed bows..... I say I'm going to do that, but if I'm honest I have to admit that I'm lucky enough to be able to tie my tennis shoes, nevermind achieving the high level of aesthetic bow that I want to. So, in the name of tradition, I give the first package a go and it isn't too bad. Of course it is a movie and therefore relatively straight forward. As soon as I moved onto the clothes I was in trouble. Naturally I had neglected to consider boxes for any of my purchases, so there I was, the Queen of Tape, trying to referee the battle between the lumpy sweater and the evil, evil paper. By the time I was done with that nonsense, the very idea of a pretty bow was well out the window and I blessed the little bag of pre-stick bows I was now slamming down with something akin to an assembly bottling line.

Hours later I have accomplished my goal. I sit back, exhausted. I know I still need to open my mother's boxes and remove my son's gifts to ship them along with mine, but frankly I'm annoyed with her. I'm sitting in a room surrounded by snippets of wrapping paper, scissors, tape, labels, bags, wadded up bunches of wrapping paper that rudely tore in my efforts, popcorn and ribbon strewn around me, none of which made it to the presents. Kodak is asleep on the couch next to me, having lost interest in my plight and my oldest son is nowhere to be seen having found a timely exit to be in his best interest. The only one who seems to want to "share" in the moment with me would be my cat, Boo boo, who is kamikazing the discarded wrapping paper and doing his level best to complete the perfect picture of mayhem for me. And in the middle of all of this are my mother's three boxes, dated December-freaking-fifth, taunting me for my perpetual state of flux.

I turned gratefully to my television at that point, and resigned myself to watching my favorite holiday character, the beloved Grinch, and once again relating altogether too well to his outlook on things.

The next day I knew I had to brave the inevitable. I had to break into my mother's world and face the fact that I will never quite be the perfect picture of domesticity and organization that she is. Or anywhere close, probably.

WELL!!!! Imagine my surprise when I opened all three boxes and learned her secret! Nothing was wrapped. Nothing. Nada. Zip. There must have been 50 things in those boxes, all snuggled in together, shawls and sweaters providing padding for frames, vases and varying fragile items.

I absolutely howled with laughter for a minute then abruptly stopped when it dawned on me that my son's presents were also unwrapped. Oh dear. I eyed the tragedy of wrapping paper that my cat had left me and contemplated the situation. I should, could, wrap them.

Two hours later the UPS truck was moseying down the street with my boxes. My job was done. All that was left to do was make one short call to my son.

"Honey? I just sent you a box today. Just wanted to let you know that the unwrapped gifts are from your Grandmother. You know how she is, right?"



OH yes - again with this - I'm a photographer, notice me, notice me, notice me - And I do promise that eventually I will figure out how to do this part of the blog with more finesse. Maybe.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Well, here we go.

I suppose writing in a blog should be simple enough for someone who is also a professional writer, but for some odd reason, STARTING to write in this thing is downright thwarting.

So lets skip it as an "opening act" and just move on as though I've been at this thing for years.

It's Christmas. For photographers this doesn't usually mean any sort of hall decking. What it usually means is some sort of mad scramble to fill the nine million orders that come in at the last minute. We are used to it. We exchange phone calls with one another just out of some sick need to know that we aren't the only ones who feel like we are drowning. For the last couple years, my holiday has consisted of taking a single strand of lights, draping it over my living room curtain rod and plugging it in. Ho, ho, ho. I've focused on New Years instead. Timing is much better and WHO put Christmas so close to Thanksgiving anyway? What in the world is that about?

However, this year I see I'm not going to be allowed the luxury of ignoring the holiday. No, not at all. For one thing, my oldest child is returning home from the Navy. Its been a long time since I've seen him and he is very excited. Especially since last Christmas was all about packaged meals in the mess hall. So his big thing is for me to wait to get the tree with him and we can decorate it together. Bonding moment bundled with someone-else-to-deal-with-the-lights. Works for me.

However, it does not work for the boyfriend. Now, in my history of boyfriends one thing that has remained consistant throughout is a scrouge-like approach to the Holiday of Lights. You know the type. Santa neglected to give them the train set they wanted at the age of 8 and its been all down hill from there. 40 years of sulking and they still aren't done with it. So, for many moons, I've looked to the kids for some holiday action and, to their credit, they've been very good about it (although I have to say that they do draw the line at watching Frosty with me every year because I still cry when Frosty melts. Pathetic, I know, but nonetheless, traditions are traditions.....). But after 10 months of dating, I have discovered that, while I thought I was dating a chef/realtor, I am, in fact, dating Santa Claus.

The second Thanksgiving was over his transformation into Mr. Ho Ho began. First, he turned his mother's house into a multi-colored power plant. This took about a week, and then he turned his eye on me. Apparently, my house was sorely lacking in festivity. "So... don't you think you would feel more in the spirit if you put some lights up?" he asks.

"I will soon. I'm waiting for Collin."

"You are waiting for Collin for the tree, right? Don't you think it would be cool if he saw lights when he got home?"

"I supposse. I will pull them out in a day or two," I reply absently, deeply engrossed in my work.

"Do you have lights? I could get you lights."

"No, I'm fine. Got it covered." Now, I'm saying this merely to distract him from distracting me. If I was thinking about this on any level, I would have spoken differently.

If the truth be known, I'm not so good with lights. We could even say I have an issue with lights. They mystify me. Mind you, I love them. My entire adult life I have planned to be one of those people with the beautifully lit house that you want to drive by and admire. And I tried, once. Collin and I went out in the pouring rain and put lights all over the place. We turned them on, immediately blew a circut breaker and that was the end of that. Then there is the whole business of The Ladder. I realize that as a photographer, ladders should be a matter of course with me, but they aren't. I will climb trees to avoid ladders. I use them if I HAVE to but require people to hang on to me. In my world, ladders are just WRONG. Besides, when you have a son who is 6'8", ladders are rather superfulous. Therefore, any outdoor lighting situations are done at waist level.

Inside is another story. I can climb on chairs just fine. But then you have tree branches to contend with and despite years of instruction from my meticulous father, I've never quite mastered this. Suffice to say that as much as I like them, my ability to handle lights - well, you get the idea.

I'm digressing. I do this. Sorry. My point being that while I'm learning the Clause-esque tendencies of my mate this year, he is learning that I'm much more adept at Easter eggs.

He's not giving up easily, however. Almost daily I am getting quizzed on the holiday and why I don't seem to be showing any signs. One week into December, I get this:

"You know... trees go up in price the closer you get to Chirstmas."

"Yeah, but if I wait until the 24th the are free!"

"You aren't serious!?" He's clearly appalled and has seemingly forgotten my propensity for sarcasm.

"Well, I promised Collin I would wait for him, remember?"

"Yes, but wouldn't it be easier if you at least had all the stuff out and ready to decorate with when he gets here?"

I look at him - apparently he thinks after driving 36 hours in three days my son is going to want to rush out, buy a tree and engage in some sort of Speed Decorating to compensate for the tree not having been up for the last week. However, the look on his face is alarmingly similiar to the look my kids used to get when I told them, "No, you can't open your presents yet. You have to wait for Santa." Clearly I must do something, anything, to show my intentions of acknowledging Our Holiday of Divine Inconvenience. So I duly haul out my Christmas boxes.

"There. There is the box of lights."

He looks. "Sharon! This is rediculous - this is going to take a week to untangle!"

I look. Back to me and the thing with lights. Once again I have fogotten my annual vow of not doing this to myself again. I reach down and pull out 18 cords of lights who seem to all simultaneously be attempting to become one with each other.

"No, not a week, an hour. I know, I do it every year."

He picks up an errant plug and plugs it in. Nada. "This one is dead." He then proceeds to search out the other plugs and repeat the process. Only one lights up.

We then go through the long, belabored discussion on how to appropriately ressurect a $2 strand of Walmart Xmas lights. My policy is to spend inordinate amounts of time doing the random light replacing process in order to make half the strands work. He sees little or no point in this.

For a day or two, I've been able to return to stoically pretending that Christmas is still months away and working. Phone rings.

"Honey? I'm at Rite Aid. Do you need anything?" Wow. Gotta love a guy that does this, right?

"Yes. I need a chain for the ceiling fan. The other one is broken." Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

"What?!!" (he's incredulous that someone could be thinking "ceiling fan" instead of "Proverbial Hall Decking") "Don't you want some decorations?"

I surrender. "Oh yeah! Get me a 8 foot frosty that waves to everyone when they drive by. Its been a long time dream of mine."

"They are having a sale on lights. And they have trees here too."

Again with the tree. "One word,Tommy - just one word: Collin."

"Yeah, but you could have the tree just waiting, you wouldn't have to decorate it yet."

"Hon? Have you gone completely over the Seasonal Edge?"

"Just call him and ask him. I mean, I'm sure he would love to come home to a festive house."

Fine. I call Collin."No mom. Tell him to get off my damn tree. I'm buying the tree."

I report this to the sorrowful acceptence reminicent of a 5 year old. I felt bad, like I had neglected to leave Santa his cookies or something.

Two hours later he returns, back to his beaming self, bearing gifts. While I do not yet have a tree, I am now the proud owner of 6 brand new strands of (untangled) lights, tinsel, and two boxes of candy canes. And when I wandered back in the house with blurry eyes and mind, I tripped over the box of dead lights and was, very grateful.

Who knows? This might be the start of a very good change in my life. (As long as he is in charge of putting the lights away, that is.)

Oh - and I forgot - this is a blog and is suppossed to be a business blog like other photographer's business blogs and since 'tis the season for no time to mess around (unless it is with egg nog), let's just cut to the chase on that plan: Notice me, notice me, notice me. I'm a photographer. I'm good at it. Does that constitute enough self-promotion for one blog? Good Lord, I hope so, cuz that is all I have at the moment.

Merry Christmas!