on christmas eve

24 12 2008

the secrets are buried in electronic wrapping, the pixelated whispers have all played themselves out, & something is always worth getting teary about on the phone–or tearing up laughing over in a loud, full room, or apologizing for to an empty room when one connection dissipates, before breathing deep of pine and juniper and pulling the wires together to assume another.

highlight of the dinner party the other night (there were many, there are always many, but the readership tends to like snippets, so here’s one bottled and nicely packaged with a bow): alongside nellie, who’s 2 1/2 and very articulate about everything (susan, somewhere, has sound and video of her saying “may i have red wine please” because she’s been taught to be polite, and if everyone else wants it, so does she), audrey, age 2, born doing a far better molly ringwald impression than i’ll ever pull off, is stacking round-ended blocks in little towers that occasionally end in animals (it’s hard to explain–kids’ toys have their own sort of sense, about which it seems best not to ask too many questions). the cow is a favorite block-stack-topper, and the phrase “cow on top” quickly develops a particular intonation of delivery that causes giggling and automatic mimicry. then she brings me a stack with a chicken on it, red wings (don’t ask), beak, and all, and she says “monkey.” “isn’t that a chicken?” “monkey.” “i think that’s a chicken,” i insist a little, pointing, because she seems a reasonable sort (one who uses sentences quite comfortably, by the way, although this example doesn’t include any to demonstrate that fact). “don’t you think these look like wings? they look like wings to me.” audrey looks at me for a second, looks over her shoulder at each of her parents as if to say “she really doesn’t get it, does she?” and then looks back at me. “monkey,” she says with raised eyebrows and emphatic, unruffled finality. “okay,” i agree, because what else can one do? “monkey.” “you’d think,” says brian, her father, the one i’ve known since we were eleven, “that you of all people would know better than to argue with a redhead.”

my mom is walking back and forth up the hallway for tape and other essentials, singing snatches of “christmas vacation” (apparently the only words to the soundtrack of the chevy chase movie) and wrapping our very few packages in the other room, the cats are slinking around like silent border guards watching over invisible territories, the woods are gradually fading to a dingy turquoise out the window, & aaric has gone off to church, putting a stop to our gossiping over IM–same people and patterns as when we were (split the difference at) 16, except that IM doesn’t tie up the phone lines and is harder to overhear; our moms, after so many years, have learned to recognize and perk up at at least a couple of names. there has been a lot of name-trading the past couple of days–message_2love and jules_11 & i did our fare share last night–although it’s not about the gossip itself, it never has been; telling stories is how we keep people, how we make sure we’re kept. it’s the same work as facebook profiling, but warmer; as old women gossipping, we’ve kept the fondness and long since let catty go.

well. that kind of catty. the one crying around the bottom of this chair (more like wailing, really–she’s siamese) seems quite vociferous about being touched more, not less. she reminds me of somebody i used to know. it was equally annoying–and persistently charming nonetheless–coming from her.

so all of that amounts to… i don’t know. low expectations all around, & nobody really seems to mind. it’s an awful lot of work, wanting things. sometimes it’s nice just to sit still, look at the colors of the lights, not talk anything up, & not let anybody down.




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