Tag Archives: Christmas

Zombie Risk During the Holidays

zombie christmas greeting cardMany of us think of the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year as a happy season, filled with parties, presents, feasts, and family. The more cynical among us may grouse that such occasions are not cause for celebration, but very, very few of us see the holidays for the danger that it poses, which is this:

If the zombie apocalypse happened during the holidays, more people than usual would perish.

There are many reasons for this. In order to better protect the public good, I have listed them forthwith. Read, share, remember, people.

The Santa Myth–It sounds sweet to leave the back door unlocked or the sliding door unbarred, or the flue to the chimney in the open position, but these are all easy entry points for the undead to get into your house and ruin your merriment. Those aren’t reindeer hooves on the roof, people. Look, if zombie doomsday lands during Christmas season, you’re going to have to own up with your children about the fact that Santa does not exist. There’s no need for putting out cookies and milk, and there’s no reason to remove the barricades around the perimeter outside the house, either. Just hole up and hold on to dear life that DARPA or some one who still has a living brain will figure out how to help humanity survive.

Driving on Treacherous Roads to Visit People–The sun sets early at this time of year (Australians and Chileans excepted), which means that the howling for human flesh begins in the middle of the day. If you insist on seeing Aunt Maude because she gets lonely on Thanksgiving, for heaven’s sake depart at 8:00AM, an hour after dawn. You really owe it to your loved ones to take care while traveling in such trying times; bring those tire chains, crank-operated radios, and flamethrowers.

Giving Presents–Who knows what lies behind the pretty wrapping paper? To be extra safe that there’s nothing amiss in any given box, just hand out the presents in gallon-sized ziplock baggies. Remember the old adage: If you can’t see it, you don’t need it!

Drinking Lowers Alertness–Holiday celebrations sound like a good idea, sure, but consider that slowed reaction time, inhibited instincts to sense danger, and lowered ability to communicate could be the difference between getting away from hungry zombies and becoming a late night snack. Pass on the bubbly and pour yourself another mug of coffee instead. Also consider that gorging on Christmas cookies may make you sleepier than usual, another potential problem if you need to speed away to safety.

Christmas Lights Are a Beacon–Nothing says tasty person treat like an inflatable glowing, giant snow globe on the front lawn, or string after string of holiday lights. Even with their reduced intellectual capacity zombies will scrape over to ENORMOUS GLOWING OBJECTS. Save more than your energy bills. Save your lives and turn the lights out. You can have the Hannukah spirit in the safety of your walled off basement. Just tell yourselves the Maccabees had it worse and still somehow came out of it.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Lighting the Uh-Oh

Emile has lived through a holiday season once before, but last go around, he didn’t notice much of it. Holding up a 14-month-old to a Christmas tree bursting with colored lights is a bit like holding a moth up to the sun, except for the lack of fluttering. For me it just isn’t December if there’s not a tree bedecked with garland and sentimental ornaments, but we worried about setting anything up in the same space as our new walker of the household. I hatched a plan to hide the tree behind our click-clack futon so that until Emile learns to climb, direct access would be prevented. This also means that the lowest third of the tree is obscured by black vinyl, but whatever, for the wee one this Kmart brand 6.5-foot tree is like an amazing magical fortress.

Now then, for the sake of context, let me point out that for a 14-month-old, Emile is quite verbal. His vocabulary now includes the following:

  • Ow
  • Mama
  • Dada
  • Mommy
  • Daddy
  • Woof (usually said to dogs or puppies)
  • Meow (usually said to cats or dogs)
  • Hi (his actual first word)
  • ‘Lo (short for hello, usually said to anything resembling an electronic device, always positioned in his hand at the back of his skull where naturally these devices reside)
  • Uncle
  • Apple (used for apples but also oranges and pears)
  • ‘Nana (for bananas, not grandmothers)
  • Bye-bye
  • Mwah (said in conjunction with a blown kiss)
  • No, or no-no-no (said with increasing frequency)
  • Yesh (often said with a nod that makes my heart explode because cynics like me can’t handle the cute)
  • Uh-oh Read More…

Enjoying the Holidays Zombie-Free

zombie carolersNothing blows a holiday party like an uninvited zombie guest. I for one don’t want to have all of my planning and preparation ruined by even one moaning undead person with a penchant for biting my other guests. Plus, those zombies are always bringing uninvited friends, and they’re horrible at making small talk. While anyone who smells of decomposition or has limbs falling off is easily identifiable as a zombie, an individual may be in an earlier state of zombification and thus harder to detect. Here are some easy ways to spot the burgeoning zombie so they don’t wreck your holiday: Read More…

Holiday trains, planes, and automobiles

Detroit Metro AirportThe lack of proximity between purchasing airline tickets and actually getting onto an airplane has not served us well this year. Susanne, in early October, had her face buried in her laptop screen. “What do you think about this flight,” she asked, her eyes mere inches from the glowing pixels, “it’s a really good price.”

“How good,” I asked, leaning over. “Oh, that is good.”

“But it’s a red eye,” she said.

“But the price,” I said.

Abstractly, I understood that it was a middle-of-the-night flight. I do, after all, have a very successful track record with surviving the middle of the night, even if I’m usually asleep for it.

“It’s three legs,” she said, sounding less confident.

I responded by ignoring her fears. “It’s always at least two, hon,” I said, a little too cheerfully. She should have understood right then that I was just blinded by my thriftiness and rethought our approach. But perhaps Susanne was seeing little stars of savings, too.

We sent our credit card numbers through the information superhighway and were rewarded with an email confirming we had just purchased our way to visiting friends and family for the holidays. And then went about our daily routine, forgetting all about it.

And then we were driving, in late December, to the airport. We had an 8 o’clock fight to Seattle, a multi-hour layover, and then a midnight flight to Minneapolis, followed by another couple of hours in that airport, and then a morning flight to Detroit.

What a horrible itinerary! Who had done this to us?

We had. We had done this to ourselves.

We drove by the bad broccoli plant, which for its part sent us an intense putrid odor as a parting shot for departing Walla Walla. Every time we’ve left before, the city has done some kind of stick-its-tendrils-into-us to slow us down. What would it be this time, I wondered, trying not to breathe as I drove past the paper mill. It just loved us so much it wanted to stay in our nostrils.

On the first plane, the flight attendant told us happily that we’d be making a stop in Yakima on our way to Seattle. This meant we were splitting the trip into two 25-minute segments. Never going about 15,000 feet, we stopped like a bus at the Yakima airport and five people joined our flight. About ten minutes away from Seattle, the worst stench of gastrointestinal distress invaded my olfactory nerves. I looked at Susanne and mouthed, “was that you?”

She shook her head no emphatically. We tried to breathe as little as we could, having just practiced this outside the paper mill. The flight attendant empathized with us, as she was also stuck at the very back of the plane with us and the killer fart. As we rolled into the gate, they put two staircases up to the fuselage, and the flight attendant, knowing our plight, told us we could just take the one in the back, two feet behind our seats. We walked the length of the terminal toward our next gate. Having cleared our heads, our stomachs started rumbling, and we decided to get dinner.

The waiter asked what we wanted. As we were in a tap house and pub, we each ordered a wheat beer. He plunked them down on the table, announcing last call.

“When do you close,” I asked.

“In 30 minutes,” he said.

We drank our beers and ate our greasy food quickly, rushing off to the shuttle train to our next terminal and departure gate. I could feel the reuben sloshing around in my tipsy stomach, but we had some time to relax before the red eye. The Seattle airport has free wifi, which seems nice until one notices that it has next to no power outlets. What teases. We wandered around looking for a free outlet, to no avail. And the people who had already juiced up weren’t offering to unplug, even for a little while. This made me wonder if:

1. everyone had terrible laptop batteries that wouldn’t hold a charge

2. they hated Christmas and were hogging the electricity just to be nasty

3. they were inattentive, oblivious Northwesterners

So we booted up my laptop, sharing it between us and hoping to model good behavior for all of the manners-impaired strangers in the terminal. Somehow I think it didn’t make any difference.

We piled on to the red eye, hoping for a smooth enough, unoffensively smelling enough flight that we could catch some sleep before getting into the Twin Cities. Susanne conked out on my shoulder quickly, but I have trouble staying asleep while sitting up, so I watched the people around me slumber instead, some snoring, some with their jaws hanging open while doing so. And I realized that it’s no wonder why people eat a good number of bugs over the years.

Landing after the red eye, we were somewhat dismayed to discover we still weren’t there yet.

Our next gate was a little ways down from a Caribou Coffee. A family of three each had a drink from there, and they looked so happy, like a live advertisement for the wonderful things coffee can do for you, too. Have an impressive blonde son and snappily dressed trophy wife! Enjoy endless energy and increase your income potential with our frozen vanilla frappuccinos!

“I’m going to get some coffee,” said Susanne, standing up. “Would you like anything?”

I stared at the happy people. Happy people. I wanted to go to there. I nodded at her.

“Okay, what would you like?”

My voice, exhausted, came out in a whisper.

“A frosty mcfrosterson,” I said.

“A what?”

I pointed at the 4-year-old toe head. “Mocha,” I squeaked.

“Is there anything else you want, like some caramel flavor or hazelnut?”

Why was she making this so difficult? I said frosty mcfrosterson! Just understand what I want! I’m perfectly clear!

That was what I thought. But what I said was:


“Okay,” she said, now talking to me as if I were only 4. “Do you want anything to eat?”

I shook my head no.

She came back a really long time later that equaled something like 7 minutes, and I sucked back my frozen mocha in a few gulps. The caffeine hit me like a Boxing Day tsunami. Maybe that’s exaggerating and trivializing. Okay, it hit me like really bad flatulence, except it was so good. And not odiferous in any way. I was suddenly, powerfully awake.

I typed things, I texted people. I was online and sending status updates to anyone who cared. In the very narrow band of things that could be remotely productive while sitting in an airport waiting to catch one’s third flight in 12 hours, I was a king of getting shit done.

Susanne seemed to be buzzing, too. She asked if she should get us a bagel and cream cheese. That sounded like a terrific idea! Sure! Get us 14 bagels!

She found some organic-pretends-to-be-French bakery and got us a hemp bagel. I had no idea people ate hemp. Wasn’t it reserved for scratchy rope and reusable shopping bags? Would we get high from eating this?

We did not get high, which was good, given that we were already loopy. But I did discover that hemp seeds can get caught pretty easily between one’s teeth. Good life experience to note, I guess.

Finally, at long last, we were on our last flight. Only two hours and forty-eight minutes to Detroit. The flight was uneventful.

Our bags were not on the belt. I lined up in a long queue for lost luggage, not confident that I could explain what had happened with any degree of clarity, or words, even. Probably I would just wave my arms a lot and point to my claim tag bar codes, and hope that would suffice for them. I was a raving mad man, a very tired raving mad man. So maybe I wasn’t raving. I was a raved, farted on, ear-drum deafened, sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated, hemp-eating mad man.

Three people before I reached the front of the line Susanne tapped me on the shoulder and told me she’d found her bag on one random luggage belt and mine on another. I trudged out to the car, brought thankfully by her cousin and husband, who came with the car as part of a package driving deal, and didn’t ask how our bags wound up on the opposite end of the baggage claim area. I didn’t care anymore.

We rode 90 minutes to Susanne’s parents’ house, had a cup of tea, and took a 3-hour nap. We had crossed 17 hours, three flights, four airports, one train, two commutes, one really bad cheese cutting incident, two bad meals, one hurried pint of hefeweisen, and three increasingly inarticulate conversations. We woke up at 5:30pm Eastern time, which felt like 2:30 to us, kind of, since I think I never actually saw the sun the whole day, and really, I didn’t even know what day it was anymore.

But hell, it only cost us $525 a ticket.

The Walla Walla Macy’s Festival of Light, or, It’s a Small Town, It Doesn’t Need But One Light

Walla Walla trolleyLast year Susanne and I went to observe the local Holiday parade—oh heck, it’s Walla Walla, we don’t need to pretend to be PC. Or rather, calling it a “holiday parade” is really a misnomer, because in fact it’s a Christmas parade. Yes, Christmas. As in, not Kwanzaa, not solstice, not any of the Jewish High Holidays, and certainly, most definitely, how could you even suggest it, anything Arabic. Last year, at least, the floats were about two thirds Christian church groups and denominations, one third the Elks Club and dog rescues. So for those of you doing the math, yes, there were six floats. Okay, there were a few more, but the whole event was over in 10 minutes. And each float was really intense, with lots of waving, small children—the one who got my “Best Waver” award was tween girl who gesticulated somewhere between Queen Elizabeth II and Maddona’s “strike a pose” vogue choreography. Seriously, the girl had it down. This year there were more floats, no MiniCooper brigade, although there were a slew of 60s and 70s-era muscle cars, lots more church groups, and a few fire trucks decked out in white lights, with Santa atop the ladder, which was pretty freaking cool, if you ask me. I was on a ladder truck once. I was 4, with my preschool class, and it was so exciting I nearly peed all over the vehicle. Something about a red, plastic firefighter’s helmet was just too much for me. Maybe that’s why I went into computers.

Anyway, there’s nothing really wrong with church groups per se, just that one gets  a little tired, whilst standing on the sidewalk in the 6pm pitch darkness, fending off folks who are walking with the floats and handing out scripture, lest one’s soul take a detour to that fire and brimstone place at the end of one’s life. That’s presumptive. To my mind, if I am interested in your church, I’ll check it out all on my own. My grandmother moved a lot with her farmer/carpenter husband, and she practically interviewed the pastors of competing churches in each new town to see which one would best reflect her family’s viewpoint. Obviously not a shrinking violet, my grandmother, and I want to applaud her initiative to basically make churches compete against each other. I’d like to see a sack race, actually, with a Ryrie Study Bible at the goal line, maybe.

But really, it’s just a little too exclusionary for me. People should feel excitement to see a town’s parade, not feel alienated by it. I’m sure it’s not their intention; it’s just a reflection of the fact that for 36,000 residents, Walla Walla has a lot of churches. DC certainly had its houses of prayer as well—drive down 16th Street NW into Maryland (which is also the President’s ground escape route, by the way) and you will count more than 25 churches and synagogues, as well as other buildings for less mainstream-in-America faiths, like Baha’i, Buddhism, and Hinduism. In Walla Walla, a small group of Quakers meets in the faculty lounge of a Whitman College building because there aren’t enough of them to warrant building a Friend’s House. There is a synagogue on Alder Street, at which I’ve never seen a person coming or going. Maybe the congregants take secret tunnels in and out of it.

My intention isn’t to gripe about Christians. I was raised Catholic (I can hear the booing and hissing), and it imparted a lot of valuable lessons and beliefs I hold dear to this day. Don’t break your chalk in anger. Always put the period inside the quote marks, always, always, ALWAYS. No talking during announcements. You will never know everything, so don’t even try. Turn the other cheek, always, always, always. The good in life that you do counts, so do some good, you rug rat. Forgive the sinner, hate the sin.

This last life lesson was highlighted my senior year of parochial high school, in religion class. Religion class for seniors was all about how to have “The Catholic Marriage,” which, now that I think of it, was also a bit presumptive, if not at least unintentionally pressuring us to get married right away. We were mostly 17, after all. At any rate, our teacher, Sister Doretta, who I gather had never actually participated in Catholic Marriage, was leading discussion that spring, which must have been tough. I mean, I felt no need to continue the last month of class—I’d already selected my college and was marking big red Xs on my calendar as a personal countdown to getting to leave New Jersey. So it was only with one ear that I heard her talk about one tiny little paragraph at the end of the workbook (don’t even ask what our workbook practices were about) on homosexuality. And then she had my attention, because the official stance didn’t make sense to me.

17-year-old Me: Wait a minute, Sr. Doretta. It’s not being gay, it’s the behavior the Church opposes?

Sr. Doretta: Yes, exactly.

17YOM: Okay, okay. So you can be gay, you just can’t do anything?

Sr. Doretta: Well, right. It’s the sin, not the person.

17YOM: Wait, wait, wait. They could be gay, as long as they’re celibate?

Sr. Doretta: (sounding exasperated) Yes, child.

17YOM: Well, then they might as well be clergy!

Out of the mouths of babes. I wonder what she told the other sisters in the nunnery at supper that night.

Sr. Doretta: So this smart ass in class today figured out that gay people can be clergy.

Sr. Barbara: (finishing a sip of water from a crystalline challis) Oh, dear.

Sr. Cornelius: Let me guess. (chews slowly) The Maroon kid.

Sr. Doretta: You are a wise woman, Sister Cornelius.

Sr. Cornelius: (cutting into her roast lamb) Please. I’ve got that character for homeroom. Always talking during announcements.

If there were a float of nuns at the Walla Walla parade, I’d have to burst into laughter. Maybe I just like my religious figures to come with a jaundiced eye, instead of a 4-color, glossy cardstock notice that I too could be a fervent follower of Christ. Maybe I prefer being a fatass follower instead. Maybe, just maybe, I think my work for the Lord is by making sure I witness to everyone that they should always always always put the period inside the quote marks.

As it is, I’m glad people can be spiritual however they want, as long as they respect my ability to do that as well. As for the Walla Walla Christmas parade, I greatly enjoyed the guy riding his snowmobile on skateboards, and the grandfather who pulled his granddaughter behind his tractor that had so recently been used for field work that it left little bits of wheat behind in the street.

I was a bit concerned for the people who kept dashing across the street, looking for a better view, but I quickly realized they were more than capable of clearing the road before the vehicles traveling 8 miles an hour got anywhere near them. Every so often someone driving a pickup truck would get to the end of a side street, totally befuddled that there was some kind of event going on, and then you could see a light appear over their head as they realized that they had in fact, driven around a detour sign. So that’s what that orange thing was, they’d appear to think, scratching their heads.

The parade this year was much longer, and we were chilled to the bone by the end of it, having only moved enough to keep up with the bystanders who insisted on creeping into the road. These people needed the New York City police barricades, lest they begin attacking the parade floats like joyous zombies. If the parade had gone on much longer the trucks would have only had about 4 feet of street left, the rate we were all crouching in on them.

We walked back home, our legs frozen but still willing to ambulate so that we could reach warmth. Susanne poured a few chocolate martinis and I drew a fire, and I realized I am a fervent follower of Holidays. What a nice distraction from awful weather.

All around the Hannukah bush, the Hannukah bush, the Hannukah bush

Boxing Day was our pretend Christmas, and I started off by stuffing a 22-pound turkey with my mother’s recipe for dressing goodness. Such an enormous bird was a bit beyond the needs of a 7-person group with one vegetarian and two minors, but as it was a free gift from Shop Rite, how could my sister refuse? So four days after coming out of the freezer to thaw, it was still solid ice inside. Susanne and I ran some warm water from the tap in it for about 45 minutes (sorry, Connecticut water resources staff), and considered it good enough to get started. My surgically repaired sister made it to the table long enough to enjoy the turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, creamed spinach, and salad, and I later brought her a slice of the cheesecake her friend Sherri and I had made. I wondered vaguely how cheesecake must taste when you’re drugged on Oxycodone and butter shots. I suppose I should ask Rush Limbaugh, since that guy has clearly had his fill of sweetened cheese.

We went for a visit to the mall with the girls so they could use their gift cards, and I was astonished to see that there is now a vendor selling cutesy underwear to teenage girls. My nieces came out of the Aerie store with peace symbol thongs, because how better to support world peace than by wearing a small strip of fabric that cost $20?

Afterward we went duck pin bowling which I can handle with my bad knee, since the balls are the size of my palms. Duck pin bowling is a treat — the tiny pins crackling like snapped twigs, and the girls cheering each point. We came back and made some turkey soup and dumplings and then retreated to the solace of the hot tub, which was a fine way to mark the end of each day there.

Monday morning we kissed the gang goodbye and road down to DC to see our old pals and their families. With each day, the frustration of the snowy fortress back in Walla Walla receded and we visibly exhaled into the places we visited back in our old stomping grounds.

Should old acquaintance be forgot

Christmas Day, or rather, the last 45 minutes of it, were spent happily and wearily exchanging presents with my sister, her daughters, my best friend, Susanne, and my sister’s friend. Also in attendance were three dogs, two cats, and a very helpful hot tub in the back yard. Backing up to the morning, though. . .

The snow was coming down sideways. Quite unlike the movie of the same name. We had pulled into a Days Inn near the airport, but it wasn’t the Days Inn we thought it was, it was the bastard younger brother Days Inn, aka the Place to Have One’s Affair. A lovely wall length mirror stood proudly behind the bed, opposite another mirror, so that if desired, one could see oneself into actual infinity, doing whatever it was one chose to do with such an uh, hotel amenity. We did, more excitingly for us, have the benefit of cable television, and could finally catch up with Top Chef, since this was, of course, the first thing a person would want to watch after a week and a half with no television.

I shuffled out to the car and took off the latest 4 inches of snow. Susanne had checked the status of our flight before we headed to the airport 3 miles away. We slip-slided away and walked into the tiny but functional Spokane airport. Sitting on the tarmac, waiting for our flight to take off, we had no idea what lay ahead of us. I thought I was the smartest traveler in Walla Walla County. We sat on the tarmac, waiting to be de-iced, just 5 or 10 minutes, according to the pilot. And we sat. Sat, through the anti-icing, which will just take a few minutes, folks, and then we’ll be on our way. Someone please tell me the difference between de-ice and anti-ice. Isn’t de-icing, by definition, an anti-icing process?

We contined to sit. Our flight, which had been scheduled to take off at 6:15, actually lifted off at 7:30. We landed at Salt Lake City airport at 9:45 (losing an hour to the time zone change), precisely 5 minutes before our connection was due to depart, two gates over. Two gates. Roughly 100 feet apart. I could have teleported myself from our first aircraft to the gate and I would not have been fast enough. On Christmas, knowing 5 people from our flight were scheduled on the connection to JFK, Delta chose to leave the gate. Christ. Mas. An unhelpful gate agent pointed vaguely to the airport in response to my question about where we were now supposed to go. I told them directly that I found them thusly unhelpful and that I needed a more indicative answer, and was told “between gates 3 and 4.”

The space between gates 3 and 4 was not altogether unlike the magical train station stop 9 3/4 to catch the train to Hogwarts. A mythical space that you must find on faith alone. A small red laser told us what no person could:

1. that we had been bestowed with a $7 meal voucher from Delta Airlines, for our trouble

2. that our reassigned tickets would depart for JFK at 4:55pm, or, if you did the math, 7 hours later

My heart and my brain quickly worked out a deal wherein my heart would continue to beat if my brain could find a way out of this morass. In the meantime my face turned a holiday-inspired yet unfriendly shade of red. Susanne told me she would hang out in some chairs about 30 feet away while I talked to the staffer who had already done enough wrong in her job to warrant getting stuck working on Christmas morning.

She looked at our boarding passes, then looked at me with a blank stare that suggested she was actually an android, devoid of all feeling, caring, or sympathy for lowly humans like me. “That’s the next flight to JFK,” she said. She actually sounded like the robot in Small Miracle. See, child actors can make something of themselves! They can be gate attendants working on major holidays!

“That can’t be the next flight,” I argued, “that’s 7 hours from now. My watch had just ticked past 10:03am.

“No, that’s it,” she said.

“Can you at least type something into your keyboard so I feel like you’re looking for me?”

She obliged. “No. Nothing to JFK.”

“Have you looked at other airlines?”


“What about Newark — EWR?”


Okay, we were going to have to play 20 questions.

I rattled off other airports. “Philadelphia? IAD? BWI? LaGuardia? National Airport?”

“BWI — 4:55pm, Dulles, 4:35pm, Philly, 5:10pm, we don’t fly to LaGuardia today.”

“Hartford, Albany? There has to be something to the east coast.”

“There’s nothing to the east coast until this evening.” This was punctuated with a sigh. I must be so annoying to her right now.

“Look, I understand you don’t want to be here today,” I began, but she cut me off.

“Oh, I’m only here for the next hour, and then I get to go home.”

“Oh, then we’ll join you for our Christmas,” I exclaimed.

She was having none of it.

“Look,” I said, “my sister had major back surgery two days ago, and is now lying in bed unable to do anything and she needs me. I have to get out there sooner than this. You people sent the plane away early on Christmas! Do something for me here. This $7 meal voucher and flight 7 hours from now is not acceptable.”

She actually shrugged. Apparently not just on Christmas, flights don’t go out of Salt Lake until the late afternoon. I pointed to the people all around us.

“What the hell are they all here for then? They just want to show up early on CHRISTMAS because they love this airport?”

“I don’t know why they’re here.”

Wow. What this woman didn’t know could fill an airplane hangar.

“What about connections to New York? Do you go through Chicago?”

I said Chicago because it wasn’t on the east coast, because it was big, and because I have heard of it before. I said it before thinking about how I’ve run through it before, when I had two good knees and 40 fewer pounds to carry on my body. I regretted it before I said it, and my heart was like, “Brain, you are sucking with this negotiation crap right now!”

She started clicking the keys, mostly for her own amusement. “There’s a flight to O’Hare at 11am, connecting to JFK, arriving at 8:59pm.”

That was 2.5 hours before our other tickets showed we would arrive. I told her to reissue the tickets.

I walked over to Susanne, victorious. We might actually get 6 seconds of actual Christmas with the family. All this knowing that Christ’s birth probably happened in the summer anyway, but whatever. I won.

She looked at me and said quietly, “O’Hare?” Oh dear.

“It’ll be okay,” I promised, with absolutely no means to secure it.

It was, in fact, okay, if you take the version of “not awful, not good” for this use of the word. There were not enough free Delta cookies to make me feel better, even though our flights were on time and uneventful, and Susanne’s checked bag found us at the baggage claim in New York. To add insult to the long line of injury, Delta now no longer carries ginger ale. So now I’m hoping I someday throw up all over their planes because they didn’t have anything on board to quell my nausea, although I’m not nearly as motion-sickness prone as I was in my 20s.

My sister’s friend had sent a Chrysler sedan for us, so we drove up to her house in the roomiest car I could imagine existing at the end of this awful day. And then there was a last car ride from her house to my sister’s, and then we had the picturesque, if not hurried, present exchange moment. A couple of sweet butterscotch shots later, we were in the hot tub, in the crisp Connecticut air, enjoying 23:57 of Christmas. No thanks to the airline industry.

One 22-pound turkey, piles of mashed potatoes, stuffing made from Mom’s recipe, creamed spinach, and New York style cheesecake later, on the next day (which we had “decreed” Christmas), things were in full swing. I kept my sister on top of her pain medication, since she really had had back surgery on December 23, and made such each night I hopped in the tub for soothing my frayed nerves. We took the nieces duckpin bowling, an east coast tradition, wandered around the mall with them, and went to my favorite restaurant, Kings, in New Town (see post from August in the tags).

Michael, Susanne and I drove down to DC a few days later, hoping that 2009 will be good to us. I know the Hindus say that Karma never takes place in the same lifetime, but if there could be some good to come out of the frustration of having a ruined holiday, I am ready for it, I promise.

Let’s hear it for 2009!

Bah. Humbug.

Santa on a plane

Santa on a plane

Twas the morning of Christmas, and all o’er the land

Was a blanket of white snow, the height of twelve hands.

I brushed off the car with a frustrated grunt

As my fingers went numb and the snow was in lumps.

They clung to the car with the grip of a mule

And I fretted to self that this just wasn’t cool.

We trekked to the airport in the last dark of night

Hoping all would be well with our twosome of flights.

But the plane sat around, all too heavy with ice,

And we missed the connection, now our twosome was thrice.

We saw Spokane and Utah, we spied cities galore,

From Chicago to New York and the cold eastern shore.

With Susanne in her kerchief and I in my cap

There was no settling in for any sort of nap.

What a Christmas to spend in the bland airports four,

But we fin’ly arrived and were traveling no more.

The sibling was nestled all comf in her bed,

Her daughters conversant of sugar plums instead.

We sat in the hot tub and talked of the clatter,

And we knew once again that the chaos did not matter.

I looked to the sky for Santa’s red sleigh,

Saw the stars twinkling at me and thought back on the day.

While Delta was there to annoy us and suck,

The people we love are a source of good luck.

So we rise up and cheer at the end of this night,

Merry Christmas to all and to all a safe flight!

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