Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christmas Survey

Snow Lady

Back in the 80s I found this pregnant snow lady on Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A few days later she lost her grape nipples and cherry tomato navel when her water broke during the spring thaw. Her carrot slice eyes stayed with her a bit longer. I never learned who had sculpted her, but she made my day.

Throughout November I've kept Mote's NoJoMo, a daily "NoJoMo" (November Journaling Month) blog on Open Diary. I've copied many of those entries here. For the final post of the month I used a survey on the diary of NoJoMo's founder, Sweet Francesca....

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Years ago, this Santa, one of many Santas, had contributed to a children's gift drive and was part of the gift-wrapping team. The recipients were children whose names we didn't know -- and as the presents were being wrapped I noticed a clear sex bias: trucks and the like were being marked for boys; dolls were being marked for girls. (As a girl I didn't much care for dolls, but I had a formidable Matchbox car collection.) I commented on this to the other women (we were all women doing this), and was largely ignored. I have made it a point to buy gender-neutral toys for such occasions, and also toys that don't need batteries or that run out of supplies, since those cost money and we were gifting disadvantaged kids. Often I bought Etch-A-Sketch because it was self-sufficient and encouraged creativity. So, yes, Santa wraps presents -- but with certain considerations in mind.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
No decorations on the outside -- though sometimes, when we're feeling ambitious, Mary and I will put up a string of colored lights indoors to make the environment more festive.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
No, but we see it sometimes in neighborhood trees, where it is a parasite. Some people we've spoken with believe that Spanish moss and other epiphytes are parasitic, but those are not. They're perfectly fine for the tree, and when we find a healthy-looking epiphyte on the ground we bring it to our trees. Mistletoe, on the other hand, is not good for trees.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
Sometimes, if we find a pretty picture in the newspaper, we'll tape it on a wall. But that has nothing to do with any holidays. The exception came when we put pictures of the moon and "scary" things (alligators and the like) on our front door one Halloween.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Matzo! Wait, what was the holiday again?

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
I remember being wowed by the Mr. Magoo Christmas Carol when I was a kid. And I loved the "Little Drummer Boy" song -- so much so that I played it on the piano during the summer one year, over and over and over.

The other childhood memory that stands out had to do with a tradition in my family of driving around the neighborhood to admire everybody's lights. At some point it struck me that we didn't have them. I grew up in a Jewish & Italian neighborhood, so when I was very young I believed the whole world shared that demographic. I was very puzzled and not a little shocked when I heard one of the broadcast stations (long before the days of cable) announce, "Merry Christmas! And Happy Chanukah to all our Jewish friends," almost like an afterthought. Christmas definitely got top billing.

When I felt bad about our having no holiday lights of our own, my mother got out every single menorah she could find and placed them in our windows. She took construction paper, cut it into dreidles, and taped the paper dreidles over our porch lights. So we had holiday lights that year! I was thrilled -- but I also got an important lesson in demographics and in How The World Works.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
My friend C told me the truth when I was about five. I was pretty upset, and my mother was fairly pissed at C, who was four years older than I.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Of course! It's Erev Christmas, and where I come from holidays begin at sundown the night before.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
My what?

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
There's a good reason I moved to Florida. I have nothing against snow, but I'm glad I don't live in it any more.

12. Can you ice skate?
Yep. At least as of a few years ago I could still skate backwards and skate on one leg.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
Being alive ranks right up there.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Generally, the holidays are like any other days for me. But I especially enjoy the week between Christmas and New Year's. I call it Magic Time because the world seems to look backward and forward at once, like a Janus head.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Probably eggnog.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Christmas Day is also Mary's and my anniversary, so we celebrate that as a holiday tradition. We celebrate our 11th this year.

17. What tops your tree?
Lately it's been bluebirds. And that's trees, plural, out in the yard.

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving?
When done right, they both happen simultaneously.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
After hearing just about all of them played to death this time of year, none really stands out as something I'd want to hear again. Except, maybe, David Sedaris's riff in his "SantaLand Diaries" on "Away in a Manger," which he sang in imitation of Billie Holliday. The first time I heard that on NPR I nearly peed my pants laughing.

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yummy?
Wouldn't touch the stuff.

21. Fave Christmas Movie?
It's a close race among the Alistair Sim version of A Christmas Carol, It's A Wonderful Life, and Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer with the Island of Misfit Toys. Yes, I'm a softie.

22. What would you ask Santa for this year...(and it has to be a material thing...none of this "world peace" or "happy family" stuff!)
"Material thing" -- From Catalyzer Journal: "The god of the earliest Indo-European Pagans was 'Dzryaus-el': 'the Oak-Tree One.' His wife was Mater, a person so dear in our lives that her name has remained virtually the same, after ten thousand years, in every Indo-European language: mater, modder, mutter, mother....Mater had always been the earth, and, therefore, earth-stuff is called 'matter' also after her."

Santa, please take all the plastic crap that's overflowing our landfills, littering our highways, turning our precious nonrenewable resources into flash-in-the-pan trinkets, and choking sea creatures who think the stuff is food, and have your elves recycle it all into cuddly, battery-free companions for all those kids who are displaced from their homes, orphaned by poverty and war, crowded into refugee camps, sleeping in cardboard boxes, and otherwise lost. And while you're at it I want seeds. Lots of seeds. And fertile soil that doesn't have any lead or asbestos in it. Organic soil, none of those pesticides and mega-fertilizers that slosh into runoff and create algal blooms. And you know those older lost kids, the ones who try to find self-respect and dignity in gangs or who have lost that self-respect and dignity altogether? Give them those seeds and soil and people who can teach them how to garden and grow and create and help other things live. And let them taste the extraordinary produce that they have helped create, and all the extra vegetables (and even some decorative flowers!) can go to the little ones who are too small to wield the rakes and hoes and whatnot. But even little ones can pee, and you can teach the older kids how to mix everyone's pee with fresh water to create good, natural fertilizer. And maybe the little kids would enjoy picking off squash bugs and the like.

And I want trees, Santa. Lots of trees. Not the ones cut down every year and put into Christmas tree stands, but trees that grow and extend their roots and help hold the soil in place against erosion and mudslides. I want that Walgreens across my county road gone so that the forest can return and so those displaced gopher tortoises can have homes again. And all those olive trees bulldozed over in the Middle East? I want those replanted, Santa. All those clear-cut mountains in Appalachia? I want them restored. And every place where the Earth and Her Creatures have been raped in every continent and in every waterbody, I want healing. Material things? This planet is a material thing. It's the only real material thing we've got.

My demands have only just begun, Santa.


Blogger Brenda Clews said...

Brilliant pregnant snowwoman... and, yes, healing the mess of this planet in all its difficult, painful places.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you holding Santa hostage?

I seem to recall you telling me once about this snow woman when I mentioned that my dad made a snow woman once with breasts. She was not pregnant. Or did I dream this memory?

11:47 PM  

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