The Inferno: Another Holiday Adventure

Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself at the DMV…

December 28th. 7:50 AM. Frigid temps. My son needs to take the test to get his learner’s permit. We have tried to beat the rush by arriving before the DMV even opens, but a line has already formed from the entrance all the way to the end of the building. My son and I take our place at the back of the line.


Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

The doors open promptly at 8 and oh, rapturous joy: we finally make it inside. As our limbs begin to thaw, we wonder…Is this Paradise?

We slowly advance through the snaking line until at last it is our turn to approach the info desk.

There dreadful Minos stands, gnashing his teeth:
examining the sins of those who enter,
he judges and assigns as his tail twines.

I mean that when the spirit born to evil
appears before him, it confesses all;
and he, the connoisseur of sin, can tell

the depth in Hell appropriate to it;
as many times as Minos wraps his tail 
around himself, that marks the sinner’s level.

Always there is a crowd that stands before him:
each soul in turn advances toward that judgment;
they speak and hear, then they are cast below.

Minos takes a cursory glance at the documents clutched in my hand and informs us that the original Social Security card (not just the number) is needed for identification.

But the stars that marked our starting fall away.
We must go deeper into greater pain,
for it is not permitted that we stay.

Suddenly, I understand why this plaque is so prominently displayed on the DMV building…


We drive back home in quiet despair. I have no idea where my son’s Social Security card might be. I remember only that it was mailed to our house (two houses ago)! shortly after his birth. After multiple moves, it could be anywhere or nowhere at all. I frantically root around in various locations where I may have stashed it away more than 15 years ago.

Miracle of miracles! I find the card and we drive back for Round 2 at the DMV.

“No pressure or anything, kid, but I really, really hope you pass your test after all this, or somebody‘s not going to be feeling so jolly…”


He gives me an anxious glance as he trudges to his cubicle to take the test.

Are you feeling anxious, dear reader?

Do not be afraid; our fate
Cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.

The boy has passed! The next day I take my newly minted learner to the parking lot of the elementary school down the road. I taught my oldest son to drive there just last year…

We buck and lurch around the parking lot until he comes to a stop and wails, “I can’t handle all this power!”

They yearn for what they fear for…

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The way is long, and difficult the road…

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Perseverando. Perseverando. Perseverando…

Holiday Snaps


Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar



Thank God she stopped playing!


Sleep in heavenly peace.


Reading Santa’s letter…


Daisy opens her present…



Drooltide Logs!


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This gift was a big hit for the cell phone crowd…



Somebody fell in love with the kitty her auntie was kitty sitting for a week…

Meanwhile, back in Charlottesville…Tallis & Chloe were having their own Home Alone adventure…IMG_2489


We didn’t get around to doing everything we usually do in the lead up to Christmas. Our advent calendars never got hung, the little decorative trees we usually put out never emerged from their long hibernation in a cabinet somewhere, we never recorded a song for the annual holiday video we make in lieu of a Christmas card…

I apologized to the kids for this year’s lapses. My daughter regretfully noted that it might be her big brother’s last year to experience the traditions we failed to keep. He graciously consoled us by saying, “We’re just so busy…”

The day before we left for our annual pilgrimage to Princeton for the holidays, our Christmas tree still hadn’t been decorated. I delivered a holiday edict with a bellow that I’m sure could be heard at the North Pole: “GET PACKED UP, CLEAN UP YOUR ROOMS, AND GET THAT TREE DECORATED BY THE TIME I GET HOME FROM WORK!!!!”


A bit rough around the edges, but it’s done.


We may not have gotten around to everything, but we did observe a few of our favorite traditions, including the annual Christmas party at our friends’ house.

When my roommate Janel & I were in graduate school together, we decided to start a singing group. Two young tenors strolled into our apartment on Riverside Drive and auditioned with a rendition of Dona Nobis Pacem sung in a round. We let them into the group and into our hearts.

On Saturday evening, over twenty years later, we gathered together with our children and sang Dona Nobis as a prayer before dinner.


We decorated cookies…


…and sang Christmas carols:


As we were leaving to head back to Arlington, my friend showed us a special ornament in the shape of a book. They’ve been inscribing Christmas memories in it for years. Craig showed us the page for 1999, a year we all met up in Princeton. Our oldest son was in utero at the time. We didn’t know if he would be a boy or a girl, but we had nicknamed him “Sh’Diamond”!


En route to Princeton the next day, we spotted another couple who were taking a rest from their travels at the Delaware Welcome Center…IMG_2396IMG_2400IMG_2408

Tonight we’ll watch the cousins in their Christmas pageant, we’ll return to the house for Christmas eve dinner, and then my sisters and I will retreat to the office for our traditional sisters’ gift-wrapping marathon into the wee hours…

We couldn’t get around to everything this year, but here we are!

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more
Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
So hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.


New Car

Do you know what it feels like to drive a brand new car after 15 years of driving in a beloved, but dilapidated jalopy? To drive a car with nary a scratch nor even the smallest hint of a ding to blemish its pearly white exterior? To drive in a car whose interior, still redolent of “new car smell,” is unsullied by a single crumb, wrapper, or clump of mud that’s fallen from cleats? To drive with the unaccustomed luxury of heat and doors that open at will? To drive in a car that’s so smooth and so quiet, that one sometimes questions if the motor is actually running?

It feels like this:

Weekend Snapshots 52

The theme for the weekend was “things fall apart” with a soundtrack of Christmas carols in the background…

My workhorse camera and constant companion of many years finally quit without so much as two weeks notice. (Today’s photos courtesy of my phone). The 17-yr-old backup car I’ve been driving after finally giving up my old minivan (RIP) is shambling into retirement like a grumpy old man. (Heat? You want me to give you heat AND get you to where you want to go? WHAT? And the door has to open too? This generation is so damned spoiled!). Our oven has ceased to function. Even our dog, Tallis, has been causing us worry. We suspected renal failure, but after lots of expensive labs, it looks like he’s just an old man with constipation who needs to be on Metamucil and wear doggie Depends. For real.


My son had his piano recital.


We practically yanked him offstage mid-bow to race off across town to catch the last part of the Spanish Renaissance Christmas concert my husband was singing in…



The forecasts were predicting snowfall from one to ten inches. We were ready to hunker down for a cozy snowbound day in pjs, but it turned out to be more like a dusting.

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IMG_3423With no excuse to laze about at home, we ran around town doing all the usual weekend things like getting our cars Jiffy-Lubed, piano lessons, and shopping for a new oven…

At the end of the day we all converged from different parts of town in three different cars for dinner at Lime Leaf. My daughter reminded me that this was the restaurant where my friends held a surprise baby shower for me before she was born. Naturally, a commemorative photo was in order:


Back at home, my husband spent the rest of the night working on the final exam for one of his courses. Here’s an exam question for you: Were Shih Tzus bred to: a) keep the manufacturers of paper towels and Nature’s Miracle in business? b) be foot warmers for Chinese emperors and empresses? or c) both A & B


Hard at work warming the emperor’s feet.

(Tallis was probably being a captain of industry in the next room performing duty A).


The latest addition to our menagerie…


Our new friend perches himself here all day and scolds us through the window for all of our many failings.

With a broken oven, our resident baker has had to explore no-bake options. This weekend’s delicious experiment was Tiramisu:


We capped off the weekend with an evening, candlelight Lessons and Carols service…

When our 17-yr-old wasn’t making us laugh, he was making us cry by reminding us that this would be the last Lessons and Carols service he would ever sing with us.IMG_7051