This girl always manages to find the fève. Queen for another year!
If you’ve been following our story, you may have noticed that our family is gaga for animals. We collect them as casually as people collect, say, matchbooks or Pez dispensers. Oh, look! A _______________! We don’t have one of those yet! You can fill in the blank with any number of the fish, rodents, lagomorphs, and dogs that have passed through our house. My daughter has most recently been drawing up an action plan to convince her father that having a couple of sheep in the paddock out back would not only be a good idea, but essential to her happiness.
She has a tough road ahead of her. My husband is one of two people in our household, who do not think that sharing your space with an abundance of animals is delightful. His mini-me, our second son, rolls his eyes heavenward and heaves a weary sigh whenever a new animal is added to our menagerie. He dutifully helps take care of the dogs, but with no great enthusiasm. Whenever one of us starts talking about adding yet another hamster, or a couple of ducks, or a fish to the mix, our very own Jiminy Cricket issues dire predictions about the troubles that are likely to ensue as a result of our animal profligacy. He tries to warn us of our folly, and then eventually throws his hands up in despair and retires to his own bedroom, one of the only places in our house where peace and order reign.
In the past we have considered providing shelter to horses, llamas, goats, ducks, guinea hens, quails, turtles, and even snakes. The one animal I was never tempted to keep was a cat. But…sometimes you choose, and sometimes you are chosen. Parson, a cat we only latterly discovered to be a “she” rather than a “he,” chose us, or rather chose to let us live in her/our house.
My daughter took over Parson’s care and feeding, and we tried to make her as comfortable as possible on our back porch. In the corner of our porch, we installed a pet carrier outfitted with a cozy bed and a self-warming pad. For the two years we’ve lived in our house, Parson has spent her days and nights there. She has expressed satisfaction with our services by rubbing up against our legs when we go out to greet her. Our dopey little dogs have repeatedly tried to make friendly overtures to her, signaling their goodwill with their cocked heads and wagging tails. She will have nothing to do with their foolishness. As soon as she catches sight of them, she hisses at them as if she is ready to start World War III.
The polar vortex had us worrying about Parson. It’s been so cold the kids have now twice had an hour school delay. One day we opened the door to see if we could coax the cat inside to warm up for awhile. We finally managed to lure her in with some treats, but as soon as the dogs came running up to greet her, she hissed and ran under the oven to hide. She was still there a few hours later when I had to leave the house. I was dreading what I would find when I returned home.
“Did the cat ever come out?” I asked my children when I got back.
“Oh yeah! She came out,” Jiminy Cricket replied casually.
“How did you get her out?”
“I just put some food out in the kitchen and she came out to eat.”
“And she’s back outside now?”
“No? Where is she?”
“She’s in my room. She likes it there.”
“Oh! Well, let’s let her outside so she can go to the bathroom.”
“Not a good idea,” Jiminy Cricket said, shaking his head, “It’s way too cold out there for her.”
“Well, but…how’s she going to go to the bathroom?”
“We set up the guinea pigs’ litter box in my room.”
There are so many reasons for being shocked by these revelations I don’t even know where to begin…
“So what are we going to do with her? She hates the dogs…”
“She’ll live in my room.”
Still shaking my head in wonder, I braced myself for the difficult conversation I was going to have with my husband about the matter. I explained to him our son’s surprising position on the cat.
“Well, that’s no good.”
My heart sank.
“She can’t stay in his room forever.”
“Eventually, I want her to come out and socialize with everyone, including the dogs.”
And that, my friends, is a Christmas miracle.
My daughter and I spent the second day of the New Year at the NIH.
On the way to the clinic, we were lucky to catch a glimpse of the gingerbread houses, which were still up a day after the display was supposed to have been taken down:
This one was the winner…
But my daughter’s favorite was the Harry Potter castle:
There were two of them!
The Children’s Inn, where we had spent the night before:
By the time my daughter’s appointments were done, the houses had all vanished without a trace.
Yesterday afternoon, we managed to record a song for our annual holiday video, just before hitting the road to spend New Year’s Eve with my family in Arlington. Like a lot of things my family does, it was thrown together at the last minute, the process was rather stressful, and the product imperfect. Still, we did it together, and despite some grumpy moments, we did it with love. My son contributed one of his compositions to finish out the video.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful, wonderful 2018 full of peace, love, and not too many grumpy moments!
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.
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…
The way is long, and difficult the road…
Meanwhile, back in Charlottesville…Tallis & Chloe were having their own Home Alone adventure…
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!!!!”
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…
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.