Tag Archives: holidays


A friend of mine ends each hectic day by soaking in a hot bath, a time of uninterrupted luxury that I’ve heard of but never actually experienced, like those TV ads for all-inclusive resorts full of super-model couples getting tandem massages. Now that the kids are *mostly* grown, I get my share of uninterrupted time, which admittedly is half the battle in this scenario. But there’s no way I’ll ever experience bubble baths with scented candles and dim lights.

It’s not because we don’t have a tub. When we bought our house 13 years ago, we were impressed by the garden tub in the master bath. It was the first time in our marriage we’d actually been able to share a bathroom, period. Before that, we had cubicle apartments or tiny bathrooms with no counters, and we’d split the difference, mostly with one of us storing our stuff down the hall.  When we bought the house, the kids were small. Occasionally they’d get a bath in our big tub, the jets stirring the bubble bath until they’d become buried beneath the suds. By the time the tub got cleared of the foam and their 57 bath toys, I was no longer in the mood for a private soak, and the second I’d start to think about it, some catastrophe on the other side of the door would arise to squelch the impulse.

It was convenient for bathing dogs. Also it was great for scrubbing a child’s muddy feet without having to fully submerge said child. When we had a house full of visitors, we lined it with blankets and let our kids sleep in it. Once, when we had to move our 55-gallon aquarium, it made a superb way-station for buckets of briny rocks and stressed out fish.

I had intentions. The tub surround was laid with expectant candles and nicely rolled towels that would have made a nice neck pillow amid the suds. I readied a good book and some background music and tried to settle in. You know how when you look out the window of an airplane when you’re in a cloud bank and the clouds are so thick and white you can convince yourself they’d surely be able to hold you like a soft billowy pillow?  That’s what cats imagine when they see a tub full of magical white bubbles.  It is a mind-blowing scientific fact that clouds can’t hold you; you fall right through.  Same with bubbles and cats.

Except beneath the bubbles is water, which most cats dislike almost as much as they dislike being forced to wear clothing. Also there is a person, who until the moment of the surprise bubble collapse had been unsuspectingly engrossed in a novel, under the illusion that the next 30 minutes would bring bliss and relaxation instead of splashing and claws scrabbling for purchase on naked flesh like a Kraken had just been released.  Candles were extinguished, neck towel lay in a soggy lump at the bottom of the tub, and the pages of the novel were fused together by copious amounts of water. An enthusiastically unhappy cat meowed loudly in humiliation.

After the terror from the deep, our big tub is now neither garden, nor tub. I explain to people that no, the scar I wear is not, in fact, from a Cesarean gone horribly awry. When the young optimistic couples on House Hunters exclaim over the spacious jacuzzi tubs in the “en suite” bathrooms, I see my past self in their starry eyes. But years of reality have set in. The tub has not held actual water or bubble bath in years. It is now, especially in the later months of the year, a repository for future events. Currently, for example, it holds bags of holiday and birthday presents, Christmas crafts, Boy Scout paraphernalia, signage for an upcoming wedding. These are layered, like an archaeological dig, in order of which comes first.  Also it houses a giant yellow exercise ball that hasn’t been paroled in several years. I no longer question its existence. It simply glows like a small yellow sun from beneath the stockpile.  







Gone are the dreams of a spa-like serenity in the master bath. They have vanished like bubbles deflated by a flailing cat. A small sign hangs above the tub, a dim beacon of days past, when the struggle was real, before I succumbed to the avalanche of futility that is my bathtub.  Maybe this is thinking out of the box–or tub. This is what creative types do, isn’t it?  It’s trendy to “repurpose” things now.  Thrifty and all-American.  #chipandjojo

We all have that junk drawer, the place we don’t have time for, the one we’ll get to later.  My tub is a magnified junk drawer, the junk drawer you wish you had. It’s a harried attempt at organization in the face of the holiday onslaught and, if we’re being honest, a place I can hide presents at this point in life and not forget about them.  What good are stocking stuffers in mid-February?

Maybe someday I’ll reclaim the tub and eventually take that stress-dissolving soak. Maybe when the calendar clears, when the holidays are someone else’s responsibility, and we do away with occasions like birthdays and graduations. By then, I’ll be too old to get in and out of the thing, and I’ll just use it to plant tomatoes. Garden tub, indeed.

Valentine Boxes

Bless me, Father, I still do valentines for my grown up kids.  I’m five years past the classroom Valentine’s Box hoopla of hunting down a shoe box and trying to decorate it about half an hour before bedtime the night before.  The grocery store Valentines that we argued over still had to be labeled for every kid in the class–(neatly, please! You can’t even tell whose name that is!)–with protests and whining about having to give one (yes, a NICE one) to all the girls.   Doing this with my daughter was easier.  A pink girly Valentine box with stickers and hearts was just fine, but is there such a thing as a masculine Valentine box?  Something about lizards and Darth Vader just doesn’t say Valentine’s Day.  But whatever.

Valentine boxes always caused issues.  There were always the one or two kids who got all the lame valentines, the over-achieving parents who had to ALSO include candy (no nuts, gluten free) with each one, and the surprise and gossip caused by finding an extra special note from “Guess Who?” or “Secret Admirer.”  Bless the teachers on Valentine’s Day, who try to judge the best box, organize 20+ hyper first graders to put the right valentines in the right boxes, and oversee the class party with spilled red juice and way too many pink cupcakes.  They are headed straight to heaven.

Bless the parents of multiple grade schoolers who have to oversee and coordinate 40, 60, or 80 plus handwritten valentine notes and go through untold closets to find battered and torn shoe boxes.  Bless those Mother Hubbard parents whose craft cabinets are bare of glitter, stickers and glue.  Who are cleaning up said glitter and piles of sticky spilled Fun Dip and pixie sticks this very morning.  And who will, by rights, pilfer their children’s valentine candy upon their arrival home from school.  Did they learn nothing from Halloween?  Thou shalt not trust parents with chocolate.  I’m pretty sure that’s in the Bible somewhere.  I’m paraphrasing.

This morning my 17-year-old came down ready for school and tucked into breakfast with approximately zero idea that the calendar had flipped to February 14.  It’s actually kind of refreshing how un-phased he is by the date.  In late December, the aisles of Christmas decorations have barely disappeared when suddenly everything turns to red and pink.  Those chalky pastel candy hearts with the stamped messages show up:  hot stuff, QT pie, be mine.  He is happily oblivious and has been since middle school.

Not one valentine box has survived.  I can’t even track down any of the valentines either of my kids have received over the years from “yore good freind Taylor.”  Our shoe boxes inevitably got recycled into show & tell containers, book report dioramas, or a fancy house for the hapless frog that forgot to make itself scarce in the backyard.

So, although I do not miss the valentine box phase, I haven’t quite given up on the day altogether.  This morning I snuck a bag of cherry blow pops into my high school junior’s lunchbox because it is open season for trying to bribe a hug from a bristly adolescent who now towers over me.


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At least it wasn’t a love-struck Darth Vader holding a pastel heart stamped with “hubba hubba”.  I do have standards.

Christmas Kisses

After a brisk winter storm or two in my area of the country, when the last of the tenacious rust-brown oak leaves have finally stopped clinging to the branches, a hawk-eyed hunter can usually spot clumps of mistletoe hanging high at the tops of oak trees.  I spied some myself this week, as I drove home lost in thought on a gray afternoon.

mistletoe2The uninitiated might mistake the tangled clumps for dead branches or even a squirrel’s nest, but I knew better.  When I was a teenager, our house sat on several wooded acres in middle Tennessee, God’s country.  My parents sat on the back porch in the mornings drinking coffee and watching deer, turkey, and chipmunks shuffle through the leaves in the backyard.  Somewhere towards mid-December every year, my brother or father would disappear into the woods with a shotgun in hand and return an hour or so later, pink-cheeked and smelling of the outdoors, to lay a tattered clump of mistletoe on the kitchen counter.

The only way to acquire the kissing sprig, which is actually a parasite to its host tree,  is to blast it from the treetops with a well-aimed shotgun.  Not very romantic.  What is romantic, though, is my father snapping off a twig or two and cornering my mother at the kitchen sink, her hands in the dishwater.  He’d hold the lime-green leaves above her head and lean in for a kiss, usually getting a soapy swat for his trouble.

I love many things about the holidays, but mistletoe memories rank right up there.  When my husband and I were dating, I could always count on him sending me a note at school with a tiny sprig enclosed or dipping a gloved hand into his coat pocket at an opportune moment to pull out a red-ribboned bunch.

When the kids were small, they would often sit purposefully underneath the door frame where the mistletoe hung, their not-so-subtle indication that it was high time for some snuggles.  As they grew, it became a game to see who would get caught there and have to submit, squirming, as mom planted a kiss on a grossed-out teenager’s cheek.  Through some phases of their lives, I was resigned to only getting affection under Christmas duress.

That’s the beauty of mistletoe.  It’s power to compel a kiss is an inarguable given, like midnight on New Year’s Eve or spin-the-bottle in middle school.  For the most part, unless you’re trying to escape the creeper at the annual office party or drunk Uncle Edgar (and in that case, there most definitely is the right of refusal), those innocent green branches and white berries add a little Hallmark magic to the stress of the holidays.  Even in the midst of an argument or an overdone schedule, mistletoe is the trump card.  A peace-offering.  A reminder of the things that really matter.

Real mistletoe is harder to find these days.  Maybe the countryside is receding or maybe it’s just easier for guys to click “add to cart” at Christmas instead of tramping through the cold woods in search of a bit of old-fashioned romance.  Fewer people live out in the country anymore, where you know how to dig for ginseng and can identify the scrapes on tree bark as those left by the antlers of rutting deer.  And apparently it’s not polite to blast shotguns towards the treetops in suburban neighborhoods.

I haven’t had any real mistletoe in the house in a few years.  The fake, plastic kind just isn’t the same.  Maybe that’s why I had to stop and take a picture of mistletoe-signthe far away clusters I spotted by the interstate this week.  I needed a reminder of a time when life was simpler and nothing made me happier than watching my mom and dad dance to the Christy Minstrels album in the kitchen after a soapy kiss.   Since the real thing is hard to come by, I have a little sign posted on my kitchen windowsill, right above the sink, where it’s obvious when I’m doing the dishes.

I conjure my own mistletoe, metaphorically.  There’s no sly evasion of the door frames anymore.  The teenagers receive begrudged smooches without warning, and when the husband comes in from the cold, smelling of the outdoors, it’s an opportunity to gross out the aforementioned teenagers even more.  (wink, wink*)

May your days be merry and bright!