Saturday, December 21, 2002

Jewboy's Drunken List of Christmas Traditions

1. Shopping with Ginny
I first met Virginia in 1991, when Darcie and I dropped out of college and showed up at her house. Ginny was nine years old, a vaguely remembered shy and willowy background element in a tumultuous time. By 1995, when we moved back to Southern Vermont to continue our lives together, Ginny was the potentially errant teenager that we got along well with and hosted for once a week schoolnight respites. Since that time, Ginny and I have become friends, and our yearly shopping expeditions are primarily enjoyable, especially when she and I can sneak away from Darcie (and Willow, now) to shop for her and for each other.

Today we once again chose Northampton, since it had done so well for Darcie and I last week. Lots of shops with diverse and quality merchandise with little practical value led to plenty of good and imaginative present-buying just barely under the group-imposed spending limit of our siblings and their significant others. I managed to sneak off twice and buy Darcie two Folkways puppets: a small scrunchyface monkey and a velcro-ed together mother and daughter opossum set.

Welcome Darcie's New Christmas Gifts: Folkmanis Folktails puppets!

2. Darcie Has Had Enough
It happens every year. There comes a point in the middle of the street when, without warning, something inside Darcie snaps. Suddenly we are speeding up, and passing stores without looking at them. Stopping her to angrily and inappropriately demand that we talk about what is happening is the initial cue for a traditional heated public exchange of grumpiness and hunger, with the prerequisite furtive looks from innocent shoppers and locals, which ends in getting lunch and agreeing that we did very well after all and should go home soon.

Lunch today brought a lucky discovery off the beaten path and away from the maddening crowd: the Northampton Brewery, a brewpub with a southern flair which we had seen but never yet attended. Hard wood, shiny copper tabletops and lighting focusing the eye on the bar, a chalkboard list of the in-house brews plus Guiness and perhaps a Sierra Nevada pale ale, hot cider for Darcie and top-notch buffalo wings for the table let us know we had found someplace special, the rare breed of local brewery at which entire towns become intimate regulars. Makes me long for the days at college when we used to go to McNeill's in Brattleboro every Thursday night. Back when I knew everyone who walked into the joint, and it was nice to know you'd always be welcomed by name (even if your name was drunkenly slurred; all the better).

3. Giving Presents Again...and Again
Ginny had to run to work; Darcie and I unpacked and presented our second round of gifts this season. Over the years, I think we've gotten to a point where we know each other well enough that we know we've got something special, and just can't wait to see our partner open our gift. In response, we've gradually developed a tradition of giving gifts long before the traditional two-hour family Christmas gift exchange at the in-laws.

The problem with early gift-giving when one will be together through the holidays, though, is twofold. First, you're still shopping, so you keep seeing things your partner might like better, so of course you have to get it for them even though technically you're "done" exchanging presents. Second, now that you've seen what your partner has got you, you feel inferior, because you idealize their present-buying (and cost) while justifying and minimizing your own. With an extra few days, you can keep trying to "top off" your gifts to your loved one, and end up more loving -- as if this were something you could win, or would want to.

So tonight was round two. The Folkmanis Folktails puppets went over well; Darcie loves the Folktail series, and already has a Chipmunk and the discontinued and now ebay-valuable Venus Flytrap, which comes with a fingerpuppet fly in its jaws, and really loves being able to animate. I got a Fun With Dick and Jane magnet set: Oh! Oh! Look! Stong Magnets. It even comes with Puff and Spot!

4. Drunk at the Employee Christmas Party

Heck, drunk writing the blog tonight. We only stayed an hour 'cause we had to wake the baby to bring her, which left her mostly un-recharged, at about 10% battery power -- you know, when the laptop starts warning you to save your work now because it's about to be time to go bye bye. Except Willow rubs her eyes and rolls her head around over your arm when you hold her when she's ready to go back to bed, and doesn't beep warningly.

The one-hour limit made for an ill-defined experience, part wallflower babycare and part faculty mixer around the nut-encrusted calamari and the steamed shu mai. I managed to fit in two glasses of wine and a double-Kahlua coffee into that time, and though I never did have my traditional drunken exchange with the Head of the school, which I just as traditionally can't remember the next morning, it's all making me sleepy despite the coffee.


More traditions will fill the week; stay tuned for Monday night dinner at the Steak Out with the cousins from California, Tuesday Christmas on the day before, Wednesday silence and snuggling, New Years in the Boonies, and my younger Brother's 28th birthday family dinner at Redbones with my side of the family. Mmmm....catfish.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:43 PM |

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