Category Archives: holidays
Dear Reader, I‘ve done it again. It’s gorgeous outside and everyone is strolling or gardening and I’m inside. Doing my taxes. At the last minute.
Generally, it seems, humans love to get away with something. Like when my mommy would say I could have “a couple” cookies and I’d take three. A friend still has a stapler from our first job together 30 years ago, technically white collar crime; I’m pretty sure her family would have given her a stapler had she asked. Tax advisors to corporate giants find secret, magical tax loopholes, and their clients are rolling themselves in wallpaper paste and 100-dollar bills, having gleefully denied Uncle Sam his due.
My current scam is the Substitute Task System. Say, I’m supposed to write my column. I don’t feel like it, so I scrub the tub. It’s productive but it feels like I’m getting away with something. Later, when I am to vacuum, I’ll sort a drawer. Write birthday cards? Clean the dashboard with a toothpick. All less of a yawner because they’re not the thing I’m supposed to be doing. Then, when I’m supposed to do my taxes, I’ll write my column. You get the picture. By not doing what I’m supposed to be doing, even if I’m doing something measurably less pleasant, I think I’m getting away with something. Delicious.
Back to taxes. Why do I put this off? Because every year I can’t find some document, or I think the accountant is going to ask me for a document I don’t have and I’ll never get through to the people that can get me the document, lost in an endless loop of recorded phone options (“Press 9 to hear these options again”) as the grains of sand cascade hopelessly through the hourglass’s waist.
Or: kindly people at the library, paid by God, are helping me at no cost in a super lean year. They examine my documents and murmur softly, “Uh oh. She has to file a 27-K19…” because of some 75-cent “dividend” I got in a way I don’t understand. They can’t find the 27-K19 form and the good citizens on line behind me begin melting as their kids circle the library in a frenzy. A hole starts opening in the floor and through the smoke I can see the gates of Hell and I’m going down. I am a bad person. I’m unprepared. I never got rid of the thing producing a 75-cent dividend requiring a 27-K19. I’m inconveniencing the hard-working Americans on line behind me. Run.
Weirdly, I’m not by nature a procrastinator. I dislike putting things off. I could never understand college friends concocting cockamamie excuses to get an extension on a paper – why prolong the agony? An inveterate list-maker, little gives me more satisfaction than (a) lining tasks up and (b) knocking them down. Saturday morning is my favorite. A whole DAY to check items off the list. Brilliant!
But filing taxes is simply, for many, an odyssey fraught with peril. One wrong move and it’s Hefty Fine City plus Audited For Life. I’ve done my taxes last-minute in all ways: on paper with an instruction booklet, via affordable accountant, via pricey accountant avec late filing fee (his idea), via kindly people paid by God to help those in a super lean year, by phone (before Al Gore invented the Internet), and with TurboTax (after Al Gore invented the Internet). My suggestion: TurboTax. Start it, ignore it for a few days, and they’ll halve the price to lure you back. Score.
That lucky reward aside, procrastination is ultimately unsatisfying because you’re not getting away with something. In the end, it has to get done. All the sweating and hair pulling and the crying and the bloodletting wreak yet again their senseless damage when you could easily have dealt with things earlier during a blizzard instead, and gone frolicking outdoors with everyone else on a gorgeous Palm Sunday.
Could it, Dear Reader, have been gorgeous that earlier weekend, and a snowstorm this? No, it could not. Mother Nature collaborates with God at tax time to punish human laggards for dillydallying. Hades is the only stop on this terrible annual journey across the River Styx aboard the S.S. Procrastination. It’s not a local, it’s an express. The doors will not open until the last stop and you cannot get off and you know exactly where you’re headed and it’s nobody’s fault but your own that you got on board. Good day.
HOT TIP FROM A LOCAL: A tax-prep service apparently accessible to 70% of Americans, but only 2% use it because no one knows about it: irs.gov/freefile.
I don’t think I can improve upon this old St. Patty’s Day post. It pretty much says it all.
But if you follow me on Twitter (@uvgvt), I’ll retweet the cement mixer parade in Burlington. It’s what we dew.
Some things are perfect. The old tymey songs you sang with your aunt in Bellows Falls, the laughs you had together doing so, and the Easter egg tree on her piano.
No room for improvement.
I must be the milkman’s daughter (and we did have a milkman) because I’m not cuckoo about football, like my entire family of Giants, Packers, and Patriots fans.
But I do dig everything sooper — including the halftime show and commentary and manful back slapping and those syncopated jigs the naughty players do when they score and, of course, sooper high-quality cakes from the grocery store to commemorate this important day. And I like the office betting pool. And I like to win win win win WIN.
A friend told me years ago to be careful what you do on January 1 because it sets the tone for the whole year. Is this true? Who cares, why take any chances?
That means that no matter how bad you want mayo corn during today’s sporting event or movie, you should probably wait until tomorrow.
Recipe: Buy popcorn. Add mayo from fixin’s bar, or byo mayo packet to venue. Apply mayo to side of bucket for proper management of unruly corns. Use a fork if you can find one (unlikely). Serves two [nutters understood].
Perhaps you, dear Reader, like your humble Columnist, hates change. Tradition is one of the hottest numbers in Fiddler on the Roof for a reason. This column is for those whose holiday traditions have changed to the point where, as he says in It’s A Wonderful Life, everything’s all “screwy.”
Usually by now I’m shopping Harriet Carter, cranking up the treacle spigot on Hallmark TV, shaving years off my age at pharmacy checkouts (nothing says holiday hospitality like the fine wines of Rite-Aid), fending off rabid skunks and inventing statistics in time for the family argument at Thanksgiving, just having a gas. But the year’s events, including my parents’ leaving the Upper Valley, have altered tradition considerably.
My own woes are small. My mother, God love her, has baked me 52 birthday cakes. She couldn’t mail #53. Sniff sniff! I never went to Silver Lake’s state park, and I missed the Barnard Fire Dept. tag sale, Bethany Church TNT Auction, Tunbridge World’s Fair, knitting fireside with my Bostonian golf pahtnah, and other key events that mean, well, life in Vermont — either because the people I did those things with weren’t around or I thought them depressing to do alone. Relocating to a condo, I haven’t been to the dump in a year. Vermonters understand the social importance of the dump on Saturdays. I’ve never even seen a garbage truck here. We dump it. We give and get at the FREE table. We love it. I got my recipe for gravy (nod to the Valley News) at the dump. I miss it. I miss all those people and events.
Sadness sometimes means feeling sorry oneself – which our forebears pooh-pooh’d as self-indulgence but I believe humans are allowed to do – or sometimes sadness means grieving losses from change. The world ever changing, for the messier, my people are suffering. They’re losing their hair, teeth, bodies, savings, their minds. They are concerned about their parents — if they’re even alive — and their kids. And about Europe. Africa. The Americas The whole planet for God’s sake. It’s a lot to worry about. Troubling dreams besiege us. We are sad. Rattled.
Friends move away. Kids grow up. People and pets die. I’ve found that just getting out there and doing holidays differently instead of lamenting a past now gone does create a useful diversion. In California I spent many an odd holiday, with weird foods and people, but the casseroles exploded and turkeys were dropped and people fought and laughed – business as usual.
In the history of Vermont’s 14 counties on PBS, my favorite part was when, decades ago, a visitor noticed there were no squirrels in Winooski. His host advised this was because Vermonters ate them. I’ve spotted beefy squirrels across the Land this fall – big, meaty, good-eatin’ rodents. That turkey deep-fryer sitting in the barn? Fire it up and drop ‘em in there. So they don’t have wings. Big deal. Invite others who have no family and go local this Thanksgiving, with the bounty of your own back yard.
Some traditions remain. I will lovingly wash the dust from my decorative light-up Pilgrim’s little plastic fanny by autumn’s hazy light. We’ll buy winter boots on sale from a log cabin-y shoe store chain where the shoes are, seemingly, cobbled by elves. We’ll haul out the holly and spark up A Vibraphone Christmas and do a secret mitzvah. Nothing helps like helping someone else – fact. But if you can’t work that up, and sometimes you just can’t, slog back a hearty glass of Poor Me and have it. If you go through that terrible feeling, you’ll be on to the next. Emotions are fleeting.
Melancholy? Don’t give up! Things can turn around in a heartbeat. Something wonderful can enter your life. Leave a space open in your heart. Nature abhors a vacuum, as do the Great Oz and all other magical forces. Lost someone? Take in someone new. You might change their life. You, dear Reader, have changed mine, and for that I am thankful. Good gobblin’, and good day.
Trotting out an old column’s Turkey Day Sniglets® for your holiday pleasure:
Bloatilla – The fleet of bloated bodies littering the living room post-meal.
Candensation – Glistening moisture layer that forms on canberry sauce.
Exconversation – Labored dinner conversation with your sister’s creepy new boyfriend.
Goo-Goo Goggles – What your son must be wearing to see any merit in his new girlfriend.
Coochie Cool – The appeal of your niece’s cute new squeeze.
Loonesta – The senseless postulate posed by a crazy relative so late in the meal it puts you to sleep.
Yankee Panky – What the Pilgrims did after the feast to increase their number.
If I had a hammertoe, which I do, I’d hammer out a warning. Which is what I do unintentionally, serving as a cautionary tale for others by saying, doing, and being the wrong thing a good deal of the time. Most often, thank God, egregious missteps and ill-planned embarrassments make for the best laffs later on. It’s hard to remember this when you’re in the thick of it.
My favorite foliage incident, aside from the time when a leafpeeper in Woodstock agonized endlessly over a close-up of a lone, colored leaf to his wife’s visibly thinning patience, was my own folly: years ago I grabbed my Minolta with old film still in it and took a friend, the King, auto touring to view our autumnal Vermont panoramas—like the postcard says—ablaze with color. I painstakingly lined up shots of the King against various ridgelines ablaze with color. When I found and developed the film (!) some two years later, the ridgelines were evenly aligned, the King handsomely framed, we were young again … not ablaze with color. The old film in my camera had been, apparently, black and white. I laughed and laughed. B&W foliage photos; I’d put the moron in oxymoron.
My most horrific tales of truly awful embarrassment are ones I save for special occasions. When a friend is terribly down and needs a diversion, I trot those babies out and we are howling so hard we are c r y i n g. Alas, for our purposes here: unprintable, Dear Reader.
Modern tymes have multiplied the speed and breadth of our errors one thousand-fold. Who hasn’t forwarded an email to exactly the wrong person, Replied All horribly, tweeted from the wrong Twitter account, or Facebooked a comment that was grossly misinterpreted and made an object of scorn by complete strangers? I don’t sweat most of that because there’s pretty much nothing I’d say about someone that I wouldn’t say to their face, and why people need to chronicle their entire lives on FB is a mystery to me that I’m openly cranky about. Really, I’m a bull in a china shop in there. I think of it as a service I offer.
Facebook. Where I should be using a tweezers, I’m hammering away with a pickaxe. But come on, no one tells you anything anymore. You are expected to go into FB and find out. Which takes one hour. Every single time I go in there I waste an hour of my life on animal videos, faked graphics, and gooey, untrue comments (“You look like sisters!”), and I become aggravated. Who has time? And it’s a big, juicy venue for social gaffe-making. Not “juicy” in the way “juicy” has become a buzzword for, like, “sexy”; rather, juicy as in … I dunno … just … you’re in big trouble.
Work’s another dicey realm. With everything so bloody PC these days, it’s impossible not to offend someone — which was always case, only now there’s some crazy-awkward HR trial over it. In work meetings you may feel you talk too little or too much; if you don’t, rest assured that someone else thinks you do. It’s best to build a game around bizarre modern workplace foolishness with a trusted colleague. Then the pain becomes solid gold. Like my friends that text each other in meetings with “points” every time someone uses tiresome corporate language like “low-hanging fruit,” “cross-pollination,” or “maximizing synergistic mindshare.” They bet on who will sling the most BS in the meeting. It’s like playing the ponies only funnier and more wicked.
Suddenly: spring! Fall’s a perverse season, no? It starts out innocently enough, with a refreshing need for a light jacket, then BOOM it hammers you with icy winds and unexpected flakes. Then it’s 65. We roll with it. Because New Englanders have, another overused buzzword of late, grit. We’re tough as nails. When we’re not scrambling through unheated rooms on all fours for the box of winter clothes, frantically dialing mechanic shops with everyone else who’s realized it’s snow tire time, we’re pretty tough.
As a lingering summer became fall and (eventually?) becomes winter in Vermont, we move in our wardrobes from cotton to fleece to wool, from pink to orange to brown to red to black. Juicily and with grit – like a pomegranate, fall’s favorite fruit – we march in our not-quite-warm-enough jackets from one holiday to the next, each in its own special way affording a magical stage upon which we can make a giant ass of ourselves. Magnificent. Good day.