Category Archives: Mischief

O Come, Let Us Assemble It    

There seems to be some pushback this year, in various media, against the “Magic of Christmas.” I understand. Times have changed. It’s not Bing Crosby’s holiday so much any more. Hallmark’s cookie-cutter Christmas movies seem woefully out of touch. (The personal assistant saves the day and wins the heart of the widowed billionaire… again! The guy on the Snow Ball committee helping the down-and-out girl, able to value her quirky ways, is secretly… a prince… again! With the requisite cookie-baking scene…flour on his and her noses… adorable!). What happened to the good stories? They used to be good.

This year perhaps more than most, money is an issue, germs remain an issue, and weather, fuel costs and world events are bringing us down. Power outages have caused many people and businesses real hardship.  Perhaps a creature or person you love died. It’s hard to care much about the Perfect Gift—or even wrapping it. I, for one, used to get very, very into wrapping.

They say nostalgia glosses over the past. Makes it seem prettier or more enchanted than it was at the time. As a nostalgic, who talks to other nostalgics, I don’t buy that. We say it was in fact enchanted. The following story illustrates when Christmas was pure magic. 

I preface the tale with my own childhood proclivity for holiday snooping. Driven in part by our keen sense of smell, my siblings or I would notice something in December when we went to, say, get a towel from the closet. That smell. Sniff, sniff. Why does it smell like that in here? The unmistakable smell of… fun

The smell of toys. Plastics. Whatever they pumped into the air in toy stores to make you want live there. That smell was, weirdly, right in our own closet. Let us get a step stool and investigate! Dear Reader knows where I’m going with this. Snooping for presents secreted away by the parents during the weeks leading up to December 25th. Many of them mercifully already wrapped by the grandparents and aunts who’d mailed them. 

On to the story. I hope to do it justice.

My Vermont friend was a little boy growing up with his older brother in the 1960s. Remarkably, their parents took seasonal nighttime jobs in addition to their already demanding day jobs in order to pull together a nice Christmas for their two sons. Which left the sons entirely to their own devices several nights per week. At which point the snooping naturally began.

They found in a closet one year a well-made and elaborate Lionel train set they had badly wanted. Overcome with excitement, they got on the step stool and brought it down. Very, very carefully, they unboxed it. And proceeded to put it together. It was complicated and took a long while. Then they played with it happily for hours. With an eye to the clock, they very, very carefully re-boxed it, got on the step stool, and put it away. Each night they went through this ritual. Each night they got faster at assembling the set, and at re-packaging it perfectly.

On Christmas day the boys could have won Oscars® for the gleeful surprise they displayed upon opening the well-made and elaborate Lionel train set they had badly wanted. They were eager to put it together, this time without fear that they might get caught. The train set was finally theirs.  

The parents were beside themselves with the Christmas Day delight they had brought to their sons. All their hours of hard work had paid off. They felt as much joy as their sons. Their joy was overtaken by astonishment. Look at them go! Our boys! How could our sons be this clever, this talented, that they could assemble the thing with such rapidity? They must be advanced, possibly even geniuses! Clearly, they must go into engineering.

I love that story. I don’t know if they ever told their parents—ask David Atkinson for the full story. For now, it stands as is: a charming, true tale told at dinner one night at a holiday party in Vermont. It brought the house down. Magical times revisited.

The story takes me back to our own childhood. When Mommy would make a huge deal about  snowfall, illuminating the outside lights and opening the curtains so we kids could gaze at the different sizes and shapes of the swirling flakes. When Dad building a fire was a thrilling and special occasion; even the dog got excited. When hot chocolate was made by us children with 50% marshmallows—the big, fat, “jet-puffed” kind—as tinsel clung to our polyester pants and dog, and the parents sloshed brandy into their eggnog. Our hearts soared at the holidays.

Now Mommy is gone and Dad can’t build a fire. But there is still something about snow falling, seeing someone drive by with a carefully selected tree atop their car, children terrified or overjoyed to meet Santa at a town gazebo, and the first few bars of pretty much any Bing Crosby carol. It legitimizes our nostalgia. There was holiday magic. There was. I was there, I felt it. As, hopefully, Dear Reader, did you. If we can’t feel it this year, for whatever reasons, let us quietly watch others feel it. It’s out there. Even if we’re taking a year off ourselves. Good (holi)day to all, with love and memories.

Tip for Parents: Hide the step stool.

NBC Mission: Impossible

The NBC did NOT bloom last night as I badly needed it to before I skipped town. Unable to leave her to bloom unobserved, I enlisted a kindly neighbor to get her in the car, knowing full well how unlikely the bud would hang onto the plant during my drive east. What with my crap suspension system and Vermont roads and all. She is buoyed by an old printer, a pillow, a beater bathing suit, and a back rest.

We stopped at my favorite gas station in the world, Irving (Hello!). I added an ugly brown fleece to the support system.

There is no way I am the only nutter in the history of the world to take a blooming cereus on the road rather than let it bloom alone. Hopefully another nutter will report in.

Praying this one makes it to New Hampshire, but if it doesn’t, hell, we tried.

I have never named the plant. On the drive it came to me: Luna.

We made it to New Hampshire. Thank you, Forces!

My hosts and I took a celebratory pond dip. Heavenly.

See the fraying tip?

IT’S HAPPENING.

It’s uncertain, though, because the stem is too bent where it comes out of the leaf, due to sag during the drive. I’m afraid to adjust it. We’ll report in as able, Luna and I.

Fingers crossed!

The Annual NBC Nail Biter Continues

As the bud got heavier, the angle of the dangle went from up to down. You should know that sometimes the bud falls off–OOF.

So it’s looking a little precarious. I’ll need to support it. Wheels are turning.

To heighten the tension, due to circumstances beyond my control I may not be here when she blows and miss the Grand Finale. We cannot have this.

GROW BABY GROW! You’re on the clock.

I remain hopeful.

Thar She Blows – Night Blooming Cereus 2022

Night Blooming Cereus: ugly duckling, protector…then entertainer for one night a year.

Protector? There were some sketchy things going on in my neighborhood. My NBC shot up a new leaf, the tallest it ever has, which bent towards the window.

She looked like a cobra (see shadow). I snickered and thanked her every time I saw her ~ for menacing evildoers out in the ‘hood.

Yesterday, her first bud appeared. August is her month, normally, so I’ve been looking.

It never gets old!

Looks like the bud is giving us the thumbs up, no?

The bud grows hourly. Stay tuned!

Those Three Little Words

tempImage9gL1KMThis time of year, the romantic love promo machine kicks into high gear. People without a partner, or a partner that seems not to care, feel Less Than. It’s enough to make you irritable.

But then everyone is irritable lately, so you’ll blend right in. Even Siri is cranky. “Ready to send it?” she asked this week. I did not respond quickly. READY TO SEND IT?? she repeated. I said never you mind, Missy, I’ll send it myself.

The reality is you don’t need romantic love to be happy. You can love all manner of things. Your home. The arts. A creature. Night. Friend Denise said that in 2022 she wants to do more things that bring her joy. Smart. Maybe you love a sport or hobby. Doing good deeds. Cooking. Napping.

Me, I love bargains. Like discounted grocery items (expired oatmeal: the other ancient grain), and buying used medical supplies on eBay. Also watching the Olympics, much as the winter sport crashes terrify. Resting. Learning an instrument or language. Sending unexpected gifts. And reading those three little words that form the perfect sentence. More on that later.

Angels among us 

In December I searched online for Flash Mobs because my niece had suggested we do one at a Catholic christening we were to attend. I gazed at Youtube, entranced by mall shoppers suddenly ripping into Ode To Joy. As one will, I got sucked into other Youtube recordings, and came across Angels Among Us by Alabama. Despite the corny 80s filming and styling (sunglasses indoors) and overt whiteness, I dug the song; the images of simple people who had done great deeds (including two children) had me bawling. I dare you.

Never trust a snow bank

In a recent storm, I drove through a slender snowbank in a parking lot, which sadly concealed a curb I had never seen before. In nautical terms, I ran aground. After frantic calls to the manly men I know, no one could help beyond some best-guess suggestions, including Trusty Editor who was, I think, impressed with my trick driving. I sped on foot to NAPA for pro advice, where two manly men were eating pizza in a large pickup, the kind of rig that means business. You could tell they were the sort of men that know…everything. I explained my car was on a curb. Expressionless, they set aside their pizza and followed me.

At the scene, one instructed, “You’ll throw it in reverse and we’ll lift it.” (You’ll LIFT it? A car?) Sure enough, after briefly analyzing angles, they lifted it exactly right, off the curb. I gushed, “I wish I could embrace you without COVID!” One replied, almost amused, “There are nice people out there.” With no ado they returned to their truck and pizza pie, which I’d have paid for if I’d had any cash. While they looked like the type of men that don’t accept much in the way of thanks for a good deed, I nonetheless should have offered. Gentlemen, if you see this, I owe you a pizza. Good people indeed. Angels among us.

So, Dear Reader, stop being cranky, shop local for your Valentine, whoever or whatever that is, and do things that bring you joy. Lie down outside and look at the stars. Help or be helped by a stranger. Build a snow fort. And, oh, the perfect three little words?  Reduced To Clear. Bring on the bargains. Good day.

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Cereously Tryna Break Out of Here

I can’t tell if my Night Blooming Cereus has COVID Cabin Fever or if he’s trying to find his son across the street, but look at this baby go!

A week ago, we see him trying to bore through the ceiling.

 

Then he heads southwest, sensing a better way to make a break for it.

 

My guess: he wants to see his son, waving from across the street. I’ll have to ask my neighbor who owns him to do a drive-by at the window. The son is more mobile.

Which is exactly what the bloom viewing will have to be this year — drive-by — if we don’t get rid of this damned COVID!

Not To Be Outdone…

…by Cereus or Son of Cereus, this gutsy little potato, totally unmonitored and uncared for, put on a show of his own.

There’s an I Dream of Jeannie bottle vibe to his photographic staging here. Ordinarily he lives, unobserved, in a forgotten window sill. He was happy for his moment in the spotlight. As are we all.

Son of Cereus

In the prior post, you see a gnarly Night Blooming Cereus, which had finally grown enough for me to make a serious cutting. In the interest of gifting a plant to a deserving NBC fan, I boldly took clippers to soon-to-be Father Cereus. It was a gross feeling. I did not follow internet instructions on rooting. I took the easy way dictated by maven Jeanne in Hanover.

Just look at him go! I’m so proud I could cry. He already sprouted his first leaf—as if a tiny hand, proudly raised high, waves, “Good-bye Mommy! Good-bye! I’m going to live with your favorite neighbor!”

(You know who you are.)

Sniff, sniff.

Night Blooming — But Cereusly, Folks

My Night Blooming Cereus, which has suddenly grown up, is going to put on a hell of a show this year. Multiple blooms, surely!

It’s gotten so leggy I can’t move it to the middle of the room for a viewing party this year or the delicate flowers can fall off, which I assure you is tragic. No one can come over to see it anyway — unless I set up some ridiculous one-way walk-through with floor arrows and a :15 timer (which I just might do). BUT: the window. Hmm. There’s a spot by the hydrangea for people to view NBC’s glory from outside, like a creature in a zoo. I can open a different window and, with a fan, blow the scent all over the neighborhood; its smell is half the fun.  I’ll do a time-lapse for ya if the reflective glass allows a decent recording.

You can see the first year here, with some background info.

(The sad part is that any COVID shopper will understand “floor arrows.”)

One Man’s Contribution

My NYC friend who is a modern-day Steve McQueen sent this earlier this week:

Someone threw out a dressmaker’s dummy in SoHo…I made a little modification for Mr. Floyd.

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