Year of the Book

“A beautiful sight. We’re happy tonight. Walking in a winter wonderland.” Love that song.

The reality, not so much, but it’s the price I’m paying for staying in New York through January.

I’m working on another book. For me, it’s back to the scene of the crime. I started this damn book…ahem, this work of art…eleven years ago when I was living here. It was my first book baby and I was overly protective of it.

8 Lessons Phillip Taught Me

As we say goodbye to 2016, I ponder what to write about.

Do I talk about a year that I’d rather forget? For me, 2016 can be summed up in one word–difficult. Nothing could have prepared me for the death of my son last May.

Do I concentrate on looking forward? For the first time in many years, I don’t have “plans” for the new year. I have some ideas and goals, but there’s no strategy for accomplishing them. And there are no travel plans. Yet.

Technically, I’m traveling now. I’m sitting in a brownstone in Brooklyn, NY. I spent Christmas with my BFF and Fran, my former student, who was visiting from Chile. Travel makes for interesting connections.

Mission: Parka

unnamed-4On Thursday, I will be winging my way to New York for Christmas. I’ll be joined there by Francisca, the young lady from Chile who was a student in one of my original English classes there.

Here in Albuquerque today, it was 61º and sunny. I went out wearing a light jacket and a scarf and discovered that I didn’t need either of them.

In New York, it’s 31º and snowing at the moment. Last week, I started thinking about packing for the trip. The winter coat that I have here is a long, black, dressy wool coat. It doesn’t button all the way up. It’s heavy. Hard to pack. Cumbersome to wear on a plane. Not as warm as I will need for freezing temperatures.

I survived winters in Chile wearing a wool “car” coat. I withstood last winter in Edinburgh, Scotland, wearing a short puffy “down” coat with a hood, a parka.

Arrival

random-acts-of-kindness-christmas-calendar-1 Many, many years ago, long before I got married or Phillip was born, I made an advent calendar.

It was made of felt, in the shape of Santa Claus. On his big, triangle-shaped belly were 24 little pockets. Each one held a felt Christmas ornament, which I also made. There were bells, balls, angels, snowmen, etc. All had sequins, beads, and trimmings.

The idea was to take one out each day and hang it on the Christmas tree. My Advent Santa was a decoration himself. He hung on the wall, and I pulled out the ornaments, one a day, during December.

Gobble, Gobble

img_0239It’s that time of the year, Thanksgiving Eve, and I’m watching my traditional “Thanksgiving” movie, Home for the Holidays.

Good sound track, great cast. Funny, sad, poignant. Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Robert Downey Jr.

I’d been planning a low-key Thanksgiving. Alone, but I’m okay with that. I bought all the customary, commercial food, a turkey breast that’s probably loaded with hormones and chemicals. Stovetop stuffing. Just add water, right out of the box. Fluff it with a fork and voila! Instant stuffing. Cover it with gravy made from McCormick’s gravy mix, added to the turkey drippings, and you’d hardly ever guess that it wasn’t homemade. I bought potatoes, both white and sweet, because you need mashed potatoes for that gravy, and sweet potatoes because they’ve got lots of fiber and vitamin something-or-other. Nahhh, I just like them. Last, but not least, I have the cranberry jelly that “slides out of the can,” as Lucy van Pelt famously said in Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving.

The Gingerboys

385855_10150405349473563_904533935_nMy cupboards smell like ginger and nutmeg and all things festive and celebratory.

I’m getting ready to make the “Gingerboys.” That’s what my son, Phillip, called them. I made these cookies for the first time for his third birthday party. They were a hit and became his favorite cookies. He looked forward to them every November.

That was 30+ years ago, Since then, I’ve made them almost every year. Sometimes, I’ve been able to give or send them to Phillip. Other years, it’s been impossible to send them, but I’ve made them anyway in honor of his birthday.

Customs and Choices

unnamed-20The other night, I went to a new wine tasting group for the first time. When I arrived, there were two women sitting at a long table.

I sat down next to the younger one, and she immediately stuck out her hand in greeting.

A long time ago, back in my youth, someone, somewhere, maybe the home economics teacher, taught a class in social etiquette. There were many rules of behavior. Some of them had to do with dating manners, such as men walk nearer the curb when escorting a woman down the street. Sounds quaint now, but originally, it was meant to protect her from the street muck in the horse and buggy days.

Cast Away

ny-kitchenA thousand years ago, before I got married, I had a full set of cast-iron cookware, including the Dutch oven and the cornstick pan, from which cornbread bakes in the shape of little corn-on-the-cobs.

My future ex-husband wanted me to give it away because his parents had promised us a set of the latest and greatest, T-Fal. I argued it with him, but he was adamant that it go. As a dutiful future wife, I reluctantly boxed it up and put it out for the church rummage sale.

A couple of months later, we got married, but no T-Fal ever materialized. For the duration of my marriage, I cooked in odds and ends from his bachelor kitchen, waiting for the gift-that-never-came.

As soon as my divorce was final, I bought myself a set of T-Fal, but it didn’t hold a candle to the cast-iron that I’d given away. I always regretted letting it go.

Photos (and Faith) Restored

pedro-de-valdiviaA week ago, my laptop drowned when I accidentally spilled a glass of water and it splashed across the keyboard.

At first, only the space bar showed signs of being affected, but by the following day, the entire keyboard was dead. The laptop wouldn’t even turn on, so off to Apple I went.

That store is always a zoo. People playing with the products, people lined up to sign in for an appointment. Even to buy something, I had to sign in. I dutifully put my name on the list and went to wait near the sample laptops.

So Little Time

14344189_1367385576606766_8315888517568077829_nThis time last year, I was in the UK. Still in England, I think, maybe the Lake District.

I’d already been to London, where I’d indulged my passion for theatre, and Manchester, where I’d visited friends. I’d been to Beatrix Potter’s home and toured the Yorkshire Dales. Scotland was yet to come.

Feeling a bit nostalgic about that trip, about the friends I made, the scenery, the writing inspiration, I nicked (Note use of British word) this photo from a Scottish friend of mine. Though I’m not a fan of G & T’s, I can appreciate the nuances of lime and potato crisps (Note another use of swanky British word. Remember: Fries are chips, and chips are crisps).