Bear Feet and Lava Lamps

Christmas Night, and all through the house, one person and two cats are sleeping all snug in their beds, while I’m sitting here watching Apollo 13 and a lava lamp.

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2016 lava lamp

This is my first lava lamp. I skipped the ’70s. David said it’s his first lava lamp, too. He was present for the ’70s but skipped some of the trappings.

The lamp is fascinating: like a kaleidoscope but with fewer colors and curved edges.

We had a quiet day, one of our traditional nonstandard Christmases. We opened gifts, ate a light breakfast, and sat around.

Then we repaired to Saffron Restaurant, which serves an eclectic mixture of traditional Indian Cuisine punctuated by the flavors of the Himalayas. Goat curry, chicken tikka masala, tandoori chicken, steamed basmati rice, naan… and several things I can’t name because instead of wearing my glasses to the buffet, I left them on the table.

After lunch we came back home, plugged in the lava lamp, and waited for it to erupt. It did not disappoint.

Of course, we took the obligatory photos of the children with gifts under the traditional nonstandard Christmas tree. Changes in living room geography kept us from giving our real artificial tree center stage, so this morning we moved our ceramic artificial tree to a snow-covered chair and accorded it official status.

Facebook reminded me that four years ago, I found these bear foot slippers under the tree. They were the warmest slippers ever. A week later, William sat down and started making biscuits on them. Now they’re called William’s shoes.

It’s now past midnight. Christmas Day is over. Time to turn off the lava lamp and sleep snug in my bed and dream of goat curry and naan. Which, come to think of it, would make a fine traditional nonstandard New Year’s Day lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

The World in Solemn Stillness

I post this every Christmas Eve.

This 1663 painting by Abraham Hondius has a ma...
This 1663 painting by Abraham Hondius has a matching painting of the Adoration of the shepherds. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Public domain

We’re watching, one more time, It’s a Wonderful Life. Clarence Oddbody, AS2 (Angel Second Class), aka Henry Travers, is showing George Bailey, aka James Stewart, how his hometown would look if George had never been born.

Travers in his most memorable role, as Clarenc...
Travers in his most memorable role, as Clarence Odbody in It’s a Wonderful Life (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Public domain.

In a couple of minutes, George will learn that, because he never existed, his wife, Mary, aka Donna Reed, not only never married, but became a librarian. Judging from her granny glasses, frumpy hat, and bun, that’s a fate worse than death.

I like It’s a Wonderful Life, but it isn’t my favorite Christmas movie. I prefer Miracle on 34th Street, in which Edmund Gwenn–whom I rank right up there with Henry Travers–is declared, in court, to be the real  Santa Claus. No librarians were defamed in the making of that show.

Even though It’s a Wonderful Life isn’t my favorite, as soon as half the town crowds into the Bailey living room to pile money onto the table, I start to cry. I cry through the credits and the next three commercials. Even a not-favorite movie can stir emotions. Year after year after year.

Favorites aren’t easy. I don’t have a favorite novel or a favorite song or a favorite color. Or a favorite teacher, actor, or pet. I have multiple favorites. For me, those get-your-password questions–“What is your favorite television show?”–are useless. I never remember whether I said Andy Griffith or Law and Order or I’ll Fly Away.

 But I do have a favorite Christmas carol. The melody is lovely and singable–singable is important–but it’s the words that move me. They speak of peace and quiet and rest for the weary, of heavenly song floating above earthly babble. They speak of ancient tidings of peace to one small group of men, and of a promise of a world in complete harmony.

But the lyrics also speak of the present, of stopping, and looking up, and seeing angels. They’re there now, and they’re singing.

We have only to be still and listen.

*

 It came upon the midnight clear,
that glorious song of old,
from angels bending near the earth
to touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
from heaven’s all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
to hear the angels sing.

 Still through the cloven skies they come
with peaceful wings unfurled,
and still their heavenly music floats
o’er all the weary world;
above its sad and lowly plains,
they bend on hovering wing,
and ever o’er its Babel sounds
the blessed angels sing.

 Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

 And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
whose forms are bending low,
who toil along the climbing way
with painful steps and slow,
look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
and hear the angels sing!

 For lo! the days are hastening on,
by prophet seen of old,
when with the ever-circling years
shall come the time foretold
when peace shall over all the earth
its ancient splendors fling,
and the whole world send back the song
which now the angels sing.

 *****

From Wikipedia:
“‘It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” (1849) — sometimes rendered as ‘It Came Upon a Midnight Clear’ — is a poem and Christmas carol written by Edmund Sears, pastor of the Unitarian Church in Wayland, Massachusetts. Sears’ lyrics are most commonly set to one of two melodies: ‘Carol,’ composed by Richard Storrs Willis, or ‘Noel,’ adapted from an English melody.

“Edmund Sears composed the five-stanza poem in Common Metre Doubled during 1849. It first appeared on December 29, 1849, in the Christian Register in Boston. Sears is said to have written these words at the request of his friend, William Parsons Lunt, pastor of United First Parish Church, Quincy, Massachusetts.”

*****

Reposted from December 25, 2010

Christmas Compromise, 2009

Posted on Whiskertips, December 24, 2009, when William and Ernest were still young adults.

christmas-leaning-tree-lights-upright1

If you read my earlier post, our Christmas tree
has been the subject of intense, but not unexpected, conflict.

As soon as the tree lit up, so did William and Ernest.
William had to be physically restrained from chewing on the lights.

The next morning Kathy found the tree lying on its side and the cats out of sight.
The tree spent the day en deshabille, as it were.

christmas-tree-lights-leaning-zoom-out

After lengthy trilateral negotiations, a compromise was reached.

Ornaments and tree skirt are, of course, out of the question.

Gifts will appear Christmas morning immediately before they’re to be opened.

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Cats 1 – Tree 0

Posted on Whiskertips, December 10, 2009, when William and Ernest were young adults.

christmas-leaning-tree-lights-upright1

Last night David strung lights on Christmas tree.

William began gnawing on lights.

Kathy went bananas, envisioning surgery
to pick shards out of William’s GI tract.

William said he didn’t care. Ernest said he didn’t care either.

David distracted William and Ernest.

This morning Kathy picked up tree, sopped up water,
dragged lights to higher altitude, considered going back to bed.

Kathy regrets she didn’t get a shot of tree lying on its side,
blocking entrance to kitchen.

William and Ernest said if Kathy had gotten up and fed them
the first time they pounced on her,
she wouldn’t be sitting here now, thinking about dragging tree to dumpster.

christmas-tree-lights-leaning-zoom-out

In Memoriam: Gale Albright

Sisters in Crime

Gale AlbrightGale Albright, November 2016

Gale Albright, 2016 president of Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas chapter, a member of Austin Mystery Writers and the Writers’ League of Texas, an author, and our dear friend, died on November 19.

Gale was born in Tyler, in the Piney Woods of East Texas, where her family has lived for generations. She attended the University of Texas at Austin, and in the late 2000s completed a degree in English Writing and Rhetoric at St. Edwards University.

In an interview posted on the Austin Mystery Writers website, Gale spoke of how important her East Texas upbringing was to her writing:

“I always have to write about Texas. I had many conversations with older people in my family when I was a little kid, so I heard a lot of stories about hard times picking cotton, taking a lunch to school in a lard bucket…

View original post 1,433 more words

Young and Brave and Naive and Amazingly Stupid… but Successful

A long time ago, when I was young and brave,* I herded about forty ninth-grade students onto a school bus and took them to San Antonio, thirty miles away, to a matinée performance of Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. 

The day before the event, I learned that two girls planned to skip the trip. They were going to attend school but to sit in the library while the rest of the English class sat in a theater.

I consulted the principal. He consulted the girls. The girls decided they would go to see Romeo and Juliet with the rest of us.

English: Woodcut "Verona" from "...
English: Woodcut “Verona” from “Romeo and Juliet” from the 1847 edition of The Illustrated Shakespeare (Photo credit: Wikipedia). See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I hadn’t seen the movie and was surprised to learn that at least one major event–the sword fight between Romeo and Paris outside the Capulet tomb–had been omitted. Shakespeare’s plays are long, movies move more slowly than dramas at the Globe did, so something had to go.

Still, of all the deaths in the play–Mercutio’s, Tybalt’s, Paris’, Romeo’s, Juliet’s–Paris’ seems to me the saddest. Paris is the one innocent character: neither Montague nor Capulet, he has no enemies, seeks no revenge, but simply loves Juliet, and dies trying to prevent Romeo from (as he thinks) desecrating her tomb. Friar Laurence describes what he found in the churchyard when he came to wake Juliet:

But when I came, some minute ere the time
Of her awaking, here untimely lay
The noble Paris and true Romeo dead.
She wakes; and I entreated her come forth,
And bear this work of heaven with patience:
But then a noise did scare me from the tomb;
And she, too desperate, would not go with me,
But, as it seems, did violence on herself.

Three deaths in the last minutes of the play. Omitting one lessens the impact of the other two. But only for viewers already familiar with the play, I suppose. If you don’t know that much about Paris, you probably don’t miss him.

Something else surprised me, too: the unobstructed view of Romeo’s bare backside we got when he heard the lark and hopped out of bed. But in a theater packed with fourteen-year-olds, I heard not one giggle. That is my definition of success.**

And the day got even better. On our return to school, the principal came out to meet the bus. He and I were standing together, making sure students headed toward the building and not away from it, when the girls who’d threatened to boycott the play walked by.

“Well,” he said, “what did you think of it?”

One of them tossed her head and said over her shoulder, in the tone of bored superiority only a fourteen-year-old can produce, “They didn’t even show the scene where Paris died.”

That, dear reader, is my other definition of success.

Why do I write about R&J tonight? Because the Zeffirelli version is on the late movie, and I’m watching as I remember.

But now I’m going to turn off the television and make my way to bed.

Because I’ve already seen my favorite part, Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech:

MERCUTIO
then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men’s noses as they lie asleep;
Her wagon-spokes made of long spinners’ legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
The traces of the smallest spider’s web,
The collars of the moonshine’s watery beams,
Her whip of cricket’s bone, the lash of film,
Her wagoner a small grey-coated gnat,
Not so big as a round little worm
Prick’d from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o’ mind the fairies’ coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love;
O’er courtiers’ knees, that dream on court’sies straight,
O’er lawyers’ fingers, who straight dream on fees,
O’er ladies o’ lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are:
Sometime she gallops o’er a courtier’s nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig’s tail
Tickling a parson’s nose as a’ lies asleep,
Then dreams, he of another benefice:
Sometime she driveth o’er a soldier’s neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five-fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plats the manes of horses in the night,
And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled, much misfortune bodes:
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage:
This is she—

ROMEO
Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace!
Thou talk’st of nothing.

MERCUTIO
True, I talk of dreams…

And I already know what happens later. They don’t even show the scene where Paris died.

*****

*  … and naive and amazingly stupid.

** On network TV, Romeo’s bare backside is blurry. That is my definition of turning tragedy into comedy.