Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Girl Noises

OK, so it's a time of year when there's a lot of sappy to be had. And it's a time of year when I find I want little sap with my morning coffee.

So I got this email...

[SUMMARY: Don't judge.]

...and it's predictable. And sappy. And manipulative and trite and... I teared up a little.

So I'm posting it here for you. I am NOT getting soft. I'm not preaching.§ It's just there's snow on the ground and lots of Christmas lights and the cat spends his evenings staring into the fire and... I can't not spread the sap.

[SUMMARY: Disclaimers R Us.]


I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her "world-famous" cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. "No Santa Claus?" she snorted.... "Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad!! Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my Second World-famous cinnamon bun. "Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything.

As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days.

"Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for. I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church. I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class.

Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough; he didn't have a good coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat! I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.

"Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down. "Yes, ma'am," I replied shyly. "It's for Bobby." The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, "To Bobby, From Santa Claus" on it. Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were, ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.

Shut up. It's just an eyelash or something. No, I don't need a Kleenex.@

Ah, hell. Let's face it... Christmas is a little better if you can melt by the fire and count your blessings and maybe help a brother out.

[SUMMARY: Bah humbug and happy holidays.]

Here... go play with this and pretend I never got all marshmallowy over a dopey Christmas coat.

Just tell yourself I'm still trying to earn enough saint points for the 2008 campaign.#


Greenbriar 1968†† - CB I Hate Perfume

Marin says: Outdoors. It smells like a fresh spring day in a bucolic location. Cold, wet grass and a touch of mud, leaves and bark, wood, pine.

Something a tiny bit sweet, but not floral -- carmel? Brown sugar? Maple? Too elusive to pin down. Maybe just a sweet wood?

There's also something salty or petroleum -- the sort of thing that usually turns out to be leather, though it may just be the pine, which frequently reads petroleum‡‡ to me.

In any case, I kinda love this. It's so lucidly evocative it's like remembering a dream or a distant memory. I can see the dirt road and the meadow and the woods and the old fence and the lush, lush green of an icy April. Fantastically unisex, too.

CB says: This scent is a memory of my Grandfather, the sawmill that he owned and the stone house where he lived.

It is blended with Sawdust,$ Fresh Cut Hay,$ Worn Leather Work Gloves,$ Pipe Tobacco$ and a healthy amount of Dirt.$ There is also a faint whiff of cotton overalls§§ covered in Axel Grease...¶¶

Hans says: A tree. Like outside. Like a leaf. Grassy! I'm still getting some... basically, if you were to mow the lawn. And mow over a really small pine tree.## Grass and pine mowed together. I really like it.

FOOTNOTE (crossed): I *said* don't judge.

FOOTNOTE (double-crossed): When I was 16, Ken La Pear (not quite his real name, but it was what we called him), who was a bombastic windbag that would make Rush Limbaugh look introspective, told me I was sentimental. Whether it was my personal feeling that sentimentality is weak or whether it was just because Ken said so, it pissed me off mightily. Then my best friend Jeff signed my yearbook to, " of the smartest, funniest, most creative, but -- above all -- sentimental people I know..." and I seethed a little quieter. It still rubs me the wrong way, though.

§FOOTNOTE (swerved): For a wannabe saint, I'm remarkably unpreachy.

FOOTNOTE (paragraphed): Vis-à-vis the sentimentality question, I like to think Grandma and I have a LOT in common.

@FOOTNOTE (atted): Besides, if you could see the effort it took me to NOT remove a bunch of exclamation points and rearrange some of the grammar and punctuation... you'd realise I haven't lost my edge at all. I'm the same do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do obsessive compulsive weirdo you've always known me to be. No sentiment here. Nuh-uh.

#FOOTNOTE (pounded): It's really all very self-serving. Kim? Softball for you?

††FOOTNOTE (ddouble-ccrossed): I figure if Nathan is nice enough to enable my perfume problem, I should be nice enough to tell him which perfume I'm actually smelling. See: yesterday's mystery perfume review.

‡‡FOOTNOTE (doubble-crossssed): Just around the edges. If you're skeptical now, just wait until I tell you how similar jasmine and bowling alley ashtray are.

$FOOTNOTE (on the money!): Using the magic Marin system of claiming sawdust and pipe tobacco could be mistaken for wood and conveniently ignoring the fact that I only got a tiny bit of dirt and there appear to be no pine trees involved at all... I nailed it!

§§FOOTNOTE (little ribbons of cotton): Did not get that at all. You know I'm going to be up half the night trying to smell cotton now.

¶¶FOOTNOTE (pistons in axel grease): Unfortunately, axel grease is a different smell-creature than petroleum, so I don't think I can claim that.

##FOOTNOTE (not just pounded... downright smashed): Watching this, I wished for the hundredth time you guys could see the hand motions and the little dances that accompany Hans's search for the truth.

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