After three rowdy games of Taboo with the folks and Ted and Heather (whom I am hereafter going to refer to as "Teather"... because it's cute and oh-so-trendy... also, Jon's idea... and better than calling them "Hed"...), I am sleepy but happy. I love that Jon enjoys playing games with my family. And he's competitive, too. Not in the crazy, red-hot way that I get, or my dad gets. Just strong and necessary competitiveness. Thankfully he's smart enough to pull that off. We had fun. But now it's time to recap s'more. About our December. Where was I?
I've mentioned that Jon has been traveling a lot this month. Part of the reason is a potential job opening on the east coast. Exciting! Just a temporary, one to two year gig, doing some cool stuff and gaining experience. Plus, we'd have a whole new coast to explore. Probably based in the D.C. area. Anyway, he's been going everywhere to deal with this stuff!
So, when we came home from our four day vacation in Disneyland on the evening of Tuesday the 20th, and landed in Oakland at 9:00pm, Jon followed me to baggage claim, helped me out to my parents' car, kissed me and walked back into the airport to catch the red eye to Chicago, and then on to D.C.! That night! Bummer.
He was only gone until Thursday. While he was gone I used some of my newly acquired spare time to make our house more Christmas-y and to get in touch with the Ya-Yas (also done with school and available). Amy and I drove to SJ to see Cin and, over a heavy-handed game of Egyptian War and grape-flavored Smirnoff Ice, we caught up. *sigh* It felt good to talk about girly things.
Then Jon was home!
Christmas weekend was brimming with activity. But I particularly loved the way we started it off. Early on Christmas Eve morning we grabbed a basketball and our present for the Youds, delivered the gift (and stopped in to see all of Dave's new toys... including his brand new digiridu), and headed for the courts. I don't want to brag, but I kicked Jon's butt at HORSE. Okay, we both played miserably and I barely edged out ahead of him. Then we played some tetherball... again a victory for me!
For lunch we bumped into our friend Chris at Quizno's. After a quick stop at the grocery store for our new famous Sausage, Cornbread and Chestnut Stuffing ingredients, we hurried home. But this time we took the short cut, hopping the seven foot wall between the market and our house! Right behind Subway, using an old crate and some good, old-fashioned guts, we scaled the wall. That's right. BOTH of us! I haven't climbed a wall since I was a kid! Very cool. I'm still young.
We loaded Bronwyn for our trip to my parents' house. Christmas Eve is my family's tradition, and Christmas Day belongs to the Camps. So far that's worked out great!
Under a fabulously lit tree we piled our sparkling presents atop the existing enormous bright piles of wrapped boxs and pretty bags. But, of course, we couldn't actually open presents until we'd had quality family time. This year we didn't have Teather for long, as they needed to head to her family's get together. After they'd gone we played pool, boys vs. girls... and that was awful! Me especially. Afterwards we expected the traditional half an hour of singing carols our of key. But mom got rid of her piano over the summer (something I believe she now admits was a big mistake) and so we were spared. Although I did feel a teeny bit of a void when I realized we weren't going to experience the ninety verses of Good King Wenceslas bellowed by my dad.
Present time is slow and lovely. We take turns, opening gifts one at a time and appreciating what is given and received by others, taking time to be very grateful of what we're given, throwing away discarded paper and neatly piling our new treasures. Very un-Pancoast-like.
I received wonderful things from everyone. Beautiful sweaters and a soft, leather purse, several books, Audrey Hepburn movies, See's lemon truffles (my favorite candy!!!), board games, perfume... and I gave wonderful gifts. My father, though he grumbles about the sheer length of the book, loves the Doris Kerns Goodwin biographical account of President Lincoln and his unique presidency. Mom is flying through the DaVinci Code.
Best of all, though, Jon got things he wanted and needed and... I surprised him! I love doing that! It almost never happens. The guy is so on top of things.
Christmas Eve was terrific. And there's more to tell. Boring though all of this may be. At least I didn't forget to write tonight. Didn't realize there was going to be a Part III. But apparently...
And WHOOSH! Santa flashed by, like a shooting star, and with him was carried all the food and the music and the wrapping paper that I associate with my second favorite holiday. (Sometime I'll rank the holidays for you...) Here I am, early in the morning on the Tuesday after Christmas and it's so easy for my mind to play through the many delightful events of the last two weeks. But it sure ain't easy to work up the energy to put them down in print. I hate all the recapping. This blog is supposed to be fairly up-to-date most of the time. December is practically a lost cause. I'm overwhelmed, even though I am technically on vacation. Not good.
Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird and Plan B (my current 'pleasure read' which I am hoping to finish off before my 'vacation' is over and I go back to all my 'mandatory' reading), continuously advises fellow writers to look the overwhelming factors in the eye, sit down in the nearest possible place and just write... even though what is written will inevitably be a 'sh---y first draft'. At least it's a start.
Ugh. Here I go.
Fall Quarter 2005 is officially over. And it ended with a smile. Well, a thoroughly confused smile, the kind you pull out when you're not sure why the stranger is waving at you. I received a very, very backhanded compliment and, it was in the process of attempting to weed out all of the implied harshness in order to find the brave little flower still sprouting in the jungle that I used my worried smile.
You see, in the last three or four weeks I've turned in several essays. I wrote pages and pages on everything from Jane Eyre to The Winter's Tale to The Pomegranate. That's where all my words went. The flat tire syndrome clung to me through finals week and then through our trip to Disneyland and then even through Christmas! One of those essays was returned to me on the last day of my finals: Saturday the 17th. Finals??? On a Saturday??? You're wasting your exasperation... and it didn't help me a bit.
Anyway, my least favorite class of the quarter was my Shakespeare Late Works course. But I truly believed I had nailed the major paper. And when I went in on that Saturday at the crack of dawn, I believed I was basically prepared for the final. Even as I felt less-than-elated about the first couple of sections about the test, I went at the in-class essay portion with gusto! New and interesting ideas came to me out of nowhere! As I labored, other students finished their tests and walked to the front, retrieved their graded essays from organized stacks of papers on the front table, wished the professor a happy holiday and left with a sigh. I prepared to do the same.
As I placed my final in the precarious pile of blue books and reached for the stack of papers where I was sure I'd find my name, I heard my professor whisper, 'Actually, Audrey, I need to have a word with you.' He went on to reach into his bag and pull out my essay, where he had apparently quarantined it. I followed him mutely out into the hallway, wondering all the while what on earth I had done! He did not hand me my paper right away. Rather, he flipped through it as he said, 'Truly, your paper was a bit of a puzzle to me.' Great. A puzzle. I had not, just to clarify, meant to create a puzzle. What I had done was present a thesis on the main character of The Winter's Tale. Where a professor at Miami University had commented that Paulina, the most masculine female character Shakespeare ever wrote, was a 'cross-dressed heroine', I simply turned that idea around and called King Leontes the most feminine male character ever written, in fact a 'cross-dressed hero'. Apparently this ticked my teacher right off.
'You see, Audrey,' he was grasping for words, aimlessly shuffling my pages. I could see notes in the margins, words circled... I could see his interest in my work. 'Your writing is very good. In most places it was very stylish, post-graduate level writing.'
Oh. My. God.
He was praising me?? What happened to the puzzle? My eyes were rolling around in my head. Wait for it.
'But I was confused about your thesis. You called Leontes a cross dresser. But, Miss Camp,' he said, rubbing the bridge of his nose and flipping to the back page of my essay. It was covered, no, flooded with his notes. Tiny scripty penciled noted from top to bottom, left to right. 'clearly, not once did Leontes put on women's clothing!' He reached his crescendo and trilled the 'cl' in clothing for good measure. It was my turn to be confused.
'I know that,' I responded. 'You'll see in my first paragraph that I referenced what Ms. Dolan of Miami U said about Paulina. My paper was a parallel analysis of the Paulina and Leontes as...'
He cut me off. 'I know what you were trying to do, Audrey. In fact, I love the title of your paper: Bending Gender in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. You make an insightful argument, in places very persuasive.'
Again, practically out of my mind with confusion. I clung like a drowning person to the bits and pieces of positive criticism floating in the torrent of upset Professor-speak. Really, all this guy could hinge on was the fact that no literal cross-dressing took place in the play, and that he was appalled that I would have the audacity to make such a claim and then not have evidence to back it up. Nothing I could say about figures of speech or metaphors would sway him.
He gave me a B.
Then he wished me a happy holiday and walked back into the classroom. I could only focus on the B. Later, sitting shell-shocked in my car, I read over his notes. So much was positive! How on earth could he give me a B? Because Leontes wasn't strolling through court fanning himself and wearing a dress?! I'd like to see him tell Professor Dolan that she was this far off base! But he wouldn't do that. She's a colleague. I'm just a punk kid, a fifth year, someone who despised the whole class. Great.
Disneyland. It saved me from the horrible Shakespeare Final Morning Fiasco. Jon and I arrived at the airport, tired. But excited to be off to a place where we never worry. Then we found that our flight was not actually destined for Orange County... instead Burbank. As excited as that made me that we would be visiting Bob Hope Airport, it still landed us miles from our actually destination, on the wrong side of Los Angeles! Suffice it to say, we weren't thrilled. But Jon, ever the optimist, rented us a car and let me sleep as we braved the mudflow that is LA traffic.
Just hearing the music from the park made us smile. Signs everywhere said the park was full. Great. Capacity days aren't exactly rare in the Happiest Place on Earth... but they come most often around the holidays. On such days, lines are impossibly long for both rides and food, streets are too crowded to meander, quiet places are extinct. If you're planning to visit Disneyland for the first time in a long time, and you're hoping to recall why it was such a pull when you were a kid, don't go on a capacity day. The trip will kill the experience. Dead. Go on a Tuesday in October or February, steering clear of all national holidays. Disneyland's magic is absolutely there, it just needs a little elbow room in which to amaze.
However, this was, I believe, Trip 11 for us. (Or, as Jon likes to express it: Trip XI.) We know some little tricks to still squeeze maximum magic from a day when the park is bursting at its seams with thousands of screaming, whining, panting children and their exhausted, whining, panting parents. I'd tell you about our tips, but you already think we're geeky for our love of something so childish. So, I won't push it.
Instead, I'll say that this trip mellowed us completely. I forgot about Shakespeare and about Professor Crazy. High points of the trip included:
* Being included in a sneak preview of the new Monster's Inc. ride opening in Disney's California Adventure Park.
* Watching Aladdin performed onstage at the Hyperion Theater. Aladdin waved at me!
* Taking the Holiday Time Tour in Disneyland and, while learning interesting tidbits about the park and the way it is decorated to celebrate Christmas in the different lands, also getting premier seating on the Haunted Mansion and Small World.
* Having front row seats in a special section for the annual Christmas Parade (which included mugs of wonderful hot chocolate, rice crispy treats the size of my cat, and the joy of knowing that Disneyland still celebrates 'Christmas!')
* Having front row seats to see Fantasmic! Jon and I both love the light show on the water. We've seen it a zillion times. But it's best enjoyed with chocolate covered strawberries, comfortable chairs and hot tea. Also, we were seated next to a family with giggling baby girl who leaned over to me at one point and said, 'Don't worry. Mickey is winning.' I love it.
* Shopping for ornaments, like we do every year. And finding ones that captured the memories of the trip.
* Meeting the Youd family several times along the way. Having lunch with them at the Storybook Cafe.
* Seeing Jen beat Dave (and the rest of us) on AstroBlasters!
* Subsequently seeing Jen give Dave a hard time about that victory for the rest of the evening.
* Dancing in the middle of Main Street in the 'snow'.
So much more than that happened, but I simply don't have the time right now. Let's hope this pushes me back into the habit of writing closer to daily. Please pardon any and all 'sh---y first drafts'. In the meantime... I hope everyone is relaxing as we approach the birth of a new year. I know we are.
I haven't written in a really long time. And it's not entirely because I'm so busy with the end of the quarter and work and everything else... I also can't think of anything else interesting to say. In the last three weeks I've written three papers... and by Friday I will have two more ready to turn in! Oh, the insanity!
But as a quick update (and in the hope that the words will once again flow from my keyboard):
Jon has been traveling a lot in the last two weeks. Washington, D.C. and then Albuquerque. How exciting! First he got to climb at a new gym and brave the cold, then he got to eat a lot of salsa! Of course, we missed each other like crazy. But his being gone gave me a chance to get things done. (I'm distracted by my cute husband and all his silliness when he's home... you understand.)
When he was home last weekend we made sure to go out and pick up our Christmas tree. No wasp stories this year! We'd run quite a few errands during the day, pausing to join my boss (Mom) and her husband (Dad), my coworker (Denise) and her special someone (Elmer) for our first annual company Christmas dinner! Fun, and fairly relaxing considering that we knew all the parties present like family. Er... they were family. I'm lucky.
Time came to trim our tree (which, by the way, is the most perfect, fragrant Christmas tree ever dreamed up by God), and Jon had a wonderful idea. Before we began, he set up the camera to take a series of photos... one every ten seconds to be exact. As we put up the lights and the garland, smattered the canvas with sparkling bulbs and our favorite sentimental ornaments, the camera captured every other move. In the end we had a perfect record of our second Christmas tree and how it attained all its glory.
While Jon was gone, my brother, Curtis, was kind enough to stay at our house with me. It's not easy to admit, but I don't sleep so well when Jon is traveling. Having Curtis in the house made me feel better, and I was able to sleep between the times I was at work or writing my papers.
At one point Cindy and I went to see the new Pride and Prejudice. How I loved it! Beautiful cinematography, beautiful soundtrack, beautiful Keira Knightley.
As of now, Jon and I have trimmed our tree, wrapped our gifts, enjoyed holiday music, mulled cider and added an extra blanket to our bed because of the chilly winter nights. Of course, there are still quite a few Christmas traditions to partake in before the big day.
*Hanging our stockings
*Find, hang and use mistletoe
*Build gingerbread houses
But the best are:
*Going on our annual holiday Disneyland trip
*Reading "The Gift of the Magi" together
We're really in the swing of Christmas here at the Camp household!
Today it rained so hard that my car was shaking! I had parked in my usual lot, though it was unusually crowded, at Davis. Getting out of the vehicle became complicated once I realized I had to maneuver my backpack, jacket and umbrella under torrential circumstances. The 80 mile drive usually takes me about an hour and fifteen minutes on a perfect day with no traffic. Today I pulled off on the Davis exit having reached the two and a half hour mark! Oh, I hate that drive!
Though I was very late for my poetry class, I went in anyway. The teacher likes me, and I know he'd prefer me to show up even if I'm not right on time. Thank goodness I made it in time for the Bob Dylan reference of the day!
It has not been a delightful couple of days, what with me being sick and having a paper to write and turn in today in Shakespeare... one that I felt completely unmotivated and uninspired to write. But behind every gray cloud, the sun still shines.
A friend of mine from class stopped me in the hall. "You weren't here on Tuesday," she said, looking too happy to be thinking about the next two hours of Shakespeare. "The professor extended the paper's due date."
Yet the excitement from that news wore off about the same time my tennis shoes stopped keeping the rain off my toes. Freezing and unbearably far from home, it was all I could do to make it through my last class of the day. I practically ran out to my car! And I stopped a McDonald's to refuel myself before the journey home.
Inside the warm restaurant, I know I was scowling like Ebenezer himself. Even when I noted that the music playing was a traditional Christmas carol, mentioning Jesus by name and urging all the patrons to "come, all ye faithful!", I sniffed and stalked to the bathroom.
It's not Christmas, I thought, oozing with self-pity. It's barely December. And it's cold, wet and awful! And my husband is 3,000 freakin' miles away! And I'm eating fatty fast food which is going to make me feel miserable and heavy later on.
When I opened the bathroom door, I almost ran headlong into one of the McDonald's staff. She looked like she was going to say something about the bathroom only being available for paying customers. Probably not, but I was in a foul mood. I think she may have sensed that, as she backed up slowly and edged against the wall and out of my sight.
Nothing on the menu sounded remotely good. I kept hearing Jon's voice in my head telling me to turn around and go to Subway instead. "You know it'll make you feel better later." But I didn't want to feel better. I wanted sympathy!
"What can I get for you?"
I made it through ordering my food without snarling at the nice girl across the counter. She smiled at me, exposing her braces. Ouch. I remember those all too vividly. She had rung me up wrong and had to start over. Perfect.
As I filled up my drink and took a pouting sip through the straw, I was jarred from my pleasant mindset by the giggling of a little boy, swinging wildly on the bars that determined the line for ordering food. His mother looked tired. She was on the phone, tugging at her son. They ordered. When the food came the woman checked everything to make sure it was correct.
"You gave me a girl toy." Mom was displeased.
"I'm sorry. We only have girl toys left," said Miss Braces with her signature silver smile.
"But my son doesn't want a girl toy."
"We don't have any more toys for boys." Inadvertent rhymes, especially under pressurized conditions usually amuse me. This was no exception.
"You have nothing else? Nothing for a boy?"
Braces shook her head as Mom scooped up her heavily laden tray and turned to go. But she turned too quickly and the large strawberry shake slid off the tray and splattered on the ground. The little boy froze and began to whimper. Nobody moved. Nobody breathed. That's when I saw the gleam in his eye. He started to crouch, moving into prime jump-and-splash position!
I scooped him up from behind and placed him several feet from the sticky pink puddle on the floor. Mom muttered a quick "thank you" before herding him into a booth at the back of the restaurant.
Moments before the whole fiasco I had picked up my order from the front counter. Ironically, I too had ordered a happy meal. Peering into the bag I could see the Power Ranger toy sitting right on top of the food. As many fun hours I knew could be ahead of me if I would only stop and allow myself to play with the toy, I further knew that the little boy was disappointed with his colorful, girly figurine with the plastic hair.
Do something nice, I ordered myself. Give happiness to receive happiness.
The staff had fixed up another strawberry shake and it was sitting on the counter, but Mom was too distracted to come and get it. Without giving it a second thought I grabbed the shake and took it to their table. And then I gave the little boy my toy. The transaction took less than fifteen seconds, but the surprised, warm look on Mom's face made me feel so good!
"Have a happy holiday," I said.
Nothing feels as rewarding as giving a surprise gift to someone, even a stranger! I encourage everyone I know to do it, even if it is for a selfish reason like cheering yourself up. The near two hours spent in the car on the ride home flew by because I could imagine the joy the little boy felt when he could entertain himself with a Power Ranger, at last!
I'm feeling healthier each day, and my heart feels good now that I've reached out to someone. Some people find it easy to be kind and generous to all. I have to work at it. But the work is worth it. Tomorrow Jon comes home. Oh, I cannot wait!