|Natalie Dee December 21 webcomic.|
Christmas hit our household like a runaway train. If you want to make that allusion more Christmas-y, you can say that Christmas hit our household like the Polar Express careening out of control on the ice in the Tom Hanks movie.
I had a plan. I had hopes of putting up this Natalie Dee webcomic on Saturday morning (when I first saw it, I thought it would make a pretty spiffy transition from my own Apocalypse Maybe Week to the Christmas holiday) and maybe a post on Sunday or Monday about Christmas preparations in the Curmudgeon household and only then putting up my annual "Closed for the Season" Santa Claus cartoon.
It was such a nice plan, too. You would have enjoyed it.
But Long Suffering Spouse finished making all her famous Christmas cookies on Wednesday last and Thursday was Distribution Day and I had all sorts of stuff popping at work.
I've tried to explain this before: My business depends on referrals from other lawyers. So that means I get work when other lawyers are too busy to keep stuff I could do better for them. Sometimes that's because they have too much work of their own. Sometimes it's because it's a holiday and they're busy with other things. Very few people have had too much work of their own of late (something about the economy; you've probably heard about this), which explains why I've been starving here -- but with the arrival of the holidays things can still pick up a little. And they have.
So Long Suffering Spouse wanted me home early on Friday, but I really needed to be here all day. And Saturday morning we had to do our Christmas shopping.
Long Suffering Spouse had done some already, of course, but there were still several nieces and nephews entirely unaccounted for and there was more stuff she needed for some of our kids. My job was to take out cash, the idea being that if we spent cash we'd be more discriminating in our purchases. That was my idea, anyway.
Now I go to a mall about once a year, whether I need to or not. This trip Saturday was my appearance for 2012. But we left fairly early and there was even parking available. My wife directed to me to a spot as distant from the mall entrance as possible. "You'll thank me for this before we're gone today," she prophesied as I shivered across the parking lot. I don't go to the mall often, but I go often enough that I know not to wear a regular winter coat, even if it's freezing outside. It won't be freezing inside, and I don't want to suffer from heat prostration.
We hit the Clinique counter at Macy's as soon as we got in the door. One of our nieces is newly arrived at an age where she's very interested in the acne reducing properties of some of the products offered by this manufacturer. Think of it as platinum zit cream. I actually don't know if it's cream or gel or liquid, but I know it costs like platinum. And there was some question as to whether our girls needed stuff and then my wife thought she definitely needed stuff and I had to be the one to tell her that I thought -- at least I'd heard a rumor -- that Santa Claus might have taken care of some of her imminent makeup needs. "I told them not to buy me anything!" Long Suffering Spouse fumed.
"Who?" I asked, as innocently as possible.
"Your daughters," she said. "They can't afford it."
"I didn't say it was them, or either of them. I just said that I'd heard --"
"I heard you the first time. Now call Older Daughter and see if she has [Product Name]."
If I were a successful writer I'd remember all these product names. All of your bestselling authors drop product names in practically every paragraph. It helps to reenforce the verisimilitude of the story, and provides a sense of time and place -- but only if you have the first inkling about the product in the first place.
Which I don't. I did share a story with you, back in 2006, about my buying makeup for my wife. It was embarrassing. And I haven't learned anything since. (Except that they stopped making the 'creamy peach' color. Which figures. As soon as I figured out what I was supposed to get, they changed it to something else.)
Anyway, I called Older Daughter.
Older Daughter and her husband Hank -- and their dog, Cork -- were up at our house this weekend from Indianapolis. Hank took the bus back to Indy on Christmas Eve. He sings at his church (he gets paid for it) and the choir director had an absolute fit when Hank suggested that maybe, this year, after the year he and his wife have had, maybe they could skip the singing this year and let his wife enjoy the company of her family at Christmas.
Mind you, Older Daughter didn't seem too upset about missing all of our traditional gatherings before she married Hank... but that's another story. And they've had a tough year. An awful year. And the choir director finally agreed that if Hank could procure a substitute he could miss Christmas. And Hank actually did find someone -- but the substitute fell through. So Hank had to be on the bus back to Indy Monday morning.
But Hank was in my house Saturday morning, and his wife, too, but neither of them answered when I called my daughter's phone.
"Call Younger Daughter," Long Suffering Spouse directed and I pushed the necessary buttons. I'm like her own personal voice-activated system. Who needs high tech?
But Younger Daughter didn't answer either.
"Call the house," my wife said, and I called.
When the answering machine picked up I growled, "Where are all of you? Don't you ever answer your phones?" I can tell you this: If I failed to answer my telephone when they were calling me I'd catch holy heck for it.
We waited and fumed. I'm sure it didn't really take as long as it seemed for one of them to realize that they were supposed to do something. One called back and answered my wife's questions and the order was finalized.
"Cash or charge?" asked the nice saleslady as I reached for my wallet, bulging with Christmas greenbacks, all Cash Station fresh.
"Charge," my wife said, waving me off.
"But the whole point of this is to use the cash and then we're done."
"Oh, we'll use it alright. But this will be too much. We'll be out in no time if we pay cash here and we still have lots more to buy."
"But we agreed that this would be our budget...."
"And it will be," my wife said, reassuringly.
"But not if we're charging things." My retail-induced torpor had not yet settled in. I still had some power of reasoning. But it was pointless and I should have saved my strength.
We then got sweaters and shirts and I made my wife buy a new purse -- "they're all too big!" she protested, but I found a nice one that was just about the size of the one she was using (the one she tells me is falling apart). And we went to Lord & Taylor and found a hat that Youngest Son wanted and we went to 16 other places where we didn't find anything at all and the crowds began to get thicker and thicker and the pace of travel within the stores slowed to a zombie-like shuffle.
One my cousins has a daughter getting married on Saturday and I thought we'd try the wedding registry at Macy's. This proved to be a mistake. When we did get her registry printed out, we found almost nothing on it. The girl's mother -- my cousin -- is an outdoorsy type and apparently this apple did not fall far from the parental tree. In fact, the girl's fiance proposed while they were on a mountain climbing trip in Alaska. They're probably registered at Dick's Sporting Goods, but there wasn't one of these in the mall. There was however a Crate and Barrel. You can get married in Illinois without an extensive registration at Macy's -- the carpetbaggers -- but a much more detailed registration at Crate and Barrel is a condition of receiving a license.
So we stopped at Crate and Barrel too and got the registry -- but it wasn't that extensive and, worse, everything on it seemed to have been bought already.
It was somewhere around this point that I reached my limit. I warned Long Suffering Spouse that I was going to melt down like a toddler at any moment. For one thing, my back was killing me. The zombie shuffle may have caused it. Standing in long lines may have caused it too. I only knew that I needed to sit down.
But the way home wound through Costco and, as it turned out, Target. We had to leave the mall to go to Costco. When we left, three cars were vying for our parking space. I dimly remembered I was supposed to thank my wife, but I wasn't sure why.
We had shirts to buy at Costco -- and diapers and formula -- and there was other stuff, too. By this point I couldn't really say what we bought. I did notice we charged this load, too. But most of my cash had disappeared somewhere along the way and what remained was insufficient for this purpose. And, at this point, I no longer cared.
I don't know what we were looking for at Target. I'm pretty sure we didn't find it.
After Target, Long Suffering Spouse took pity on me and took me home. The girls were out shopping with their husbands. I let Cork out of his travel cage. In gratitude he let me eat my lunch with minimal interference.
Long Suffering Spouse said she was going back out there, back to a different mall this time. I protested. "It's too awful out there," I said. "We're not done," she said. "Give me what's left of your cash."
And she went out. Eventually, she came back. My cash did not.
You might have noticed that Youngest Son has not made an appearance in this account, except as the recipient of a hat. That's because my wife did allow him to go to his end of the world party Friday night. He showed up, somewhat the worse for wear, about 5:30 p.m. on Saturday evening. He kept insisting he was "fine," but I knew better. For one thing, he didn't ask to go out Saturday night.
Oldest Daughter's dog Cork weighs about 70 lbs. these days. But he still thinks he's a puppy and a lap dog. He proved this after Long Suffering Spouse left to return to the retail wars. I tried to nap. Cork clambered up into my lap. I think he was trying to keep me awake. He kept licking my face and nipping at my hands.
Eventually, we both went to sleep. I never got online to do anything here.
I went downstairs to write the check for the envelope. That of necessity took me into the den, where Hank and Older Daughter were asleep on the futon. I turned off the TV. Older Daughter sat up. "I can come with you," she said.
"I'm leaving now," I said.
"I can go," she said.
"I'll be in the car," I said, "and when your mother comes down, we'll go. If you're there, I'll take you."
Long Suffering Spouse could not have been more than a minute behind me when I came down the stairs. I figured we'd be gone and back and Older Daughter would probably not even remember the conversation. I went to the car and waited.
Older Daughter came out first, still half asleep, but ambulatory now, at least after a fashion.
"Where's your mother?" I asked.
"Haven't seen her," she mumbled.
So I waited some more.
Younger Daughter and Long Suffering Spouse came out together a few minutes later.
If it had been 7:15 Mass we'd have been right on time.
That does happen to us a lot.
But this was one of those times when it absolutely was not my fault.
Another thing I do on Sunday mornings is the laundry. We get back from church and have breakfast, then Long Suffering Spouse goes to the grocery and I do the clothes. It's not a bad arrangement -- it keeps me out another store.
Long Suffering Spouse left and I got our basket and went to the basement -- only to find the washing machine bulging with someone's wet clothes.
These eventually were determined to belong to Youngest Son. Hard to believe these would still be wet from Friday afternoon -- but I suppose they stayed wet because there was so much crammed into the machine. I got him out of bed to make him put them in the dryer. But my schedule was shot.
I heard a news story on the radio when the alarm went off. I knew immediately I would need to do a post about this on my public blog. On a normal day, even with the laundry, this would have been a two hour task at most. I still might be able to execute my plan for the Second Effort Christmas transition, I thought, as I started.
But the dog did not want me typing. That was one thing. And there were others. I can't remember them all. All I know is that this two hour task lasted pretty near eight -- and my laundry wasn't done until halftime of the Bears game either -- and the Bears were playing a late game, in Arizona.
I suppose there were compensations. Olaf made gløgg on Sunday evening. But I kept telling myself I had to be in court at 9:00 a.m. Monday on the other end of the county. And I did make it there. But I never made it here.