Carpooling

Madhousewife (to neighbor boy): L, quit kicking my seat.

L: [continues kicking seat as though nothing has been said]

Mad: Seriously, dude, quit kicking my seat or I swear I will stop this car, go back there and tie your legs together.

L: Ha ha! You’re so funny. (to Girlfriend) She’s making a joke, right?

Girlfriend: I don’t know.

L’s sister: I think she might not be.

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Mad: L!

L: What?

Mad: Quit kicking my seat.

L: Sorry. Hey, guess what?

Mad: What?

L: Chicken butt!

Mad: Ha ha! Never gets old…

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Mad: Don’t kick my seat, L.

L: Sorry. I’m just so used to doing it.

Mad: Well, you need to get used to not doing it.

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They used to sing “The Hokey Pokey” every morning. I wish they’d go back to doing that.

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Christmas songs I never want to hear again as long as I live

1. “Santa Baby”–any version, but especially Madonna’s

2. “Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer” — It was only funny the first time. And then only because you weren’t used to hearing whimsical songs about grandmothers dying.

3. “Little Drummer Boy” — I know, I know–Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth,” but that doesn’t count because it isn’t “Little Drummer Boy.” It’s “Peace on Earth” with a soupcon of “Little Drummer Boy.” That’s the thing about “Little Drummer Boy.” It only works as a seasoning, and probably only in this one instance. You wouldn’t pour a cup of allspice down your throat, would you? (If you would, shut up.) Then don’t subject me to a whole song of unadulterated “Little Drummer Boy.”

4. “Twelve Days of Christmas” –No, not even the Muppet version. No version! Except maybe this version, but only after skipping the first two minutes.

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Fortunately, people hardly ever sing “Twelve Days of Christmas” anymore because everyone seems to understand how obnoxious it is. Except for those few obnoxious people who didn’t get the memo. For that reason, it needs to stay on the list until it is completely eradicated from the earth.*

* (Except maybe for limited use in warfare.)

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Mister Bubby was complaining this morning that elementary school kids have it better because they get to have parties on the last day of school before winter break, and all they’re doing in middle school is reading aloud “A Christmas Carol” in one of his classes. I asked him if he was going to read it in Mr. Magoo’s voice. MB remarked that Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol is actually the most faithful of all the adaptations and that it most effectively shows the transformation of Mr. Magoo’s character over time. I tend to agree. I like most adaptations of “A Christmas Carol,” but Mr. Magoo’s is still my favorite. Little Ebeneezer gets me every time.

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I actually love Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday, despite the fact that it’s also the most stressful. I’m very bad at gifts, you see. I like to give gifts, I want to give gifts, but I have a hard time choosing gifts. You know how some people are really good at giving special, thoughtful gifts? I’m not those people. I like to think it’s not because I’m not thoughtful. I just don’t have any thoughts that translate into gifts. Once in a blue moon I think of something that somebody would really like and I’m actually correct and that’s awesome, but that’s not the rule with me. Most of the time when I try to think of what gift someone would like, I come up with nothing. Which is how I end up giving gift cards so much of the time.

Personally, I like gift cards. Getting them, I mean. Obviously, I love giving them because there’s no thought required. Not that I’m thoughtless, but I like giving them for the same reason I like playing games of chance: there’s no strategy required, so I don’t have to feel bad about getting it wrong. Except I know some people find gift cards impersonal. Well, they are impersonal. But some people are offended by impersonal gifts. Personally, I am not offended by impersonal gifts, even though personal gifts are also nice. I don’t actually have a preference between the two. If my husband got me a gift card for my birthday, I would not be offended, but he might be offended that I was not offended. A gift card would basically boil down to his explicit permission to spend more of his money that I’m already spending without permission (or rather, with implicit permission coexisting with the implicit understanding that I won’t ruin him financially). When you look at it that way, it seems kind of lame, but I wouldn’t mind. What kind of monster am I? I don’t know.

I almost always give my husband a gift card to Jamba Juice for his birthday and for Christmas because he loves Jamba Juice, and it’s not like I can wrap up a week’s worth of smoothies and put them under the tree, is it? Of course, that’s not the only thing I give him. I’m not that much of a monster. But at least I know he’ll use it. But then, he’ll get Jamba Juice even if I don’t give him a gift card. But he’ll feel guilty about it if he gets too many of them. The Jamba Juice that he buys with a gift card is his guilt-free Jamba Juice. I think a card that absolves its holder guilt, even if it’s only the retail variety, is not so impersonal after all. But maybe that’s just me.

But I’ve digressed. But not really because my husband is a good segue to what I meant to talk about here. My husband is a reasonably thoughtful gift giver. I say this mainly because he starts thinking about birthdays and Christmas way before I do. He’ll make me sit down with him and discuss what we ought to give the kids for Christmas, starting in, like, September. (He’s not one of those people who have all their shopping done in July or anything horrible like that. He’s just organized.) I don’t often have something to contribute to these discussions. My most meaningful contributions are “That’s a good idea” and “We should do that.” It’s not that I don’t know my children or what they like. I just can’t think of what they’d like when I really need to. (My husband, on the other hand, thinks very well under stress. I’ve never considered this in light of things like Christmas, but maybe it has a lot to do with why he’s better at it than I am.) Once in a blue moon I have a good idea that isn’t his first. It makes me feel like less of a monster. But it’s a rare feeling.

Now that our children are older, we are moving out of the toy stage of life. Girlfriend is technically still young enough for toys, but she already has a million. We have been trying desperately not to add to the millions of toys that are already in our house. We have been trying desperately not to add to the billions of things we already have in our house, but those efforts have been mostly in vain. Here’s where I have to beg people not to share stories about how they give their kids the gift of working in a soup kitchen every Christmas or buying a cow for someone in Rwanda or whatever. Just don’t even go there. If you do, I swear I will not rinse this ketchup bottle out and recycle it. (That ought to give at least half of you pause.) We don’t have a problem with spending money. We don’t even have a problem with spending money frivolously. (Well, not a very large problem, anyway.) We just don’t want to acquire more crap that we have to thereafter manage. We’ve thought about giving experience or destination gifts, but nothing really comes to mind. Also, not having something to unwrap Christmas morning kind of sucks. I think every kid who isn’t working in a soup kitchen or buying Rwandan cows knows this. Do they even have cows in Rwanda? I’m sure they must, but how much does your average Rwandan need a cow? This is what I don’t know and I’m kind of embarrassed to admit it. I don’t know why I chose Rwanda out of thin air. I think I just like the name “Rwanda.”

One of the thoughtful things my husband thought to do this year is to (finally) compile a photo album of baby photos for Girlfriend. Baby photos of her, that is. She is, sadly, the only child (of ours) who doesn’t have one. Even Elvis has one, although his is rather thin and stops at around four months of age. I would have to double check on that, but I’m afraid if I did I would discover it actually stops at eight weeks of age, and I don’t want to know that. My husband thought of it, but I was put in charge of executing it–which was fine, because it gave me the opportunity to do something thoughtful, so even if I didn’t think of it originally, I can sort of get credit for it. So I have been spending the last few weeks desperately searching for baby pictures of Girlfriend. And you know what? It turns out there aren’t many. Not of that first year, anyway. Which has actually been very depressing. I mean, I knew there weren’t s many of her as there were of the older children, but…wow, I really had no idea how scant the photographic evidence of her babyhood is. Thank God I still had it enough together at the advanced age of 35 to take her in for professional portraits every three months that first year, or who would know what she looked like at six months? No one, that’s who. NO ONE. It is making me sad just thinking about it. But what can I do? WELL, NOTHING ANYMORE, THOSE MOMENTS ARE GONE FOREVER CATS IN THE CRADLE AND THE SILVER SPOON ET CETERA.

She will just have to remember for the rest of her life that I was still carrying her around the house when she was eight years old because she didn’t have any younger siblings with whom I could compare her weight. (She’s actually sixty-seven pounds, but it doesn’t seem that way because she’s my baby. Eventually, this relative lightness is going to end. It probably should have ended a couple years ago, but at least I’m not still breastfeeding her.)

One good thing that has come out of this experience is that I’ve learned that Walgreens will develop my 35mm film. I’ve been looking for someone to do that for ages. Well, not continuously or diligently, of course, or I probably would have discovered the Walgreens photo lab a couple years ago, even though I hardly ever go to Walgreens. I will be going to Walgreens a lot more often now, believe you me, simply because I’m so grateful to them for developing my 35mm film less than a mile from my house. I feel like I owe it to them. Even though I no longer have any more 35mm film to develop. (That I know of. Twenty years from now we could find several canisters that house Girlfriend: The Lost Months.) But I will use them for all my photographic print needs from now on. And also for buying things like Tylenol, maybe.

Talking of which, I have to take a shower and go to Walgreens and pick up the prints I had made from the CD I had made of the 35mm film I had developed, only about six exposures of which involved Girlfriend in some way, Actually, only a few more than that involved any people in some way. Apparently my children started doing experimental photography before we officially entered the digital age. That makes me glad I waited until we were firmly entrenched in the upper-middle class before developing these rolls of film, or I might have been more upset about spending all this money to see blurry shots of someone’s arm.

Only three more hours until winter break begins, and I have to spend twenty minutes showering and getting dressed. What a rip-off. (No, I don’t know why it takes me that long. Considering how I end up looking, it should take me no more than seven minutes, tops. But my universe is a mysterious place.)

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Actually, I don’t especially mind “Little Drummer Boy” when Grace Jones sings it in Pee-Wee’s Christmas Special, but that’s mainly because I’m so mesmerized by the bizarre visuals of the performance that I don’t notice the audio so much.

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