Thursday, December 03, 2009

"Juicy Fruit"

Scroogey McSkinTheReindeer here.

It's that time of the year again. Sumpin' about jolly and holly.

Not this grouch's vibe. Nor is Kill The Turkeys day.

In trying to put a finger on why the holidays make me want to carve a cave into the side of Wal-Mart using my bare hands and then climb inside toting a headlamp, a Scrabble board, and a machete before rolling an SUV in front of the opening, I can come up with a few reasons:

--it's the end of the semester, which means it's all I can do to peel students off the walls and grade their lackluster work (why can't they pour all that adrenaline into their writing?); by this time next week, when cultural pressures are smashing me into an undecorated pine tree, telling me to crank out some homemade gifts, and urging me to create a sense of tradition that will one day inspire nostalgia in my children, I'll be facing a whole new stack of 100 essays that need grading before the next stack comes in the following week. I tell you: before I started the college teaching gig, it never had occurred to me that the end of the semester makes teachers completely whack, just as it does students;

--I already want to add three additional hours to each day, just so I can sit down more and read or write or talk to someone. The time crunch makes me NOT want to spend hours using Scotch tape and wrapping paper to "hide" presents when I know that same paper and tape will be ripped off in 5 seconds flat and crumpled into a ball that I later have to retrieve in its wadded form from under the couch. A week after that, I'll still be scraping tape remnants out of the carpet. Three weeks after that, I'll be crawling around the floor, picking up pine needles. Four weeks after that, I'll carry the damn ornaments back down to the basement. Sometimes people have mentioned that I don't really seem to make phone calls. Let's thank Christmas for that;

--Any of the time or money that is put into holiday efforts--from shopping to washing up after a big meal to laundering the dirty table cloth--would feel better spent on a family trip somewhere, preferably a trip that sees me looking at art, running on a trail, and reading;

--I realize now, more and more, that I never much enjoyed holidays as a kid. Something there was always hollow. Flat. Contrived. (kind of like my parents' marriage, which took thirty more years to come clean!).


Clearly, I am a holiday pisser of the highest order.

What became again apparent to me last week, however, was this:

I can't blame my dislike of the holidays on family. While some dread get togethers because of tensions, fighting, drinking, passive/aggressive-ing,

I have lucked out. Because my husband's family lives in our state, and none of my family immediate members does, we see my in-laws the most. And they are awesome. Seriously, if you offered me a thousand bucks to come up with a single complaint about my mother-in-law, I'd have to congratulate you on your good fortune at keeping that thousand bucks in your tight little wallet.

My husband's parents, sister and her partner, grandparents, aunt and uncle, and cousins all live in the same town. To a number, they are the best people I've ever known.

They are so engaged and attentive and deliberate and thoughtful that I almost feel bad about wanting to go scratch out my Wal-Mart cave. In fact, I'm so near to feeling bad about it that I'd be glad to write them a card detailing my regrets as I squat there in Ye Olde Wal-Mart cave, if only the postal service would grant me a zip code and thereby allow me the return address required on mailings.

What I would tell them is this: if all the fuss and bother would go away, and only they were left behind, that would feel like a celebration, and no one would have to do dishes for an hour afterwards.

This photo sums up perfectly how killer In-Law Family is:

That's Ben, my sister-in-law's partner. They have an organic farm, which supplies kale and beets to locals in the form of CSA (community-supported agriculture) shares, supplies the co-op in town with cabbages and squash, supplies the residential colleges with tomatoes and spinach. In this photo, Ben (who's also a trained yoga instructor) is doing a headstand amongst the seedlings in their hoop house.

I could stop right there, as I'm certain you have already grasped how un-hate-able this family is.

'Cause a headstand in a hoop house is my idea of a party trick (much better than the time when I tried sticking a little pinch of chew between my cheek and gum while having cocktails and then swallowed a gullet-full of the Skoal and had to go puke in the lilacs. I'm a whole different kind of charmer than Headstanding Ben).

In case your jury is still out, I next submit this photo, in which my father-in-law pushes Paco on a swing they made out in the woods. Like his mother, Paco can be a little crabby sometimes...but never on a homemade swing in the woods with Grandpa pushing him.

Maybe I need a holiday swing in the woods, and then I'd be able to hesh up.

But wait: I've got more evidence of this Crew of In-Laws' excellence. Last week, a couple of days after Thanksgiving, Ben and Erin (my sister-in-law) hauled their cider press from the farm out to my in-laws' house, so we could pitch together our Northern apples with their Southern-er apples and make cider.

Cider pressing is a process of control and violence, and seeing those apples get decimated whittled the edges off my sulkies.

Even when Paco doesn't have an ear infection, he likes a Pajama Day. But for SURE he needs to go commando and sport an elastic waistband when he's running a fever. And for SURE pajamas are required when he gets to crank fruit into pulp (although one does worry about going commando around the masher; Boy Bits could flop in by mistake). Alternate cranking uniform: a vigorously polka-dotted hat.

Bye-bye, crabbies (both the apples and my mood).

Paco and Girl, rockin' the juice.

The man in the hairy sweater is Groom. I look at this photo and think, "GAWD, I canNOT even believe I have a crush on a man in a hairy sweater." Then I remember I brought him that hairy sweater from Iceland, a trip that took place in midsummer, during 24-hours of light, which consequently messed up my biological clock and resulted--surprise!--in the girl in the polka-dot hat. So hell yea, he should wear that sweater. Without it, I'd still be a virgin.

Or whatever.

The Result of My Trip to Iceland and the Pajama Kid have taken to making up choreographed dances that they can trot out at any moment. I appreciate this a great deal, as Groom has always maintained that musicals are silly because people don't just randomly break into song and dance in the real world.

In. your. face. Groom. Lighten up and sing "I Feel Pretty" already. Give us a twirl.

Ultimately, crabbies turn to mash turn to pulp turn to juice

and the press lets loose its bladder.

Rallying in the face of such incontinence, I concede that holidays have their moments. As far as what my children will take into the future with them when they wax nostalgic, I can only hope their memories include the phrase,

"Remember the year we drank apple pee?"

16 comments:

Nancy said...

I read your post today with a huge smile on my face. My family had a cider press when I was growing up that was almost identical to the one in your photos, except that it was about a hundred years old. I loved making cider. It always seemed to be a sunny and cool end-of-fall day. We kids got to throw the apples in to be pulped, which felt deliciously reckless.

Jeni said...

It's a rare occasion when you don't bring out at least a little peek of a smile regardless of the mood I might have been in when I started reading a post of yours and this one is no different in that respect.
Growing up with my Mom's parents, we had a lot of traditions we followed -having lutfisk for supper every year on Christmas Eve was just one of 'em. That and enjoying the great cookies Grandma would bake, the extra breads and such. And when my kids came along, like you, I always wanted to establish some tradition for them too that would make the holiday just a bit more memorable. I realize these days that the tradition we really had -and one which I couldn't put into play for my kids -was simply the gathering of my aunts, uncles and cousins who would converge on the homestead here for anywhere from 2 days to a little over a week some years! Being an only child myself and with my ex-husband's family scattered all over the country with only one of his brothers here, there were never scads of people here, no overnight guests packed in the bedrooms upstairs, on the sofas, the floor, and the like, to be tripped over if you had to get up in the middle of the night for a bathroom call. Family is what Christmas celebrations are all about! And that is one that I scramble each year now to arrange that my three children, my grandchildren too, will all have an opportunity to share at least a little time together each year. Why it's so difficult considering we all live relatively close to each other is beyond me but that's my goal once again this year! But I will still, in a little corner of my mind and heart, revert back to those days 50 plus years ago and remember how great it was to have all those family members around me.
Gud Jul to you my friend -a bit early but if I don't say it now, I might forget cause that's the way the senior mind of mine often operates these days ya know!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Now I feel my children have been deprived of a major touchstone of childhood--drinking apple pee.

phd in yogurtry said...

Scrabble in a cave sounds good to me too...I know, let's run away together between December 1st and December 31st .. because I rather like New Year's Eve. And yes, you are most fortunate indeed to have such jewels for inlaws.

Pam said...

"...and the press let's loose it's bladder" Haha!!!Too right those two will remember the year they drank apple pee - some things are unforgettable (like a certain night in Iceland??) My mother-in-law is awesome - I want to be just like her when I grow up.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

That's it. Now you've gone and done it again. Just when I was sure I had my envy of you under control, it turns out that you even have the perfect in-laws, a concept I only know about intellectually. Like the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.




Ok, I'm happy for you. Really I am. Please send cider.

Jazz said...

For some reason I really dislike the holidays - and not because of weird family stuff in my childhood. The only time I like the holidays, is the years we run away from family and spend them somewhere warm. With tequila.

Erin said...

You're the best sis-in-law :)
We feel the same way towards you!
Thanks

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I am so glad you have a good family to take the edge off holiday pain. I share your agony about this time of year. I do the minimum now. Guiltlessly, no matter how hard Martha and the gang try to make me change my mind!

diane said...

I love your in laws, do you think they might consider adopting me? Don't say no right away, think it over.

Silly kids are the best.

Becky Cazares said...

CBS Sunday Morning, which I used to watch religiously and still try to catch now and then, features at the very end of the show what I always called the best 90 seconds in television (I think it is shorter now). It would usually be some nature scene completely void of contrived background music or narration, just the icy stream, the quaking aspens, the quivering fawn, cub, or fledgling, the babbling brook, the colors of dawn or dusk, the fog, the mist, the meadow... The viewer (at least me) could be thinking one thing at the beginning of the 90 seconds and, by the end, be mentally somewhere else entirely. Loved it. It was always something like a complete mind-rinse or a sort of natural headache remedy. That's what reading your posts do for me. Ahhh.

ds said...

Apple pee! *snort* O Jocelyn, you have such a way of winding your posts around what is truly essential. Blessed are you indeed in your in-laws, not to mention the Hairy Sweater, Polka-Dot hat, and Pajama Boy. Revel in them all--they are your true holiday.

actonbell said...

Apple pee! That's a keeper. I do hope your in-laws see this post someday:) They do sound wonderful, lucky you!

I don't much care for the holiday bruhaha either, but I do, at least, get to spend it with both of our parents, and I truly enjoy both couples. Mike's family is a very nice bunch, but they're not very local or very plentiful.

Get those awful papers graded and party!!

jess said...

I want me some apple pee! Your posts bring me dangerously close to blissy, and it's not just the happy pills. :)

Patois said...

Saw that last photo and just laughed! Crabby McPatty Scroogers like you should all have in-laws and apple pee like that.

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings said...

OK...have you looked in the mirror to see your green hair sticking up and your green, hairy hands wriggling while you scowl. Wow. "She's a sour one, Mrs. Grinch." :-)

Well, anyhow, you must want one BIG gift from those in-laws. You kissed butt seriously well because I want to move out to your part of the world and have them adopt me. Please, dear In-Laws let me make cider with you too!