O Christians and heathens and heretics and other dear beloved brethren,
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! I write to you from a tiny white column of a corner computer workstation from Ikea that I helped my mother to assemble for her semiredecorating of the rumpus room. Now we call it the TV room but when I was a child we called it the playroom and for some reason the walls were bare plaster and we were allowed to draw all over the walls in chalk. My father drew an enormous Easter egg on it in chalk one year and we filled it in with squiggles and curlicues and broad stripes. There was a daybed in there and I guess we used it for sleepovers. Then there was a period where Caraway Jack was living in there, smoking and drinking and sleeping and occasionally telling us yarns. Once I crept in when he was asleep and put chewing gum in his hair and he was FURIOUS because by that point Caraway Jack was going pretty bald and of course the gummy hair had to be snipped off close to the scalp. After that the room was painted kind of a sickly yellow and had a TV in it (maybe it always had a TV) and I remember watching the Olympics on it. And then I don't know what it was used for when I was married to Irwin--much the same, probably--and then I remember when I came back I had to sleep in here one night in the summer, the summer I was fourteen, when I was taking sailing lessons, and the summer I began to wear that purplish-brown lipstick, and the room was bare and yellow and it was a hot night (maybe why I had to sleep in here?) and the fan was on, and I felt obscurely like I was an adult. Then the room was painted this buttery yellow color and all the woodwork was painted white and a nice couch and table were bought but it was still awful so we are trying to fix that. AND also it was the sewing room once and may be again.
Today I did some dishes and put some of my mother's records (Clancy Brothers, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, also children's and Christmas records) in boxes, and I stood out on the porch in the balmy moist dark air and watched the darker trees agains the dark, gray-silk sky, and all the trembling white tiny Christmas lights, and thought about how much I love and miss Christmas AND about how I am different when I'm at home--much, much nicer and more polite to strangers and much, much angrier and more explosive and uncharitable towards those people I know and love.
But our Christmas was formidable. We iced cookies and put them on the tree with strings of gumdrops and candy canes. My mother heaped Santas on the fireplace. On Christmas Eve we caroled with the whole family. I gave my mother an enormous quilt and she gave me knives. Also pottery plates and the Joy of Cooking, which I did not have, and a copper-colored silk skirt with dark-brown velvet tracery, and a brown lace blouse to go with it, and a broad velvet headband to go with those, and an exquisite white evening dress in which I look exquisite and "very Directoire," according to Maman, and which I will wear to various weddings in white raw-silk Louis XIV mules & hopefully not compete with the bride. You can see the dress
here if you wish.
Also on Christmas Eve I made the desserts and everyone praised my bread pudding although it was no different from any other bread pudding. Also we went to a local Catholic shrine which always gets covered up with lights at Christmas and is tremendous. And on my mother's birthday we went to Dreamgirls and it was GREAT! and I made dessert then, too, although I mucked up the kitchen: a hot-pink-velvet cake with marshmallow-pecan-coconut frosting--three layers!! and delicious, although having somewhat the consistency of Play-Doh. Maman made the same cake for my birthday last year and it has haunted my memory as the best of all possible birthday cakes--like the cakes in books that are described as being perfectly stuffed with frosting and nuts.
AND before Christmas Maman came up to my new city where I am at school and as I (disastrously, and inaccurately) calculated my students' grades she cooked things, and we went out shopping and the city was jewel-bright and twinkling and filled with incredible, incredible shops. and also I had a nice New Year's Eve but should that be another entry? Should I perhaps return to cleaning up this place and helping to renovate?!