The calendar, a gift – each page a celebration of intellect and talent – from dream to design. Ideas turned into form. Genius I vaguely grasp. My mind moves to simpler things.
I flip through and find everyone acknowledged, birthdays dancing through the pages, but not his.
There’s no cause to celebrate. Only memories to forget – moments from which we move. I’m stunned. Weeks pass. The gift forgotten.
I had a good day today. I started out behind in a room filled with experts (at least by comparison). By day’s end, I’d outperformed the majority. My confidence exploded. A silent prayer made to continue to ride that wave.
Half the day gone by the time I walked out.
I looked at the calendar. A primal sound resolved into a moan. I lost track of the day.
A few years ago, a good friend of mine announced that she had purchased a prom dress, some petticoats, and planned to throw on some cowgirl boots then head to a friend’s 51st birthday for a Reverse Quinceañera (see, it’s like “15,” but it’s “51,” thus the whole “reverse” thing). With my 51st a couple of years away, I immediately had two thoughts: 1) That’s a thing? Quickly followed by: 2) YEAH, BABY! That’s a thing!!!! Then I had to patiently bide my time – wait for 50 to come around, then turn the corner for 51 in order for my plan to get underway. With 51 in sight, I gathered a group of friends – people whose brains I could pick, those lucky enough to be endowed with party planning skills, and aren’t party “challenged” like moi. (You see, my idea of “party” usually involves an invitation (aka email) that reads, “Hey! Want to play board games? Come over Sunday and bring chips. Does anyone have an extra table? You “may” want to bring a chair if you want to sit, too. Yeah, you’ll definitely need to bring a chair.”) We held our mid Summer brainstorming session over chips and margaritas, because Texas y’all, and hammered out the details. The question at hand: What did we need to do in order to throw my very own Reverse Quinceañera? From that meeting, a party timeline was born complete with action items and milestones. One of the side effects (benefits?) of being around Project Managers and serving on a project management board – your world becomes about schedules/timelines, and where I may not be able to plan an event, I can drive a schedule. My birthday party began to take shape
As we planned, there were a few things we had to consider before pressing on since I had decided I wanted to add a Bollywood element. The big one was: Was this cultural appropriation? Many of us had read about the girl who faced a huge media backlash over wearing a traditional Chinese dress to prom, and we didn’t want to offend anyone. Even if we, as Americans, are supposed to be this gigantic melting pot of cultures and ideas, we’re also still very protective of our cultures, and we as party planners were sensitive to the fact that someone might take offense to the party’s theme. You see, I’m not Asian nor am I Mexican, and while I can tell you that I asked to be bused to a school where I was a minority (all of my friends were there), and I can explain that I grew up in a Hispanic community with Hispanic friends. At the end of the day I’m still a very white woman. Look at my DNA results, and you find I’m Scandinavian, I’m German, I’m English, I’m Irish, I’m French, with only the tiniest bit of African from someone who lived in the 1700’s – so far back, that I have no connection to that person nor that culture. Snow White really has nothing on me. So, I checked in with my Hispanic and Indian friends and asked for their input, explaining my goal was cultural “appreciation” not “appropriation.” They came back with their thoughts – things to avoid, so it wouldn’t appear that we were mocking any culture in any way, and from there a party was born. Saris, and prom dresses, and countless decorations were bought or crafted. Then on December 15th, we had ourselves a party.
I have to say that I was a bit anxious and nervous, and when April asked why, I said, “I’ve never done this before – never thrown a real party. What if no one shows up?” “Beth, do you really think no one will show up?” “What if it’s only 10 people?” “Then, we’re going to have a great party with just the 10 of us.” On the day of the party, we had a “little” over 10, and I had an absolutely fantastic time.
The Thank You’s!
The planning committee: Erika, Sharon, Roanna, Jennifer, Kate, Kimberly, Heather, April, Nancy, Liz, and Swati. Thank you for your ideas, and for helping me get this ball rolling.
Kate and Riley – We wouldn’t have had a location had Riley not joined the American Legion specifically for this event, which got us a decent discount on the location. I cannot thank you enough, and on top of that, you helped set-up, climbed ladders, covered lights, decorate tables, and clean-up. You guys are amazing.
Darrell and Rebecca – Thank you for what was described as “the best bar in Central Texas.” Wow! I cannot possibly thank you enough for offering to bartend, providing the alcohol, the special drink menu, the music, which also received a lot of compliments, the lights, and the speakers so we could all dance. You helped make the party a party!
April – Holy hell, girl! Thank you for one of the best gifts – a professional photographer, and while I still feel like I was a bad prop in everyone’s formal photos, or that I was straight-up photo bombing everyone’s nice photos, I’m so glad he was there. The photos are fantastic. Also, what a brilliant idea to have a photo booth as well!
Swati – Thank you for the beautiful sari, and for pinning, pleating, and making me look beautiful (given who you had to work with). You helped me feel like a true princess. You always say I have such amazing friends, and you are one of them!
Erika – Thank you for those amazing cupcakes! They were so delicious, and I love how you tied in my dress colors – from my sari to my prom dress. I’m so sorry you got hurt in the dance.
Kimberly – My amazing cousin who helped from beginning to end in so many ways that it’s difficult to list everything she did. Thank you for the cookies, for decorations, for taking the day off to help make food for the party – for so much more than that, and for everything you did. Also, thank you for doing your best to help me avoid a wardrobe malfunction.
Heather (HB) – Thank you for running into Houston to elbow our way through Arne’s, for creating a gorgeous/perfect center piece, and for just being you, friend. Also, thank you for making the final adjustment to my dress that ultimately did prevent the impending wardrobe malfunction. Such a close call! I had resigned myself that it was going to happen, and that I’d just try to roll with it while wearing a big smile, then you came along. Because of you, the party remained PG, and I was able to dance.
Set-up/Clean-up Thank you to everyone who helped with setting up, and cleaning up; that was no small feat. Also, a huge thanks to my piñata makers – Nancy, Kate and Kimberly. I’m pretty sure people will be hiring us out the next time they find themselves in need of their own donkey/Scottish terrier mix party piñatas. My Mom would have approved – Go Scotties!
Spear Children (Who are now Young Adults) – Just look at the candid photos, and you’ll see how much I love you guys. You’re each my favorite! You’re my soul nieces and nephew. From the first, who gave me someone to focus on when I got incredibly embarrassed by a roomful of people applauding my wardrobe change (honestly, the last time someone clapped when I changed clothes was the day my mother taught me to dress myself), to the middle who coolly lead us in the Cupid Shuffle, to the youngest, whose formal wear outshone mine. Kids these days! (Someone came up and suggested I should have worn heels like yours, and I kept thinking “I would DIE if I wore heels like those.” I would put them on, and literally the fall from that height would have done me in, but you wore them with style! I guess we all suffer in the name of fashion!) You guys keep me laughing. You are all the best! I support you in everything you do, and I adore you! You amaze me!
That person I forgot – Thank you! In my haste to create this blog post, I likely forgot to call you out by name and specifically list what you did to help this party be such a success. Please know I appreciated it tremendously, and couldn’t have done it without you! Also, know this is a reflection on my advanced years, and not your contribution. Seriously… I just turned 51 (the whole reason for the Reverse Quinceañera Party you helped create). I’m just thankful I remember to come home most days. Please take some comfort in the fact that in a couple of days I’ll groan and regret not having credited you for all your work. I will likely send you a note while praying you never really read my blog. Hey, I only have the ten readers. The odds are in my favor!
Final thanks: Thank you to everyone who was able to come out to celebrate! I appreciate it more than you know. I hope you had a great time. I love you guys! Thank you for dancing! Thank you for being silly! Thank you for letting me know I’d unknowingly captured a chair and someone’s sweater under my hoop skirt and was about to do the rounds with those in tow. Thank you for asking questions like, “Who did her hair? Who did her make-up? Who are the couple who made these drinks? Who put the music together?” When those questions floated my way, I felt like we’d really put together something special – something I couldn’t have done alone – a party we all created – thanks to all of you! You were incredible!!!
A request – For my younger friends – Please have your own Reverse Quinceañas. I need excuses to buy prom dresses, dance, and celebrate you! At least until I have my Reverse Sweet 16.
I leave you with the song from the Bollywood dance portion of the party.
As you know, the Out of the Darkness Walk has received a lot of my attention lately. With Jay never far from my mind (I still say “hey” everyday; I still update him on the big things) this walk was important to me. As I mentioned in a previous post, I received a great deal of support starting with the people who volunteered to those who made donations, and of course there were so many wonderful messages.
That brings me to “The Thanks.” In addition to showing gratitude for that overwhelming support, I want to offer up thanks to someone who has been a huge supporter of this Blog. I think of her as “my one reader whom I haven’t had to to cajole, bribe, or threaten not to show up at a family event” in order to get them to read my writing. This may speak to her questionable taste, limited reading choices, or possibly a mental condition that is really quite rude to point out in public, so you know, cup your hand over your mouths and avert your eyes, please. Who are we to judge? It also may speak to pity. I’m good with pity driving people to these pages. “Bless Beth’s heart, she does try. The least we can do is bear witness to this… this… well, you know… bless her heart, as I was saying.”
This woman is the writer behind the blog Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge, and it’s truly my favorite blog. I’ve been reading her stories for several years, beginning with a wonderful piece describing the joys of the jury duty selection process – written as a metaphor. My brain took a moment to adjust to this new brightly worded light, then, as I recall, I’m pretty sure it said “whee” and proceeded to cartwheel about enthusiastically. With her writing, she masterfully creates art – reframing the ordinary in a way that transforms it into something new and extraordinary – as if you’re seeing it (whatever she’s describing) for the very first time. Her stories are told from various perspectives – from that of a tree, a bird, a painting, or even a wooden lizard. However, my personal favorite are those told by RC Cat of the Realm (the Resident Cat (RC)) – a majestic Maine Coon who bemusedly patiently sufferswatches over the bumbling dotards his adoring staff since clearly they are in need of supervision.
At the end of each RC entry we, as readers, are invited to bow down graciously, leave a can of tuna at the door, and hope for a cheek pat of recognition. You never want to leave without paying proper homage to both RC or this author.
This past week she honored both Jay and myself by including the Big Blue Mess in one of her own pieces – a piece titled Between. It was absolutely beautiful, and it touched me deeply that she would honor me in such a way. When you have a moment, I ask that you go and read it – that you introduce yourself to her world.
On Saturday, she and Molly the Malamute went for their own walk in their own hometown and sent their positive energy into the world to help those who struggles with depression and mental illness. On Saturday, while in the “Between,” I stood at my window and watched those good thoughts swirl across the sky, looking for those who needed the love and courage.
Thank you, Phil! Thank you for the soft cheek pats that are your words.
Please welcome my new Editor-in-Chief, David! I’m leaving his last name off and allowing him to decide whether he’d like to add that in – hey, he does have those editorial privileges now, and we’ll let him decide whether he wants you to stalk him across the web. David is an English professor in Japan and has kindly (possibly “foolishly”) offered to help clean the mess that is my writing in this Big Blue muddled Mess.
David is also a long time friend – one who helped me find my tribe oh so many years ago in high school. He helped learn to proudly embrace the things I still love and enjoy to this day. I wouldn’t quite be the me you know without this person.
Thank you, David for taking on this thankless task.
(Also, David hasn’t proofread this yet.)
[Editorial Comments: Hi, everybody! Thanks for the intro, Beth, and also for a post that, at least on first read-through, didn’t need any editing whatsoever! Go you! But I’ll add that I’m David Farnell, a name that might be familiar to a few whose friendships with Beth go all the way back to high school. Beth found me again on Facebook a few years ago, despite my move to the far side of the world, and it’s been great being back in contact with her. Now, I shall go back to being invisible.]
Well, I’ve taken a few trips since the last time I really sat down to spin you a tale. I enjoyed a few more adventures, and I’m currently planning a Reverse Quinceañera/Bollywood birthday party (what do you mean it’s only four and a half weeks away?!?!?!). This can only mean one thing – more stories! So throw on your prom dress, your tiara, your chanclas, then grab a margarita and sit back.
I leave you with a song that’s been in my head since the cruise, re-appeared at Saturday’s walk, and just got added to my birthday party playlist. Stand up and dance with me!
Christmas. Anyone who knows anything about me, knows Christmas is my thing. Not in a decorate-y way – you don’t walk into my house and find a year long celebration (well… there may be a few lights here and there, I suppose – blame laziness or a love of twinkly lights more than anything else). I rarely have a tree up (too many memories with each ornament). And it’s not like I dress up, though I do now have a Santa hat. But for those who don’t know me – who only know me as this Big Blue Mess occasional why-can’t-she-write-more bloggerette, you have to trust me; it’s my holiday. And my friends always go out of their way to make it memorable. (In fact, I still owe you a blog from my last birthday. Oh, you thought we were talking about Christmas? We are. This was another great one where my friends and family gave me a small piece of themselves – from New Zealand pop music to vintage posters, to a fantastic original reindeer painting, to pistachio KitKats from Japan. Everything was absolutely wonderful (and some tasty), and each gift was so very them – the person who shared themselves.)
Among the many great gifts was a Choose Your Birthday Adventure. This is something my friend April, whom you may remember as the person who is on a mission to kill me, started doing a few years back. She presents me with three options for adventures we can take around the state (likely dangerous and fraught with peril, as I’m not sure she’s quit her murderess mission). From museums offering a selection of quilts, or toilet seats, or trains, to old Czech settlements, meadery visits, or trips to see scaled-down replicas of Stonehenge and the Easter Island moais. It’s always so hard to choose, because it’s always a slice of Texas I didn’t realize I wanted to see, and now can’t imagine never seeing it.
This year my choices were titled:
Adventures 1: Olives!!! (and other stuff but mostly olives)
Adventure 2: Art & Soul
Adventure 3: Painted Churches
After much deliberation, I chose “Adventure 2,” which was tough because OLIVES!!! and I know I’d love painted churches, but this one promised a trip to both the Kimbell Art Museum and The Modern – two museums I’d never been to see. Apparently, there isn’t a “do all the adventures” option. (I’ll miss you, olive farm.)
Well, life delayed us a bit – between jobs, the cruise, and all of those other little things, we found ourselves in June without a firmed up plan. Then, a funny thing happened at the end of June. I had a tiny little meltdown where I was mad or sad or neither or both – sometimes within minutes of each other, and well, you got to hear about it. You see, losing Jay, my best friend, takes its toll nearly every waking moment; it’s just a matter of degrees. My reprieves can really only be found at the gym, or in activities that insist I’m hyper-present in the moment. In truth, the intensity of my sorrow lessons as I move further away from July, and then swells again in the Spring. I still cry. I still rage.
So clearly, this was a sign that Adventure 2 needed a slight tweak, and thus a visit to The Anger Room in Dallas became part of the plans. I mean this was the “Art & Soul” adventure, and both of our souls were saying they needed to smash some things and see some lovely art. Souls can be rather mecurial at times.
Let me just say it was a great choice, and one of the most completely cathartic experiences I’ve had in a long time. I was in a safe place and given permission to destroy things. I personally never let myself go in this way; I think, “How will you feel when you’re calm, and you realize you’ve broken this thing? You’ll be pretty upset. Why don’t we scream into a pillow instead? That’s good, too. Right??” I will barely slam a door, because I think about how the door doesn’t have it coming. (Aside: We will not discuss any recent door kicking, nor the time the Naval special forces combat medic was consulted, nor the time the door sought revenge and unceremoniously (because ceremony should be involved?) popped me in the lip, and I went around with an unnoticeable bump on my lip that I kept insisting was there. It was there, people!!! None of these things are on the table for discussion!)
When we got there, the woman at the facility explained, “you will have 20 minutes, and while it hardly seems like much time, you will get tired. If you need to come out and take a break, please do.” I’m here to report: 20 minutes is actually a SHORT time, and we didn’t need any breaks. In fact, we needed about 20 more minutes. We chose our weapons of destruction, and in my case that was a crowbar and a baseball bat. I discovered I’m a crowbar girl. I had no idea. It’s like learning I’m “Joffrey” on a Game of Thrones Buzzfeed quiz. (I was actually hoping I’d turn out to be more of an Ygritte. Now I live in fear of Tyrion’s wrath. Please don’t let me become a viral meme people use to lift themselves up on a bad day. In fact, #1 on my bucket list reads: 1) Don’t die a meme. Seems like a reasonable thing for which to ask, but I digress.)
While it was fairly perfect, my only wish would be that they’d had more fresh things to break instead of merely a couple of new things (a printer, and a DVD player), and the opportunity to whale on things that had been previously destroyed. In fact, I would have paid a little extra for fresh glasses from the Walmart collection, because the one cheap wine glass, while momentarily satisfying, just wasn’t enough. Don’t get me started on the one plate. Well… because April got to smash that one. I couldn’t hog all the easily smashables. That would be rude!
At the end, the anger concierge handed us markers and invited us to, “write whatever you want on these walls; it doesn’t matter – let it out.” And I wrote the ugliest thing from the darkest part of my heart – the thing that raced around my mind as I beat the DVD player into coughing out its motherboard, the words radiating off of my skin, and my anger went away… (at least for now).
It was absolutely brilliant!
Posture neither my mother nor countless orchestra conductors would be proud of, but the day wasn’t about my perfect posture. 🙂
(For those who have asked: No, I will not share what I wrote with you. Much like you’ll never know what I put in the Wishing Stump, what I’d send to PostSecret, nor what I’d ask for in a prayer; the words are not for you.)
Tomorrow we’ll be six months away from my -0 birthday. You know that birthday where I finally turn ummm… another year older-ish-esque! Happy Birthday to Me?
You’re probably wondering: 1) Why do I need to worry about it now, and 2) wait, if she’s writing about it, does that mean it’s another present grab? Dear Lord, is she three? I get it. You were born on Christmas. Bummer for you. I’ve got a family to think of! I’m out of town!
Well, 1) if Hobby Lobby can have Christmas stuff out already, then I’m actually a little behind in mentioning it, and 2) YES! You guessed it! It IS a present grab. You’re a good guesser! Also, I’d like to point out that you can see your family any time. I only turn -0 once! (…a decade. Err… bygones.) Go ahead and book your flights. No, book them to Austin. Why do you have to act this way?
So, remember 10 years ago? That other -0 birthday? There was you, me, some other people, and someone MAY have had a dramatic boo-hoo? Then someone’s friend had to hold up each subsequent present and grill the giver with a, “is this going to make her cry?” only handing the gift over only if she was assured, “ummm no? I don’t think so?” Remember? The birthday girl then gave that amazing speech (ok, that was a test – if you’re claiming there was a speech, then you’re now just pretending to have been there, and the bobbing of your head in agreement with all of my words right now is kind of hurtful. Way to be hurtful. This is why I actually cried.)
So, this birthday will be a repeat of the one held 10 years ago – same restaurant (maybe) – same rules. I’m going to ask for something that represents you. If you’ll recall the previous -0 birthday, I received an assortment of stories, photos, poems, comics, drawings, homemade bread, and CDs. I loved all of them, and I’ve saved each item, because it’s a tiny time capsule of who you all were 10 years ago. Ok, I lied. I didn’t save all of them. I totally ate the bread. Hey, it’s not fruitcake people. It wouldn’t have lasted. Don’t judge me. What if I “promise” (no reason for the quotes, nope – move along) not to devour any more presents (well, unless that’s what they’re intended for)? Fine. What if I just promise to try? We good?
Anyway, back to the present grab. This can be anything at all as long as it’s an expression of you. It should be something that when I look at it, I see my amazing friend, or my beautiful family member – an item that says something about you in this moment in time.
The reason I’m announcing my request so early is to give you plenty of time to think. You guys are rather think-y sorts.
A quick note: There will be only one person whom I’ll ask for something very specific – the rest of you can go nuts – for that person it’s an idea I want them to play with (see quote below). (Anyone else is welcome to play off of this, too if you really want – create a picture of you? you in warrior garb? a sketch? a puppet? finger paints? whatever inspires you when you read it, but that also represents you).
Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the storm.’ The warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’
I’m going to shoot for the weekend of December 16th (which is also my beautiful niece’s birthday, and I will be mindful of that so it may be Sunday the 17th).
Oh, and before I run off. This blog post also serves as the even earlier announcement for my upcoming reverse quinceañera in a year and a half – so, start thinking about your hoop skirted dresses, your perfect tiara, and of course your sari, because Bollywood style dance, y’all! (I feel the “y’all” really sets that sentence off. Wow, I think my Dallas is showing.) I already have a fabulous stylist I’ll be coordinating with (thank you, Mere!), and think Beth + hair extensions. I KNOW! FABULOUS! (That was the adjective you chose, right? RIGHT?!?!?! Again, HURTFUL!)
I look forward to seeing you guys there. Here’s to another decade with you amazing people. I’m looking forward to many more!
My birthday is somewhat of a hassle. Don’t get me wrong, I have the best birthday ever, but nonetheless it’s a hassle. You see, I was born on Christmas day. Yes, THE day – not Christmas the week or Christmas the month or Christmas the year – Christmas day. If there are other Christmas days that aren’t on the 25th, I’m unaware of them and I definitely wasn’t born on them. Several of you have heard this all before. Hang in there.
The origin of the hassle comes from all of the negotiating and wrangling that occurs every year. Apparently other people see the day as more than just my birthday. (People get funny ideas sometimes.) Still, they’d like to be with their own families (or so they claim). With my own family, growing up with divorced parents, I got to enjoy the hassle of the tug-of-war – who got me for Christmas birthday, who had me last year, could the day be split between the two and which grandparents would I get to slice the cranberry gelatinous congealed sludge worm with. A battle that could be “lost” depending on the viewpoint of the parent. Should the parent who saw it as a win or lose thing in fact lose, dramatic sulking could ensue – always a special birthday treat. Seeing friends on my actual birthday was out of the question. Once I went away to college I learned that neither parent really cared for Christmas (but they swear they like my birthday) so needless to say its become a little less troublesome (political?) over the years.
Lovey! (We’ll get to this part in a bit.)
That leaves my friends.
Each year we lay out the birthday/Christmas plan – something that gets my friends together before they head off to see their families. Something they hopefully see as a fun, if not a wholly silly, thing to do together. From roller skating to pizza parties to David Sedaris to light strolls and always finishing with a little ABBA, we’ve done some fun things. (Even if we caused someone to quit their job by asking for silverware.)
This year I believe we’re singing. We may be singing badly, but there will be singing. So that part is taken care of. (This is kind of an early warning post to get everyone prepared. Do your “ne-hi-hos”. No Jennifer, not “knee-high hos”. For shame.)
Now to the question of presents. I’m old. I don’t need any presents. I just need your presence. See what I did there? I know, something every pastor has done every year, but I’m claiming it today. This comes up every year, because people never truly believe that I don’t need them.
Well this year, for the first time, I’m asking for a present. A special present. The reason for this blog post kind of present. And with this request you’ll understand why I’m having to mention it early, this is going to take some preparation.
I want a musical number. Yes, my friends. I want you on a stage. I want you singing. I want choreography and I want the smoke machine. (Please warm it up pre-dance number. A “lessons learned” from the past.) You’ve got roughly 9 weeks to form a plan, rehearse and book a stage. Coordinating costumes and puppets are optional. However, “Lovey” is not so someone better talk to Topping. There needs to be a Lovey cameo/dance bomb – like a photo bomb, but with choreography. (You could also purchase one of Lovey’s cousins for bonus points; he could also be in the production. Dream big!) Please note regardless of crazy stuffed critters making an appearance: break out solos are welcome. Tap numbers are VERY welcome! Encouraging me to join you guys briefly in my own cheetah print tap shoes. WHOA!
That is all. I look forward to singing with you guys and of course, my birthday present. Now watch this video for inspiration. No seriously, watch it:
I’ve been feeling left out. It seems that everyone (and by everyone I mean all of my favorite bloggers) have had a Christmas story to share. I do not. Well, I take that back. I do, but I was threatened by my family. Fingers were wagged, serious voices in menacing tones were used and there were likely veiled threats which could have put my Christmas/Birthday loot at risk. Hmph. You win this time, family. Then there’s the other story where I spent an entire day being quite rude and when asked politely what I did by some strangers, I may have said somewhat snidely (although, there’s no actual proof and character witnesses are notoriously unreliable), “What do you mean? I don’t do anything. I’m an uninteresting person. All I do is sit quietly and listen to people.” Then I folded my arms across my chest in defiant hope the attention would move to someone else. (Maybe not my finest moment, but I had worked myself into a full blown holiday snit with no hope of escape. It’s a better story if you know all of the players anyway.)
Then a Philosophizing Mouse whispered in my ear that I did in fact have a Christmas story. (You may have your little birds, I prefer deep thinking navigational computer tools. Hey, I don’t judge you.) The mouse was right (as always), I do have a Christmas story. One that will keep my Christmas/Birthday loot safe and one that doesn’t involve a tale of me growling for hours, (oh, “Home for the Holidays” how you get me) which makes it a “nice” story.
Jay and I were invited over for a Christmas Eve celebration involving food and games. The only request our super enthusiastic hostess had was that we wear a Christmas outfit. Well now, I don’t have a Christmas outfit. When I confess this, it is suggested that I buy a shirt and draw a tree on it. Oh my, I could do that, but… You see, I haven’t had a Christmas outfit (or even a shirt I’ve drawn a tree on) since I was a pre-teen. It was around that time that my eyes rolled into the back of my head only to remain forever stuck. It’s especially pronounced when I’m confronted with the phrase “Christmas outfit”. There are two things working against me when it comes to the whole idea of a Christmas outfit. 1) Christmas Day also happens to be my birthday and I’m a little weird about how much of my day I’m willing to share with Christmas, so we’ve drawn up a truce. In that truce I’m fairly certain it states that I don’t have to wear a Christmas outfit. 2) I am not whimsical. I am without whim. Ask anyone who has ever asked me to do something silly. I am pointedly against whimsy. No whim here. Whim Free Zone! I am also shy. Outfits, festive hats, etc. bring attention. How perfectly mortifying for me. And now you know why I took improv. As they say, “I’m a work in progress.” One day, I may be whimsical, but not today.
Now the person asking for this outfit is someone who you don’t want to let down. She LOVES Christmas!!! Not even a mere “loves”. No, it’s a LOVES!! And that’s when I found myself at HEB (our local grocery store chain) on Christmas Eve heading to the Christmas aisle to see if there were any Christmas headbands. You know the kind with antlers or a tree or maybe a snowman. If all else failed, I could get a Santa hat and while the thought of wearing such a thing pained me beyond belief, I knew it would be greatly appreciated. I marched through the store while a little pep talk played through my head. “You can do it! Do it because it will make someone else happy and it won’t hurt you. Go on now. Just one more aisle.”
I rounded the aisle passing a woman who was hopping on one foot with a single goal to… “Are you ok?” The woman hopped away, “I twisted my ankle.” “Do you need help?” “No, I’m just working it out.” “You sure?” She hopped alongside me until we made it into the aisle. “I’m good. This just happens.” After some convincing that she didn’t need help, I moved to where the headbands would be if the aisle hadn’t been devoured by shoppers who were clearly more on the ball than I, but I was still optimistic. “Oh, would you look at how cute this is.” My hopper had become more of a ginger limper and brought over a festive Christmas tray. “Adorable!” I turned back and refocused. Surely, there were some antlers here. I just wasn’t seeing them. “Look at this!” I smiled politely to comment on her latest find. She offered up that she was picking things up for her fellow teachers while I foolishly told her about my Christmas outfit mission. The next thing I knew she’d limped to my side and was pulling things down. “How about this? You can wear this ornament like a necklace. The contrast would be great if you had a green shirt. Do you have a green shirt?” No. “You should go to Hobby Lobby, get a green shirt and then…” She had a million suggestions. My eyes went wild as I imagined puffy paints, a Bedazzler with fake plastic jewels and then I pictured the glue gun mess and crafty thing carnage splattered across my table. It was awful. I tred not to audibly yelp. I should mention I’m not crafty. The right side of my brain is a tiny little nugget – a place where creativity leaps into an empty abyss. She continued to throw out suggestions, nuzzling in closer to my side and then my “fight or flight” reaction kicked in. I politely thanked her and ran to the opposite side of the store. “Bad idea. Bad idea. Pick up things. Get out.” It was one of the few times I was thankful for HEB’s expansiveness. With the distance I began to breathe more easily and felt pretty confident that with her bum ankle I’d never see her again. How far could she reasonably hop? Cue the Psycho theme music, because as soon as I felt safe she’s on me again before I could even scream. “I found you this shirt!” It’s a holiday shirt. “Wow! Look at that. That’s not atrocious.” (She caught me off guard. It was the nicest thing I could think to say that wasn’t, “OH MY GOODNESS!!! You again?!?! How did you… How could you… AHHH!!!”)
I escaped the store with a poinsettia in hand, looking over my shoulders as I made my way to the car, and I was hopeful this plant would be enough of a distraction that the hostess wouldn’t notice I wasn’t wearing a shirt that blinked or sparkled. That night I even donned my favorite crimson sweater and threw on poinsettia earrings – a compromise.
On Christmas Eve, the day before I entered this world, my mom was in a bar drinking, chain-smoking and watching a Cowboys game. Warning labels hadn’t been gracing the packs of cigarettes for all that long and I hope that not a lot of information about fetal alcohol syndrome was known at the time; otherwise, I may have to give Mom the stink eye next time I visit her grave.
This was a time before people cared about your “Baby on Board” or about strapping your kid into a seat. (The laws were a little loose when it came to seatbelts.) Miraculously, I managed to survive at least well enough to type and form mostly coherent thoughts.
The story I was told about the moments before I was born was that Mom believed she was suffering from a raging bout of indigestion brought on by a bad tuna sandwich. The idea of contractions never really entered her mind. Yes, it’s nice to know that my mother heralded my birth by thinking it would be a great time to rummage through the medicine cabinet for Pepto. I’m sure that for years after she still hoped Pepto would do the trick when it came to me; that’s what good children do for their parents and I was the best. In fact, I’m also pretty sure in the last month that I was around Mom she said at least once, “you’re giving me a headache.” You’re welcome!
When Mom arrived at the hospital she made sure to get hopped-up immediately on the all the best medication – she was not a person to embrace natural childbirth or pain. I’m sure she would have preferred to be comatose during the time it took to deliver me. Come to think of it, the first thing she taught me before I could raise my head was how to hold my own bottle. You see, Mom was also not much of a baby person. She loved me, but she didn’t see me as a living doll. She wanted me to hurry up and grow-up so we could talk about movies and other things. I was a mini pre-verbal friend who would take a frustratingly long amount of time to reach adulthoot. There are pictures of her (and my) achievement where I’m maybe a month old tops and I’m holding my bottle. Needless to say, breastfeeding was out of the question. While at the hospital, Mom was high on whatever they shot her up with, and at that moment she decided to try an order from an imaginary drive-thru explaining to Dad that he just needed to honk twice to get the carhops to come to the car. Imagine her surprise when those carhops brought me – a loud baby girl. According to Mom, I was in fact the loudest baby in the nursery. WOO HOO!
Fortunately for me I was born a girl. You see, I was named after grandparents and the story goes that had I been a boy, my name would have been Greene Ottis (after my grandfathers, James Greene and Elvin Ottis). Note the double “t’s” in “Ottis”– that means it’s pronounced a bit like “Otter “ or “Snot” rather than “Otis” your elevator – in fact, had I been named Greene Ottis, I’m confident that by the time I reached elementary school I would have been known as “Greene Snottis”, because really how could you not go there.
Mom said it was a joke. Dad claims he, at least, wasn’t kidding. Bullet dodged. And even though I’m not a huge fan of the name I was given, there is some amount of solace knowing at least it’s not Greene Snottis.
As I mentioned before, Kendra offered up the idea of writing posts about my various birthdays for the June Creativity Challenge and as I also mentioned in that same post, I can’t remember them well thanks to the whole bundling of Christmas with my birthday.
Sure, there are a few that definitely stick out. When I turned 10, my father threw a surprise party for me and about 5 minutes after everyone yelled surprise, you know the point where you’re kind of settled in and maybe the surprise-iness of the situation has worn off, my 6 year old cousin Kim burst out of the restroom yelling “surprise”. She still gets teased. Mental note: “Must jump out of the bathroom yelling “surprise” next time I see Kim.” That will be a surprise! The only other surprise “party” came when I dropped by my parents sometime after college and found my roommate asleep along with a lovely homemade chocolate cake with crunched up peppermints on top waiting for me. I think I got in trouble for being late. Who knew?
Around 30, I completely came to terms with the fact that I would never see my friends on my actual birth day – something about them wanting to be with their own families blah blah blah, so I started throwing parties for myself. I got this from Dad whose parties had become quite the event over the years. (He was born on St. Patrick’s Day).
So every year, about a week before Christmas, my friends gather together and we roller skate, bowl, stroll, dine or go see a show– all fun, but mostly uneventful events – not worth an individual blog. Sure, a few things have happened over the years. Like the time that gal broke her arm at the skating rink and we didn’t go with her to the hospital opting for ice cream instead. (Hey, that’s what her husband was there for – why ruin a perfectly good celebration by moping about in an ER? Hello! She’d want us to trooper on without her.) There was the time I groped my friend April’s boob accidentally thinking Jay was behind me – that’s the story I’m sticking to, at least. Then there was the time I dramatically burst into tears because I was so touched and overwhelmed by a gift. (Mortifying! People don’t describe me as “stoic” because of my emotional outbursts. My image tarnished thanks to an unexpected shadow box.) Really, there’s truly nothing like sobbing through an explanation of why a gift meant so much in an incomprehensible voice and punctuating each sentence with a sad, red, drippy gross face. Thankfully Anna took charge of all gifts at that point grilling the giver before handing it to me with, “is this going to make Beth cry?!?!!”
The only other birthday of note would have to be this last year when our waitress quit mid-service for no apparent reason unless you count my asking for silverware. (You can read about it here) Craziest thing ever.
This year I’m thinking karaoke or maybe something to do with improv (like for example, I’d like The Knuckleball Now to perform at my birthday – just saying – I mean if you were looking for ideas and wanted to get a head start on saving.)
And this year, like every year, we’ll end it with a little “Dancing Queen”.
Well, the most notable thing to happen this holiday season is I had to disown my aunt. I feel really sad about it since she’s the last of my grandmother’s children, the last solid connection to my Mom, but it had to be done. I’m going to miss her. She’s a great aunt – one of those who is very sweet and funny – a joy to be around type – the rock of the family; you’d like her.
Of course, I fully appreciate that this act is going to leave me in a bit of an aunt bind, so I’m going to be auditioning for a new aunt.
What I’m looking for is someone in their mid-60’s, about 5’2″ with a big smile who can put on puppet shows or maybe one act plays for birthdays – none of this singing. Who wouldn’t agree that a birthday party wouldn’t be 100 times more entertaining if the guests spontaneously burst out into a puppet show? (One of those well-rehearsed, everyone-knows-their-lines performances where the guests are holding professionally made/visually engaging puppets that require at least three handlers to manipulate – think the Lion King stage production of birthdays. Picture it, your guests dressed in black, as to not be distracting, and suddenly they spring up in unison and they’re manipulating large puppets telling a birthday story. How is this not the greatest birthday idea ever?) I’m sorry, but if you’re one of those singing aunts, you’ll have to shop for another family. If you’re the type that suddenly feels the urge to stand up in a crowd and lead choral lemmings in a round of “Happy Birthday,” then I’m sure you’ll find work elsewhere. I hear some restaurants are very big on eager birthday singers and you might even land at one where you get to bang things or whoop. Who doesn’t like whooping? You’re probably a good little whooper!
If you know of any out-of-work aunts looking for an aunt gig who have any puppeteering talent, please send them my way.
(Note: Inside joke – I’m actually not giving up my aunt for the holidays. Well… not yet. There are still a few more days until Christmas and my actual birthday.)