The Christmas Thunk

I didn’t write yesterday. I’m not willing to consider that a failure, however, because I’m sure at some point I will post two entries in one day and it will all even out.

Thank you to the lovely ladies who clued me in on menfolk and Christmas tree lights. I hold to my litmus for the next chap (if there ever is one), however, especially if he doesn’t do much else in terms of holiday prep.

Not that my ex-husband was a sourpuss. He liked to decorate the tree, just not deal with the lights, and being a budding biology teacher with an interest in paleobotany he knew his trees, so he was great at picking them out. He was also just subversive enough that when Fairfax County passed an idiotic law banning live Christmas trees in apartments back at the turn of the century, he not only announced that we would openly defy the law, we would do so with the biggest, fattest tree we could manage, and so we did. That tree was so fat, we had to rig it up with hooks and twine from the walls and ceiling just to make sure it wouldn’t topple over, because if it did, it might have gone right through the sliding glass doors out onto the balcony and we really didn’t feel like paying for that.

Our defiance of the law resulted in a ganked-up car trunk, however. See, my ex had this little tradition where he saved the part of the tree trunk the vendor cuts off for a “fresh-cut” so the tree can drink. I thought it was a charming tradition, especially because most of the cuts were only about an inch thick. At one point I mused that we should save all of them and figure out a way to paint, shellac, and turn them into ornaments so that by the time we were in our 70s (or I was in my 70s and he was in his 60s because I was cradle-robber like that) we’d have over three dozen ornaments from all of our trees.

So we got our big, fat, law-breaking tree, or, more accurately, he got our big, fat, law-breaking tree and saw to the details while I wandered off to look at all the pretty, sparkling things because I’m a Libra and if there is something nice to look at within a 30-yard radius, I have to go and investigate. Point is, I didn’t see what went on in terms of manly-man Christmas tree things. I hopped into the car, chattering about trimming our first tree as a married couple, and when he made the first turn on our route home, there was a THUNK-thunk-thunk.

We thought it was a flat, but when we pulled over the tires were all fine. No changes in pressure, no weird warping. We hadn’t hit an unfortunate critter or left the tree somewhere on Route 50, either.

Yet every time we made a turn, THUNK-thunk-thunk.


We put up the tree that night (including my doing the lights, thank you very much), and that was that.

George Dubya's tree had nothing on ours.

George Dubya’s tree had nothing on ours.

The next day the tires were still fine and he took the car to work without any problems.

A few days later we went out to do some shopping and there it was again. THUNK-thunk-thunk.

“What the hell IS that?” I said.

“I have no idea.”

“Maybe you should take the car in.”

“Nah, I don’t think it’s anything.”

“Hon, listen to it.  Every time you make a turn, there’s a thunking noise. Has it been doing this all week?”

“Well, yeah, but–”

“Please just take the car in. It’s under warranty.”

“I’ll look at it later. We’re here now, so let’s just do our shopping.”

A short eternity later—I’m convinced that Hell is an outlet mall during the holidays—we emerged from our venture with plenty of gifts to wrap up and send off. He popped the trunk open, and just as I was about to set my shopping bags down, there it was, the source of the THUNK-thunk-thunk.

“Uh, hon?” I said. “What is that?”

“It’s from the tree.”

“The Christmas tree?” I asked, rather stupidly.

“Yeah, from the fresh-cut.”

For lo, before me was not a slim bit of pine to cherish as a keepsake of our first Christmas tree as husband and wife, but a Yule log. No kidding, this thing was about 8 or 9 inches long and about 6 inches in diameter—and every time we made a turn it had rolled around in the trunk, which, when I looked closer, had globs of sap everywhere.

“Okay, well, we’ll throw it out when we get home,” I said.

“What? No! We can’t! It’s from our tree!”

“What are we going to do with that? I mean, really.”

“Save it.”

That was my ex. Mr. Sentimental. But still, sap. Sap everywhere. It was like we were the Tree Mafia and had stashed our victim’s severed limbs for transport to the river.

I looked at him, prepared to make a point about getting sap all over everything every time we had to put something in the trunk.

Okay, now remember what I said about investigating things that were nice to look at? That’s how I ended up with him in the first place, and he stood before me now, huge blue eyes like saucers in his face, and I caved.  Not only did we keep the log in the trunk, we put it in a bag until it dried out, and for the rest of our marriage, every time we turned a corner, THUNK-thunk-thunk. Whenever we drove someone somewhere, they asked what the sound was.

“Did you just get a flat?”

“Did you just hit something?”

“What was THAT?”

And we’d take turns explaining.

“It’s our Yule log. We decided to keep the Christmas spirit all year.”

Prettier than pixels.

Pulled up a random prompt from Holidailies that asks, “Do you send holiday cards? Do you buy them at the store, send via email, or make your own?”

I send paper cards to clients and e-cards to friends. Usually I use Jacquie Lawson Cards for the e-cards. It’s a paid membership, but it’s handy in that you can save a list of email addresses in your account.

Sometimes I miss the Christmas card tradition. My parents would receive dozens of cards every year, easily close to 100 if not more. They were gorgeous—embossed, ornate winter or nativity scenes with envelopes lined with silver or gold foil. When we got a second dog, a German Shepard/Husky mix with a fluffy tail she wagged non-stop, setting the cards out on the end tables became an exercise in futility, so I used to string them up and hang them like garland around the house, zig-zagging them overhead down the hallways.

“Oh. Myrrh. You shouldn’t have.”

Many of them said “Merry Christmas” or “Christmas Blessings,” but many of them said “Season’s Greetings.” Back then no one made a fuss about phrases like that, or “Happy Holidays.” There was no ranting or raving about an alleged “war on Christmas” or offense taken if the word “Christmas” wasn’t on the card. Although it was assumed that you celebrated Christmas, which was why you received the card in the first place, it was also assumed that the holidays included New Year’s Day.

“All shiny now that we scrubbed that myrrh off…”

Those old cards were special. My parents and their friends didn’t have social media, so the cards gave them a way of checking in, something tangible to remind them of each other even if they hadn’t seen each other or spoken to each other in years. You could say their Christmas card lists were the original friends lists.

(Images yoinked from Pinterest, where they were yoinked from other places.)

Holidailies 2016!

Okay, so Horrordailies didn’t work out so well for me. I feel guilt. I feel shame. I hang my head low and sigh.


But Holidailies? It’s on.

And already I’m stealing an idea from a fellow blogger, Mary of the Red Nose, and doing a general introduction with 10 things about me, glorious me! (“Mary of the Red Nose.” Sounds saintly, heh!)

1. I’m a writer. A freelance journalist to be exact. Health, because basically I didn’t do so well in biochemistry in high school so med school was out.

2. I have a bird. Look at this sweet face.

Inigo the Nanner King

Inigo the Nanner King

Do not let him fool you. He can be a little devil.

Handsome little devil, eh?

Handsome, if soggy, little devil, eh?

Don’t mind the watermark. That’s his Instagram handle.

3. I’m a vegetarian. I guess technically you could call me a lacto-ovo-pescatarian, but I’m doing my best to work dairy and eggs out of my diet and seafood is generally my “going out” food if none of the meat-free options on the menu look appealing. Even then, I try to keep the environment in mind. I don’t keep milk, eggs, butter, or mayonnaise in my fridge, and I recently bought some vegan “cheese,” which is kind of bland, and Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Chocolate Fudge Brownie, which tastes nothing like the original ice cream and requires me to reframe it as its own thing instead of as a substitute. It’s not bad. It’s just not uber-chocolatey. I’ve given up on trying to find an alternative to milk, as every one I’ve tried made me gag, so I just don’t have cereal anymore.

4. I’m an atheist. This, with 12 years of Catholic school behind me. Oops. Once upon a time I was a Unitarian-Universalist, having converted away from Catholicism, but I don’t claim a religion anymore.

5. Oh, as long as we’re getting all of “those” things out of the way, I do HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts, but not Cross-Fit, so I’m not too obnoxious, I hope. Hey, I’ve seen the memes.


6. I’m ambiverted, but if push comes to shove I will claim introversion and the Myers-Briggs indicator of INTJ. Some call this type The Architect. Others call it The Mastermind. In terms of characters with the INTJ personality, I tend to identify with Jean-Luc Picard and not Dexter Morgan. Usually. (There’s actually a dearth of female INTJ characters. The most famous one is Clarice Starling. Hannibal Lecter is an INTJ, too.)

Now there's two sides of the same coin. (Image: Orion Pictures)

Now there’s two sides of the same coin. (Image: Orion Pictures)

7. My favorite color is purple. Just saying.

8. I’m straight, but could not possibly care less what anyone else is. Well, unless I’m interested in dating a guy. Then it kind of matters which way he swings.

9. I’m originally from Long Island but consider the D.C. area home, namely the Virginia side of the river. I toy with the idea of moving to the Maryland side, but I’m a Virginian in mindset in many ways. I kid people that I’m the next best thing to a socialist, but there are moderate, or even somewhat conservative, things about the Commonwealth that appeal to me, things that just scream “VIRGINIA,” as in, we don’t do parole. Also, up to 70% of Internet traffic flows through northern Virginia. Be nice to us, especially you there, in Silicon Valley. Also, Shenandoah National Park. You need to see Skyline Drive to believe it. And peanuts. And the Virginia Reel. And Thomas Jefferson. Did I mention Thomas Jefferson? Hamilton can suck a peanut, that authoritarian cur.

10. I have a crush on France and Finland. If you put me in France or a French-speaking area for a few months, a lot of my French would come back to me, and I could get by. If you put me in Finland for a few months I would still only be able to order a beer and insult people, maybe even at the same time. Have you ever taken a good look at Finnish?

A famous Polandball comic, as seen on Reddit.

A famous Polandball comic, as seen on Reddit.