I’m not sure what our (at this point) almost-3-year-old grandson, Capt. Adorable, was thinking here at his mothers’-day-out Easter program after-party. He’s in the 2-year-old class, which was the youngest group to perform in the annual spring event — and by “perform” I mean “stare bleakly out at the audience and try to get out of his chair numerous times.” He loved singing the oh-so-cute little songs about bunnies and chicks and birds and flowers AT HOME. But, sadly, singing before an adoring audience of Mommy and Daddy and Kacky did not prepare him for singing in front of an impersonal audience of hundreds of strangers who did not jump up and down and hug him in delight after he finished each tune. He stuck it out, however, even as he silently implored his mommy and me with his precious Capt. Adorable eyes to please take him offstage to someplace where there were trucks and trains and other cool things. He actually sing and make the hand motions to one song. Out of about 12, that is. But, still. We thought the party treat of chocolate cupcakes would cheer him up, but it took awhile. Does this photo capture him contemplating revenge? Is he already rehearsing the words his 37-year-old self will tell his therapist: “Oh my gosh, when I was almost 3 my mother and my grandmother forced me on stage and I’ve never been the same since.”? Or perhaps he’s simply eyeing the party plate of the child sitting across from him. Actually, however, I’ve seen this look before. It means “I’m not happy and I want you to know it but I’m not going to go all 2-year-old on you and scream and cry and throw myself on the floor. I just want you to know that I’m extremely not happy. And you will pay.” I first got this look when he was about 9 months old and I put this darling hat and scarf on him one windy winter afternoon. He was not amused. Sort of, you know, like when he’s made to sit on a stage and sing Easter songs.
You know, we almost always think of Christmas as a woman’s holiday, right? I mean, typically it’s the woman who shops and decorates and cooks and manages family logistics. It’s the woman of the house who remembers that Aunt Peggy likes chocolate-covered cherries and that we’ve sent the California cousins a balsam wreath three years in a row already. It’s the mom who gets everybody where they’re supposed to be on time, wearing the right clothes and bearing the appropriate gifts. And, let’s face it, motherhood pretty much has a starring role in the Christmas story. But let’s pause for a minute and celebrate the dads — those guys in the background who may grumble and grouse about all the holiday goings-on but who are alwrays always ALWAYS there when their family really needs them. Those of us who are lucky enough to have one or more of them with us this Christmas need to turn around RIGHT NOW and make sure they know how much we appreciate them. Go ahead. I’ll wait … … … … … There. Aren’t you glad you did that? Merry Christmas!
My dad — my parents live in Manchester, Tennessee — is retired from John Deere, but that’s only given him more time with tractors, not less. He and my mom are serious antiques collectors, and while she heads for the linens and Depression glass, he can spot a rare tractor part or tool from a mile away. Also: Actual tractors. At least the wrenches and oil cans and other portable items he collects are easier to store and organize. He does a great job of documentation and has an impressive library of tractor advertisements, manuals, giveaways and other tractor-related paper goods. He even led a workshop on “Industrial John Deere: In the Beginning” at the recent Gathering of the Green conference in Davenport, Iowa. My dad also likes fish. Not to catch or to eat, but to stock the pond at his tree farm/nursery. The fish eat the algae and pretty much keep the ecological system going strong, although I think my dad likes to talk to them them while he’s mowing. Just as long as they don’t talk back …
I know y’all think I’m a chic and urban big-city sophisticate — isn’t that right???!!! — but the truth is that I’m just a country girl at heart. Okay, that’s a lie, too. I did not grow up anywhere near a farm, except when I went to visit my friend Debbie out in Beechgrove, Tennessee. But my dad has a nursery and tree farm and I love going out there, so I figure that’s close. The Ponderosa Tree Farm is just a couple miles or so from my parents’ house in Manchester, Tennessee. My dad grows and sells pines, hollies and burning bush — and has loads of fun. Well, again, that may not always be true — in the right-hand photo above, he’s trying to pull a mower out of the mud. I did not take photos of the resultant tractor pull, when the back wheel of the tractor reared up what looked to be several feet in the air and I was running through the calculations in my mind of how soon after the tractor flipped over could I call 911 and somebody would be out here or would I have to rescue my dad myself which I would, of course, although it would mean ruining my shoes in the ankle-deep mud but he’s my dad, for gosh’s sake. Luckily, everything turned out OK, although he did admit that perhaps he shouldn’t have been mowing in ankle-deep mud to start with. Farmers!
In honor of the one holiday song I cannot get out of my head, let’s celebrate 12 Days Before Christmas. For each of the 12 days leading up to Dec. 25, I’m going to post a link, a suggestion or something Christmasy that’s caught my attention and hopefully will interest you, too. To start with Day No. 12 (one day late, but who’s counting?) , here’s a link to a great story in Sunday’s Parade magazine about budget-friendly family Christmases — http://www.parade.com/features/holiday-2008/holiday-traditions I especially like the suggestion to spread the love throughout the whole month instead of piling it all on Dec. 25. I mean, making one day perfect is a lot of pressure. Resist the urge and make every day a mini-celebration, focusing on “doing” rather than “buying.” That’s great advice all year ’round, too — and not just years in which we’re afraid to check our retirement accounts. (“Just don’t look,” my husband says. “Just don’t look.”) Come back for Christmas Countdown Day No. 11 — something mindlessly entertaining just for mom.
And the reason my 12 days of Christmas actually starts on day No. 11 is because I was down and out all weekend with a stupid, stupid sinus infection. Warning, warning! When your sniffles and sneezes and coughs turn into something that hurts — a lot — when you blink your eyes, it’s time to stop saying pitifully, “I just have a little cold” and start saying, with confidence, “I think I have the worst sinus infection ever. Ever.” Of course, it was Saturday morning when I finally decided this, so it meant a trip to the doc-in-the-box since our regular doctor quite understandably closes on weekends. Thankfully, my college-senior daughter is home on Christmas break and she sweetly volunteered to go with me, citing all the times I’d done the same for her — a karmic parental pay-it-forward I was happy to take advantage of. It’s nice to have company in these situations. For instance, she’s the one who noticed that the guy in the waiting room seated a couple seats down from me moved a couple more seats further away at one point — I know I looked bad, but was I really that bad? She said that when I got up once to call my husband, the guy leaned over, said “She’s really sick, isn’t she?” and then had moved down by the time I got back. (Hey! Sinus infections are not contagious, buddy! What happened to good old human compassion???) Anyway, when I finally got to see the doctor, he totally agreed with my self-diagnosis, although I was thrown by the series of questions he asked that started with “Do you drink?” I answered, “Yes, moderately.” He next asked, “Do you smoke?” And here I can answer definitely, “No.” His next question — “Dip?” — momentarily confused me. “Dip?” I asked myself frantically. “Dip? Like french onion dip? White cheese dip? Why is he asking me this?” Surely I didn’t say any of that out loud but maybe I did, because the doctor repeated patiently, “Dip. You know. Snuff. Tobacco. Do you dip?” Uh, that would be a no. And then I wondered what about me made him think that maybe I did. I mean, again, I know I looked bad, but still. Apparently I passed all the other sinus-infection tests so I got a shot and an indecipherable piece of paper that I only hoped said “Give this woman some of those wonderful miraculous antibiotics.” Luckily, it did. So with modern medicine and my daughter’s excellent nursing, I rejoined the world after losing only two and a-half three days (plus four Christmas parties, dang it), although the four pounds I’d lost from not eating all weekend nastily reappeared immediately after my husband and I had our weekly Sunday-night beer and nachos at our favorite Mexican restaurant. Worth it, though.
Run, don’t walk, to Jack-O-Lantern Market, on the TVA reservation in Muscle Shoals, on Thursday (4-7 p.m.and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays) to buy some of the most delicious peaches ever. No telling how long these peaches will be available, so do not delay.
Steve and Connie Carpenter grow hydroponic vegetables in the former TVA greenhouses there and sell their veggies along with incredibly fresh produce from other local growers. Saturday, I bought some Charity Belle white peaches there — the best peaches I’ve ever eaten. They are big, juicy and sweet with a delicate peachy flavor that will remind you of summer evenings on front porches sipping tall glasses of sweet tea with fresh mint you just picked from the back yard. The Carpents also had Indian and O’Henry peaches on Saturday morning. Not sure what they’ll have this week, but go find out. And while you’re there, pick up some cheese from the most upscale inventory in the Shoals. You’ll find creamy and tangy goat cheese, fresh mozzarella and my new favorite, nutty Flagship from Beecher’s in Seattle. Check the Web site, http://www.jackolanternfarm.com/, for the complete list of what’s in stock every week. Why do we need a Fresh Market when we’ve got the Carpenters here???? (Well, OK, I still want a Fresh Market — or at least a Publix — but nothing can beat buying local food from local folks.) And here’s complete disclosure: The Carpenters are great friends of mine and even gave me a free orange Jack-O-Lantern Farms T-shirt, but that in no way influences my unbiased recommendations. I cannot be bought, although a free sample taste of cheese every once in awhile doesn’t hurt!
I spent most of last week babysitting grandson Nolan and helping daughter Liz in Huntsville while she recovered from a nasty case of mastitis — made her feel as if she had the flu. The sacrifices grandmothers make!
At 4 1/2 months, Nolan’s rolling over, reaching for what he wants (glasses, hair, etc.) and putting everything in his mouth (glasses, hair, etc.). As always, I remain amazed at what caring and skilled parents Liz and Jason are. I so wish I’d had a fraction of their confidence when I was a new mom.