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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving and Birthday

My birthday was today--my brothers and Mums called, as did several friends and my dear Grandmommy. My sister and her offspring said "Happy Birthday" to me yesterday. Paxifist, with whom I stayed Friday night, treated me to "Tangled" (which we both enjoyed), and Anita took me out to Sunday brunch today, after she and I and a girl who sells pottery at the market moved all our stuff into the History Department in preparation for the first day of our annual History Honor Society fundraising sale on Tuesday.

Today was the first Sunday in Advent. This morning's sermon was on the text of Isaiah 9:1-7. It begins: "But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish." And it concludes: "The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this." I thought this was a thoroughly good text for my birthday, and for my next year, if not for the rest of my life. I look forward to God's removal of my gloom after this difficult time.

Thanksgiving was delicious, as is usual--on my father's side of the family, we favor the potluck smorgasbord model over any set menu, which means that each group brings an assortment of main and dessert dishes, enough to feed three times their number, and when the whole assortment is together, we've more than 30 people and enough food to treat the crew of the USS Bob Hope. I'd made two 9x13" pans of baklava, and less than half a panful was eaten, because there were multiple cakes, more than half a dozen pies, and other sweets, and that after a huge meal with some fifteen to twenty dishes that left me only capable of stuffing in two cookies and a tiny triangle of my own Greek confection before having to stand up in agony from my swollen belly.

I'm a Southern Greek, so I put chopped pecans in my baklava, along with the more traditional walnuts and almonds. I'm making two more panfuls for the Christmas party I'm hosting next week. I'm also making cupcakes. I haven't yet decided (besides salad) what's going to comprise the savory dish for my guests, but I'm set as far as desserts go. And I'm fine beverage-wise: 6 six-packs of orange soda and 5 of ginger beer. I am mulling over whether to lay in some ice, but at the rate the temperature is dropping outdoors all I may have to do is stack the drinks in the shrubbery and they'll be so cold a sip will freeze your teeth.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Unsettling

I arrived in Georgia at three this morning. The house isn’t home anymore, though it looks the same from the outside. Mums was long asleep, and I was tired, but I wandered around for a while before I found a place to lie down. In every room, upstairs and down, the remaining furniture had been shoved to the center of the floor with lamps and blankets and books piled on top. Brown paper is laid everywhere on tile and hardwood, and window frames are taped. The walls are daubed with new paint and spackling compound. Light fixtures have been removed entirely or are hanging by wires rather than screwed in. Pictures, paintings, and family photographs are propped in closets and in the kitchen, ready to be swaddled in bubble wrap and packed. All the shower curtains and the portable mirrors in the bathrooms are down, and tools are lying in the tubs and on the countertops. A thin powder of sheetrock dust has spread over everything.

I finally unearthed a couch in the living room and climbed over into this makeshift nest for a few hours’ rest. But a neighbor’s dog was barking, and it kept up an unceasing “woo, woo” for an hour, while I fantasized all sorts of inhumane ways of dispatching the beast. Finally, I found a roll of paper towels and stuffed shredded bits in my ears, which I then clamped between a brace of cushions. Thus muffled, I managed to fall asleep.

Today, after hitting the gym, Mums and I did more prep work for my Atlanta brother’s anticipated return at the end of the week to continue the painting. Nate’s already accomplished an amazing amount—my other brother, Bob, who did a bunch of fixture-work this past weekend, hasn’t shirked, either. Together, they are saving Mums at least $7,000 in remodeling costs necessary to the anticipated listing of the house for sale February 1.

I’m unsettled—I’m the sort who clings to mementos as a sort of Bladerunner-style evidence of my own past existence: that’s a contributing factor to my becoming a historian. I want to keep memories and friends, people and their stories. Losing Daddy hurts and hurts, burning like an old wound, and cutting free of all the ephemera that surrounded him the last quarter century—books, furniture, the house itself—is to me further discombobulating, however much I recognize its being the natural course of things. I don’t feel whole at times anymore. Today I have been very sorrowful. Not actively crying (much), or even unhappy (strange as that may sound), but just like I am made of lead inside, wistful at the weird blankness of the world without my father and grandfather. Thanksgiving, and then my birthday (this coming Sunday), are going to be hard.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Creativity and Cider

I haven't felt like making much jewelry the past six weeks, but this evening I've been struck with a fit of creativity and have made (or completed) five necklaces. The Georgetown show is looming in my consciousness, and I'm already wondering how many bracelets and pairs of earrings I can create for that four-day event and the two-day event at a friend's house in DC that immediately follows.

Saturday the market was slow, but I made the table and finished a book (The Catsitters by James Wolcott, which didn't have the tightest plot, but did have several rib-tickling sections of snappy dialogue which made the read entirely worthwhile).

This Thursday I lead the Russian History class discussion of Anna Labzina's Days of a Russian Noblewoman. I am requiring the children to turn in questions about the text, so as both to assure that they will have read it, and to provide some ignition fuel for the 75-minutes of chitchat about the contents.

I purchased some of the best and some of the worst hard apple cider I've ever tasted during last Thursday's run to Total Wine out in Falls Church, VA. I like cider that actually is redolent of apples, and found a delightful (and low-alcohol) variety in Kerisac Cider, a "product of France" confection of fermented apple juice and carbon dioxide (essentially sparking apple cider with a tiny kick). After this pleasant experience, I was exponentially repulsed by a putrescent amalgam of old tennis shoes and budget beer bottled under the label Doc's Draft Original Hard Apple Cider, which featured the script tagline "The Great American Cider." The word "awful" is the mildest term I can apply to this vomitous stuff. I took one stomach-churning sip and dumped my glass, and the remainder of the entire 22-oz bottle, down the kitchen drain. The sink gurgled in agony for a full five minutes--I hope it cleaned the pipes. The smell still leaking from the empty bottle is enough to curdle milk.

I am looking forward to Saturday night, when my friend Leah (whose birthday was today!) and I are going to dinner and then to see the latest Harry Potter on IMAX!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rats and Relationships

I’d always thought rats were nocturnal creatures. Perhaps this was a misunderstanding fueled by Hollywood movies, wherein rats are the stock animal background in any scenes featuring darkness, dankness, or general creepiness. So when the rat scuttled in front of me this morning when I was stopped at a light at 10:30 (almost noon if we hadn’t just switched to daylight savings time), I was surprised. It was a vigorous little creature, hustling across what was at that point a six-lane urban road. It reached the concrete median in the center, climbed deliberately over the three-inch obstacle, and immediately was struck by a car zooming in the opposite direction. One moment it was running about its rodent business, a millisecond later it was dead. A second car’s tire flipped the body a foot down the road—it was so light that certainly neither the driver of the deadly car or the other knew that a tiny life had been snuffed out.

I don’t mean to get all sentimental about a rat. Despite Ratatouille and other revisionist histories, I am aware that the little beasts frequently carry all sorts of nasty germs, in addition to the natural destructiveness wrought by their teeth and claws. I don’t lament sail-squirrels. But it’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything so alive die so unexpectedly, unnoticed. I once saw a pickup truck deliberately run over a tortoise—and I yelled and screamed invective at the &#(!@ driver (may he rot)—but tortoises are slow, defensive in posture at all times, not quick and nasty like rats. And human beings.

On a considerably less sentimental note, I am tired of well-meaning people giving me advice about dating! One sweet friend (married) recently cautioned me about hanging out with my guy friends because other guys will get the impression that I’m taken and not ask me out. Or, rather, the only guys who’ll ask me will be non-Christians—“Christian guys will just assume you are and stay away.” Well, hell. I’ve been asked out exactly ONCE in the last thirteen years by a Christian guy, when I have been obviously, demonstrably single the whole time, so it’s not like the SA’s (Granddaddy’s term—you can guess what it stands for) are lining up one way or the other! So either I can’t win for losing, or I just have to go on and live my life, effectually saying that if the fellows in question don’t have the guts (or—let’s call a spade a spade, the BALLS) to make any move, that’s their problem, not mine. I have asked several friends to set me up with folks they know, but thus far this hasn’t yielded anything. Of course, the friends in question may be shaking their collective heads over my sorry case, muttering, “K’s a nice girl, heart of gold, but she’s just a wee bit crusty…” My language is certainly worse around fellow believers (and on this blog) than it is in public, and that may turn off precisely the Godly sort of man that I’d love to be married to. Crumbs. But what you see is what you get—there’s no pretense in me. There it is, as my father would say.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Keeping Busy

Forget the old image of a candle aflame at both ends and replace it with the picture of a pool of molten wax in a skillet over a blue flame, a wizened wick floating uselessly in the middle of the sizzling liquid, like a damned soul in the lake of fire. That’s my schedule lately.

2:30 AM. I’ve just gotten home from Georgetown, where I finished over 10 hours’ worth of painstaking grading of the second round of “quizzes” (tests) administered in the History of Russia I class. I had a few perfect scores, but most people’s marks hovered around 70%. They could have done better—a full third of the grade was comprised of an essay, and the professor had given them the question ahead of time! The rest of the test was four short answers, also from a list provided beforehand. I’ve only had one student all semester come to my office hours.

This past Thursday evening, after working at Georgetown, I went with Dex to the annual Romanian Christian Enterprises fundraiser. Like reading the new history of the Tuskegee Airmen, Freedom Flyers, attending the event was simultaneously encouraging and sobering, the small but steadily-growing victories of rescuing one orphan child at a time standing in stark contrast to the looming evil affecting thousands of such young unfortunates who languish in state custody every year.

I worked until 1:15 AM Saturday morning, helping to set up an estate sale in a posh flat over near the National Cathedral. [Wednesday I had spent six hours in closets and a cellar in a DC duplex, throwing away wastepaper and sorting financial documents to be given to the executors of another estate—all this detritus must be cleared before we can get down to the serious business of tagging and pricing.] I had to be up again at 7 AM to return to the Arlington Market with my jewelry wares, a day that proved surprisingly successful. I had already committed to going out with friends to a restaurant at the National Harbor that evening, so when I got back from my last fit of pleasant socializing at 10 PM, I was more than ready for bed, thanking God that I had an extra hour (Daylight Savings could not have come at a better time) for sleeping before church!

Keeping busy, despite fatigue, is one way that I’m shoring up my shaky emotional state—I keep wanting to call Daddy and tell him what I’m doing, ask his advice about things. Having him gone is like having one of my limbs torn away, which is ironic, because when we kids really irritated him with our needs, or he was feeling dramatic, Daddy would tell us that he’d “cut off his right arm” for us. At the Romanian Christian Enterprises meeting (they fed us, then there was a sit-down program, followed by dessert), a little girl was sitting in her father’s lap at the end of our row. He’d rub her small back occasionally, and it reminded me of the small affectionate gestures I miss so much—Daddy rubbing or patting my head, in particular. It always made me feel so loved and cared for, from the time I was a toddler. I miss him so much, even though he thought my jobs—from estate sales to jewelry making—were a waste of my time and talents. But his was a loyal opposition, and one that is hard to live without.

But one day at a time, one small victory at a time.... It is my nature (and I suspect that of a lot of other people) to want to arrive at a neat, complete solution to problems and concerns in a moment, to accomplish a goal in a single grand gesture, rather than realizing redemption and success in almost all facets of human existence are the results of a long, messy, and frequently painful process. As when rescuing children or challenging racism, our weak and sinful selves are used by God to build and heal relationships over time. Sanctification is not immediate, however much we wish it were--and we must rely on grace every single step of the way.