Friday, December 30, 2005

'Tis the Season... receive emails and cards from people I never hear from otherwise.

Thank God! I'm grateful we feel that special obligation during the Christmas season to "reconnect" with old friends who have fallen off our individually constructed glory trains.

The last I heard from one of my friends, she was married and expecting a child. This Christmas, after mouse-clicking on the most probable-looking Hungarian by-lines, I reached her holiday greeting, written in English:
"Marcel is one and a half year old, and I am expecting again."
This leads me to conclude that
1. Her first child was a little boy
2. She still knows how to communicate in English
3. It's been way too long since I was in touch with her

The other day, I settled into an antique chair with a pot of tea at my favorite coffee shop (after clocking out, of course!). I pulled out my address book to write some of my own Christmas cards. Wow--I couldn't get past "B" without a self-conscious feeling of guilt. When did it happen? I used to be the one to keep in touch with people. Letters were my main source of contact for several of my friends.

As I started writing one particular card, I wracked my brain, trying to remember when my last contact with this person was. I really had no idea where to start. And then I didn't know where to finish! I ended up digging in my purse for extra paper--the index card I found there was soon packed with extra verbage.

Sighing, I quickly scribbled holiday well-wishes on the next 4 cards, resistant to the idea of composing novels for each of my faraway friends. But it was sobering, realizing how much I could write... how remisce I have been in my correspondence with people in my life who have given me so much.

Which thoughts led me to the drafting of a New Years resolution. I have not yet perfected the actual statement, but it will have something to do with letter-writing and old friends.

Meanwhile, I have a few more Christmas cards to go....

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Counting Pennies

Yep, it's that time of the semester again: the END of it.

...where inevitably, I end up sitting on my bed the night before my last exam, counting up all my loose change; then I go digging through every pocket of every article of clothing that I own in order to find more. This way, after my exam the following day, I can proceed to the bank with my Ziploc bag of checks, bills, and coins before I leave for home, plop it on the teller's counter, and declare with confidence, "I have [so many] dollars and [this much] cents to deposit today!"

I've figured out how many bills will be subtracted from my account without me here to replenish it.

I've exhausted every possibility of rebate and refund that I can think of.

Now it's time to take my test, and start my Christmas vacation!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

"Life is too short...

...not to celebrate birthdays."
That's what the napkins said at our large family birthday party last night.

Friday was Grandpa's 85th birthday. I called him on Thursday and got my birthday greetings in early.
"Oh, thank you , but you know," he told me, "we stopped counting birthdays after 55."

It didn't seem like it, though, at my Uncle Kevin and Aunt Kathleen's house last night! There were helium balloons wherever a flat surface stood empty. Food filled the kitchen table, drinks and snacks filled the breakfast bar, and everywhere, there were relatives: squeezing past one another in doorways, sidestepping around the affectionate golden retriever, carrying plates to and fro from the kitchen, chatting and laughing and teasing. Interestingly enough, while planning the desserts and setting out food, everyone kept saying that we were "not a big group." It was true. In comparison to most family gatherings, there were not too many present. Several people were not able to make it, for one reason or another. However, those who were there filled the house with conversation and laughter.
I met one cousin's fiance whom I've been waiting to meet for about a year, and two other cousins' girlfriends that I've heard about for what seems like forever.

Grandma and Grandpa sat on the sofa, happy to include in their conversations anyone who ventured into the living room. After dessert, Grandpa opened all of his cards and gifts. One family gave him (updated) framed pictures of each grandchild for their photo collection. As each one was displayed and passed around the room, Grandma got newly excited that the pictures were "theirs to keep."
"This is for us? We get to take this home? Oh, how nice!" she kept saying.
To which Grandpa replied at one point, "Well, that's the whole point of all this--to collect the loot!"
As she admired her granddaughter's picture, Grandma asked, "Now, did Grandma Tallon get one of these?"
After her Laura assured her--on a few separate occasions--that yes, her other grandmother had received one, Grandma asked yet again.
The eldest in that family, Michael, spoke up. "Now, now, Grandma. It's not a competition!"

Soon everything was opened and set aside. Aunt Kathleen told her eldest son to sign the card on the counter before Grandma and Grandpa left. Apparently, he had missed the opportunity beforehand. He's a recent college graduate, more recently real estate certified--complete with the business suit and briefcase--the kind of kid who looks like he's got it all together. He obediently grabbed the card he saw on the indicated counter and added his name to the bottom. His mother's sister was close to tears from laughing so hard as she returned to the living room and told the story. Of course, then we had to pass around the card, at the expense of the poor guy, who just looked on, grinning and shaking his head. For at the bottom of this particular card was scripted, "Love, Rich & Jim," and below that in a different pen, "Bobby."
I guess he didn't stop to wonder why it would make sense for him to sign this card instead of the one from his family--complete with all of his siblings' names on it.
"I just do what I'm told," he said, "Mom said 'sign the card,' so I signed the card!"
"At least you didn't write your name on top!" Uncle Richard ragged.

While we were having cake, Grandpa quieted everyone with his paternal declaration:
"Well, you can have all the food, you can have all the gifts, you can have all the decorations and all that ... but what means the most to me is looking around and seeing this beautiful gathering of all my people. Thank you. ...And there will be no further speeches."

A good time was had by all; everyone left between 10:30 and 11pm, and I went up to bed. I coughed, tossed, turned, repositioned, and popped cough drops for about an hour. Then Aunt Kathleen brought in a vaporizer. It had a miraculous effect: almost as soon as she plugged it in, I stopped coughing and got a good night's sleep!

When I awoke and looked out the window, I did a double-take: 3 inches of snow covered the ground, and more was falling. Although it was beautiful, I was worried about my drive home.

A firm grip on the wheel, a good deal of prayer, and some windshield washer fluid found me safe in Stamford for the 10am Mass.

What's that?

Finals this week?

...Oh, yeah!

But it was worth it.

"Without a family, man, alone in the world, trembles in the cold."
~ Andre Maurois