Hey, remember when you and your kids all came over and my dad drove all the way here from PA to dress up like Santa for them and we went to see the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center? No?
(All the photos from that weekend are here.)
Because it was so long ago and I've been posting big soapbox-y essays and snarky commentaries about life in suburbia? Oh, and driving hundreds of miles up and down the NJ Turnpike and serving breaded squid to lots of people I may or not be related to AND cleaning up dog pee from Joel's parents' carpet RIGHT as we sit down to Christmas dinner?
Poor Bella. She was so. good. all through Alissa and Todd's Christmas party, greeting two dozen strangers with a wagging tail and wearing her silly Santa collar. She sat in the back seat for 300 miles and only got her head stuck in the automatic window once. She obediently let strangers pet her at the Vince Lombardi rest stop.
She played nicely with my parents' sweet, rambunctious dog and was extremely gentle with a six-month-old baby in a house full of 30 loud people.
We took her straight to Joel's parents' house in Queens where she could smell and hear their dog but not see her.... She was very calm, and very confused, and finally just marked her territory right next to the dining room table. Fuckety fuck fuck fuck. Then again, Joel's dad kept slipping her "people food" all through dinner, WHICH IS COMPLETELY FORBIDDEN, and I know he did this because she has thrown up tiny pieces of perfectly cut pork chop all over the living room today. Twice. I consider us "even." (Except? DUDE. All my "mean" rules for Bella EXIST FOR A REASON. Do you think if I made her a little bandanna that said, "People food makes me vomit copiously" people would stop doing it already? Christ.
Speaking of Christ, back to Christmas! I find myself sort of surprised to admit this, and I know it will shock at least one of my readers here, but I've grown to kind of love Christmas. The "Christmas Season" starts for me on November 1. I make a lot of my gifts, because I'm stupid. No, really. I love it- LOVE IT- when people open the coffee table books, framed photographs, and shadow boxes, but it is a lot of work.
Manda, Tom, Joel and I and gave my Nanny a portable DVD player with Rachel Ray and Iron Chef episodes, because she really, REALLY hates that her nursing home doesn't get the Food Network. When she saw the opening logo for the "Iron Chef" on the screen, she said weepily, "It makes me feel like I'm home." She did NOT say that about the photo album I made for her of the house she lived in for 50 years, complete with snapshots from three generations taken IN the house, copied and scanned and restored in PhotoShop. Oh, no. She was definitely, definitely talking about "Iron Chef."
I recorded family interviews and transfered audio clips of my sister and I singing Christmas carols when we were toddlers to a CD, and my mom melted into a puddle of weepy Christmas goo, right there on the dining room floor. Still, that's the BEST, when you give someone something you made and you can tell you got just right.
Holiday assignments start before Thanksgiving, with executive portraits to accompany business stories about huge department stories and their end-of-year "vision." You name it, I shoot it- as many church turkey drives, Scout carol sings, volunteer firehouse Christmas tree sales, community college Menorah lightings (they had a fire thrower show this year for variety), scholarship fund Kwanzaa dinners and people-receiving-charity-from-do-gooders on the suburban side of the river. I work my ass off, but it is pretty handy when I can get a little holiday shopping done between shooting the annual tree-lighting at the mall and high school basketball two hours later.
• spent four days baking, including large Christmas cookie trays for my parents, Joel's parents, Joel's co-workers, my office Christmas party, and our Magical Childhood Memory Santa PartyTM. Two round tins: one for my mom's mom and brother, one for college roomie and wife. Four cute treat bags for my three fellow bureau photogs and Joe the mailman. And two pumpkin pies.
• wrapped all the presents for my friends and family, Joel, Joel's friends and family, gift recipients from Santa at the Magical Childhood Memory PartyTM, my office Secret Santa, Joel's work Secret Santa and the pet-sitter.
• went through three branches of Target, a Wal-Mart and a Toys R Us and amazon.com looking for the elusive Fisher-Price digital camera for kids.
• spent an evening in the ER getting rehydrated by IV during The PLAGUE.
• mailed 45 Christmas cards to friends, family, former picture story subjects, a college friend in Singapore whom I considered marrying for his green card and my host family in Scotland from a trip I took in 1999. (Their Christmas card is my favorite, favorite one every year. New sheepdog puppies! Host sister preggers!)
• helped my mom, dad and sister pull off The Annual Gigundo Christmas Eve meal with seven kinds of fish and a lot of deep-fried dough for so many people that we have to eat in shifts. My sister is the only person I know who can look this good while deep frying.
• got spanked in this year's gift competition with my dad. I have NEVER lost two years in a row. For SHAME, for shame.
While I was sulking, I gave Aiden a bottle. Everyone was staring at me, because once I started talking with my hands, he held his bottle on his own. This is not a skill he previously had, apparently. AND THEN, he reached for a beer. He really is just like his Uncle Brad.