Tree for Two

Mike used to make us wait to the second week of December to get a tree, but Angelic Daughter and I went to fetch one from the big box hardware store early on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Double masked and distanced, I motored in to the outdoor section where the Christmas trees were. Since Mike died, we’ve been getting smaller trees that don’t require me to get up on a ladder to do the lights or the tree topper. Falling and breaking a hip or an arm would be, erm, …. non-optimal.

I went straight for the 6′-7′ section, grabbed one of the shortest trees, gave it a cursory once-over and decided it would do.

Self-check out, and I stood back a good 20 feet while the chain-saw guy cut a slice off the end so the tree could absorb water better. Asked him to chuck it over the chain that separated me from the saw area. Picked it up off the floor, stuffed in the back of the Subaru, and off we went.

The annual Christmas tree fight Mike and I used to have about the tree originated mostly from our inability to use our tree stand correctly. It has a foot pedal in its base, and a separate piece you attach to the trunk of the tree.

You’re supposed to fit the tree, with the separate piece attached, into the base. Then you depress the foot pedal and waggle the tree around until one of you pronounces it straight.

The problem was, we rarely remembered that the piece attached to the trunk is supposed to snap in to the bottom of the base.

For 17 years, we waggled the tree, pronounced it straight, and pushed the foot pedal back into the base, which was supposed to lock the tree in place. It rarely worked, and we settled for teetering trees in danger of keeling over.

This year, I got the tree stand to work the way it’s supposed to after just a few tries. I got the “click” I needed when I lopped off a few more branches to get the attachable base high up enough on the tree.

Minor waggling, and it was straight. Push the pedal in, locked!

Then for the lights. I tested the strings before I started. Predictably, when I got lights around the entire tree and plugged them in, the top half didn’t light up.

Sigh.

My old self would have spend a good 15 minutes swearing and yelling. This year, redoing the lights seemed like a minor inconvenience. Second time around, they lit up just fine. I probably just hadn’t plugged them together tightly enough. Sigh.

We used to put the tree in front of the bay window in our “library” room. I turned that room into a dining room that could seat six. It’s kind of a combo library/dining room with a clubby atmosphere – reading chairs in the window, and another in a corner by the bookcases. I love it, sloppy paint job and all.

The front room, where the fireplace is, to me has always been a more natural habitat for a Christmas tree. My idea for that room was a kind of pseudo-eighteenth/nineteenth century parlor, where guests have conversation before dinner, and the ladies retire after dinner to sip and chat, while the gentlemen enjoy their brandy (but no cigars, not in this house) in the clubby dining room.

I went overboard. Too much furniture. I’ll find another place for four chairs, or sell at least two of them. I liked two I bought online for their eighteenth century shape and animal pattern. Online, the background had appeared to be a lovely gold color.

It turned out to be a pucey- green, which I don’t like, and which doesn’t go with the room. They’re in my “budoir” now. My mid-century looking plum velvet chair is in the basement, all to make room for the Christmas tree. I’ll switch it all back after Christmas, and figure out what to do with the ancestress rocker, as well.

All this talk of excess furniture and guest-worthiness is meaningless until vaccines are more widely available and enough people have taken them, sometime around the end of the third quarter of 2021.

There will be no happy guests and lively conversation this year. It’s just us, with a tree for two.

I got an email from a friend this week, bemoaning the loss of our annual holiday brunch with another friend. But we’re in it to win it, being as careful as we can. We’re hoping to be around next year for a mimosa-saturated good time.

By then, maybe this house will finally see the dinner parties with friends I had hoped to host.

Until then, I remain,

Your double-masked-with-filter-inside, hand-washing, diligently distancing,

Ridiculouswoman

Non-Toxic Love Challenge: Six Feet of Self-Control

My neighbor across the fence has held backyard gatherings two weekends in a row. First, with just four people, but Sunday, about ten, standing close together, tossing a ball back and forth, mingling.

I felt the bile rising in me, so I raced to finish planting my new trees and get inside. Five Thuja Green Giants, promised to be very vast growing, positioned to block the blazingly bright backyard floodlights he keeps on all night, every night, glaring directly into my living room. That’s odd, because my house is on a little hill, a bit higher up than his. It seems almost intentional, how those lights invade our evenings. Couldn’t they be adjusted to point down into his yard a bit more?

Monday, I put on a double-layered mask made from a t-shirt and ventured out for what I hope will be my last trip to the grocery store for several weeks. I didn’t get up in time to get there right when it opened, and it was uncomfortably crowded in the afternoon. A young man of what appeared to be about college age was striding around the store, no mask, no cart, seemingly uninterested in buying anything, just in making sure he breathed an unmasked breath in every aisle.

The bagger at checkout had a mask on, positioned below, not over, his nose.

As I was leaving, I passed a tall young woman, no mask, followed by a masked someone who appeared to be her mother. The young women laughed as she entered the store, “See? He’s not wearing one!” I held my breath and scurried past her with my overloaded cart, out to the car.

As I packed my groceries into the back seat of the Subaru, a man got out of a car one parking spot away, wearing a mask below, not over, his nose.

If there is one thing I learned from my long and challenging relationship with my late husband Mike, it is that I cannot control another person’s behavior. Noncompliance was Mike’s modus operandi, and “don’t tell me what to do” his motto and his battle cry.

Were these mask malfunctions intentional, or just misinformed? Were the backyard parties acts of defiant noncompliance, or just ignorance? Why do I care, when I can’t control any of it?

I’m disappointed in myself for pointing out to the nose exposers that the masks don’t do anyone any good if they don’t cover the nose. I’m irritated that I spent energy being  pissed off at my neighbor. There were older people there at his party, possibly parents or other relatives. I worry about them. I worry about everyone who was there. But they chose to gather, and there’s nothing I can do about that. The floodlights and the gatherings are enough for me to know that asking for accommodation would be fruitless.

I have a front patio now, and it is a very pleasant place to sit on summer evenings, so I’ve learned to pivot. We’ve altered our summer evening routine for few summers already now. I put a lot of work into that front patio garden, and it attracts butterflies and hummingbirds by design. I can work on my vegetable garden and enjoy the back deck in the early morning on the weekends, before his parties and his backyard construction project involving a loud Bobcat baby bulldozer and what appears to be a makeshift concrete mixer resume (a firepit? another patio? whatever it is it will be across the fence in the farthest corner of my yard, but I’m sure I’ll find a way to be annoyed by it anyway.)

I try to take comfort in pastoral reassurances that arrive via email or Facebook live on Sunday mornings that staying home and staying in counts as doing something. It counts as an expression of love and concern for my fellow citizens, even when they’ve made it painfully obvious they aren’t concerned about me.

I’m learning to step aside. Somewhere long ago, I read that turning away from aggression dissipates its power. Declining a fight is sometimes the most effective form of self defense, it seemed to say. If someone in the store won’t stay six feet back, I’ll go around the other way, or let them go ahead of me in the checkout line.

There are things I can control, and things I can’t. The image above has a caption, but I can’t seem to resize it properly to show the words that say, “some fruits are always in season.”

My Thuja Green Giants are evergreens. When they grow taller, I have a feeling they’ll nourish my inner orchard of patience, self-control, love and peace.

My your garden be filled with always-in-season fruit. Looking toward summer, I remain,

Your counting-to-six-and-taking-the-long-way-around-the-grocery-store-and-the-neighborhood,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by bknis from Pixabay

The Isolation Age: The Great Toilet Paper Relay Edition

Four texts, three people and a truck, for eight rolls. And after all that, it turned out I didn’t need them that badly after all.

Allow me to explain.

My employer values company culture very highly – we help each other out, we have each other’s backs. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by what happened when, during a twice a week video “coffee chat” I mentioned in passing that I was a little worried about running out of a certain “essential” item. I’m just inside the gate of the “higher risk” age group, but that only means I do what everyone is supposed to do – I go out only to fill critical needs like food, prescriptions, cabin-fever busting, socially-distant walks around the block, and to obtain – um, paper goods.

The dynamo who organized that morning’s video chat jumped on my remark right away. “We got you!” she said. I stuttered and stammered, “oh, that’s really nice, you don’t have to do that, I have to go to the store tomorrow anyway – I’ll go during “senior hours” and they said a truck is coming tonight…” She lives at least thirty miles away from me, and I really didn’t want anyone to go that far out of their way.

But before I finished my text telling her it wasn’t necessary, she texted me that the first guy she was going to send had been switched out for another guy, and that she had dropped off a supply at his house – my boss’s boss’s house, and he was already on his way. Within the hour, eight rolls of the precious commodity were deposited on the little end table on my front porch for receiving deliveries. I put a laminated sign on it that says, “please put deliveries here, thank you!” with a really dreadful (I’m sure) Spanish translation and an apology, “lo siento, mi Espanol es de internet!” I barely got the chance to wave a thank you to my team lead’s leader before his truck was leaving my driveway.

I gratefully took the shopping bag inside, to sort out its contents the way I ordinarily do, doling out this many rolls for downstairs and this many for upstairs. I went to pick up the plastic wrapper of the previous supply to throw it out. It was crumpled and deflated and just sitting there in the breezeway.

That’s when I discovered there were still 7 rolls bundled down in the bottom of that package.

So, three colleagues had gone out of their way at 5 p.m. on a weeknight to get me some TP that, as it turned out, I didn’t really need.

Cue full-blown OCD meltdown.

“What if one of them gets sick because of this? GAAAAA! What’ll I do???”

Confess. Face the music. Take the responsibility and accept the blame.

The next morning, the first thing I did was send the two of them a chat promising to spend the rest of my days wearing a hairshirt and flogging myself bloody if either of them got sick.

Predictably, the response was along the lines of “no problem! happy to help!” I rationalized that their kindness will keep me from venturing out on a multi-store scavenger hunt, possibly all the way to April 30, which is as long as our present stay-at-home order is in place.

I meant it when I said I had to go to the store – we were running out of other stuff that I forgot to get last week. I got home and spent half an hour unpacking groceries – and discovered I still forgot something – this time because I didn’t put it on my list in the first place. But we’ll be just fine without that particular type of tea, and I can cook the rack of lamb that has been in the freezer since last year for Easter next Sunday. Angelic Daughter will want something else, anyway.

Now that we’re finally all supposed to be wearing non-medical masks outside, I took some inspiration from YouTube and made myself one out of an old t-shirt. Before I went to the store, I knotted my new droplet-distribution prevention device around my neck and at the top of my head.

And then, I kid you not, I actually thought for a few seconds about what shirt would best coordinate with my mask.

Hoping your masks are colorful, coordinated, stylish but most of all, effective (mine is not), I remain,

Your I-have-never-spent-that-much-money-in-one-trip-to-the-grocery-store-in-my-life, purple-t-shirt mask and absurdly color-coordinated purple turtleneck and sweater wearing, trying to maintain a good attitude while staying at home and staying out of the way, technically at higher risk,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by lyperzyt from Pixabay