1. What genius invented the Mandarin orange? I’m not a person who likes to struggle for food. Cracking and scraping my way through a plate of crab hardly feels worth it. Shelled nuts? Seriously? Sunflower seeds? No! Yet, I love the feeling of triumph that winning an easy fight brings. The mandarin’s peel shrugs off readily and curls beside me on the sofa. I am master of my world.
2. I love the cave of winter. The gray rain forces windows shut, the noise of the city all but silenced. Rain—especially driving rain—absolves me. Kayaking, camping, and the like are now out of the question. It is right that I am huddled inside, reading and writing and snacking.
3. Have we revered Freddie Mercury amply? As it IS gray and wet and December, I was able to devote much time yesterday to watching clips of Mercury on YouTube. Such full-throated operatic terror! Such sturm und drang! SUCH humor! And how very sly Mercury was. How majestically he slipped into our repressed 1970s homes under the seemingly innocuous label “Queen.” How masterfully he tricked all of us into singing along with “Killer Queen” in our Pintos and Gremlins as half our carload of friends plotted their way out the closet. Say it with me, “Freddie, we love you!” Freddie, you were so ahead of your time that you don’t even have a time. You were singular and without rival.
4. Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol is literature’s greatest expression of the midlife experience. In a strange twist of fate, I was cast in the role of Ebenezer when I was 11, far before nontraditional casting was a thing. Even though some classmates teased me about playing a male character, I was overcome with joy to be cast–finally— in a leading role. I was convinced that all the love I wanted in life would come to me swiftly if I could just excel in some surprising way in an artistic endeavor. I threw myself into the role, growling my bah-humbugs with a severity that has no place in children’s theater.
The reviews were mixed, but memorizing the Ebenezer’s lines was prescient preparation for my adult struggle with the Christmas season and with the cynicism of midlife. I don’t think I will ever be as convinced by a sweeping character transformation as I am by Ebenezer’s. Tormented by the ghosts of Past, Present, and–most horribly–the Future, he snaps. He loves again. Of course, he does. He’s had the crap scared out of him. This isn’t a “I will change because it’s right” transformation. This is a broken hallelujah. This is the you’ve-been-beaten-out-of-your-own-denial shift of middle age.
I remember feeling his transformation brightening inside me as I raced across the center stage my one night in the spotlight (Christmas plays don’t have a long run). I remember the joy of arriving at the Cratchit home, the surprise on their faces that this time I’d come with love and presents. Part of me knew even then that Ebenezer was all of us. He’s often viewed as some aberrant jerk but, in fact, we all have to struggle with a heart that wants to close after disappointments. We all have to remember to stop counting and to give with abandon.
We love you, Ebenezer, and we forgive you.
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I love this. (And my food laziness extends to corn on the cob and watermelon as well as crab and sunflower seeds.)
AND nothing better than a stormy day. All day. Not just an hour at four o’clock.
We are kindred spirits, Gretchen.
Thanks so much. I enjoyed your writing today and was inspired. A Christmas Carol gets better with age. You wrote: “I was convinced that all the love I wanted in life would come to me swiftly if I could just excel in some surprising way in an artistic endeavor. ” – Believe me I know that feeling so well as a drama major, a song writer, one who writes of gray days in a journal , and is attempting a memoir, Girdled & Gloved:A Bittersweet Memory, and posts occasionally to the BlueTomatoJournal at Blogspot.
Thanks, Sliced Blue Tomatoes, for your positive feedback and your readership.
Hello, I just uploaded my entire memoir, 50,00- wds, spanning eighty years: Confessions of a Blue Tomato into my WordPress Blog. I’m not interested in publishing at this point. Sometime when you have some down time, would you check it out and scroll down to the end. It has photos and let me know.
Thank you, Theo. So true, melancholy and hazy grayness can encourage that “hunkering down” inside and just giving in to it, exalting in the self-given permission to laze about, snack, read and contemplate. I have found it somewhat rejuvenating, certainly making that crisp sunny day A Whole New Joy that one was taking for granted and now appreciates all the more!
Here’s to hunkering down in our winter caves!