Saturday, November 27, 2010

CUT-YOUR-OWN CHRISTMAS TREE FARMS IN NEW JERSEY

"ANN!"



The turkey leftovers are gone, the pumpkins are starting to cave in on themselves with rot, and the decorative bales of hay have been completely picked apart by DIY squirrels and birds looking for building materials for their winter homes.
Alas, it’s time to get your Christmas tree. I'm a true believer in driving half-way across the state to cut down our own tree in an attempt to create a scene from Currier and Ives that we can paste in the family photo album. Admittedly, all I’ve been able to capture with my digital camera with built-in video recorder are Kodak moments such as my husband slicing his finger open with a rusted saw as he made his first attempt at cutting the trunk of a tree, a family photo where his lips are pursed not in preparation to blow me a kiss, but to release the most hellacious curse words that mankind has ever invented, a WWF wrestling match between me and a woman who tried to cut down the tree I had tagged for cutting, and my son’s coat sleeve going up in flames as he roasted marshmallows over an open fire. Ah, holiday memories. It's why therapy was invented.
          Yes, cutting our own Christmas tree has become a family tradition. Why not make it a family tradition for your family too? Rest assured. Almost all cut-your-own Christmas tree farms will cut them for you. They frown on bleeders--it's bad for business. Advice: if you're cutting the tree yourself bring sturdy gardening gloves to wear because the needles will puncture your skin and cause your partner to release words that no child should ever hear. Also, keep in mind that most farms accept cash only. 
I've also attached a list of the different types of Christmas trees available for chopping. I love Blue Spruce Trees, but I learned the hard way that when it's time to dispose of them their needles will leave track marks causing all sorts of office gossip Monday morning. 
So, here's my list of "cut-your-own" Christmas Tree Farms. If you have a farm that your family visits that's not on the list, please let me know so we can add it.

Dixiedale Farms, 347 Hillside Ave & River Road, Chatham, NJ  Family owned and operated since 1911, Dixiedale farms is a short ride from Bergen County. My family has cut Christmas trees from Dixiedale and we’ve never been disappointed. We’ve always gone in the late afternoon when there are no crowds. The town of Chatham is also a great place to grab a bite to eat or a cup of hot chocolate. Open Saturday & Sunday 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. November 27-December 19. http://www.dixiedalefarm.com/



Hidden Pond Tree Farm, 4 West Field Road, Mendham, NJ
Last year my family went to Hidden Pond Tree Farm to cut down our tree. Despite the fact that we went in the late afternoon, we still waited about 45 minutes to get into the farm, but once we were admitted it was a wonderful experience. Aside from roaming the farm looking for the perfect tree, they offer free hot chocolate and marshmallows that the children can roast over an open fire. We watched the sun set as we roasted marshmallows. It was pretty magical.The people who work the farm couldn’t be more helpful or nice. It was a great and memorable day out! Open daily November 26 – December 24 9 a.m.-5 p.m. http://www.hiddenpondtreefarm.com/

Jack on his way to find the perfect tree at Hidden Pond Tree Farm
Fleming Farms, 55 Kings Highway, Long Valley, NJ
Fleming Farms has a limited amount of Douglas Fir and Blue Spruce between 4’ and 8’. Open weekends December 4- December 19. Saturdays 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Sundays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. http://www.flemingfarms.com/

The Village Tree Farm, 8 Meyersville Road, Green Village, NJ Open weekends November 28, 29, December 5, 6, 12, 13, 19. 10 a.m.–3 p.m. To make the day even more fun for the kids The Village Farm is offering hay rides pulled by an antique tractor, cookies, candy canes and while supplies last a free coloring book! This year they will also be offering photography service where your pets and children can have their picture taken with two of Santa's Reindeer! http://www.villagechristmastreefarm.com/visit.html



Bunker Hill Christmas Tree Farm, 118 Bunker Hill Rd, Griggstown, NJ Weekends 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Cut your own Christmas Tree at Bunker Hill. Choose from a wide variety of trees. http://www.bunkerhilltreefarm.com/bunkerhill/index.htm


Shale Hill Christmas Tree Farm, 98 Pond School Road, Sussex, NJ Open weekends Thanksgiving to Christmas from 9:30 a.m. to dark. All trees are $75. Cut Your Own Pines, Spruces and Firs, NJ State Fair Award Winning Trees. Adorable farm animals, Tasty Refreshments, The “REAL” Santa Claus. Christmas movies in the hayloft! http://www.njchristmastrees.com/



Evergreen Valley Christmas Tree Farm, 71 Jackson Valley Rd. Washington, NJ  Open Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. November 26 –December 23. 10,000 trees to choose from. Douglas-fir, Canaan fir, Frasier fir, Blue Spruce, Norway Spruce, White pine, Scotch pine.  Refreshments on Weekends, Wagon Rides, Tree Gift Wrapping, Wreaths and Roping. http://www.evergreenvalleychristmastrees.com/index.html



Plut’s Christmas Tree Farm, Rt 31, Washington, NJ (2-1/2 miles south of the intersection of Routes 57 and 31) Family-owned and operated since 2000, Plut’s is open Wednesday and Thursday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. – 9 p.m., and Sunday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Trees start at $35. After cutting your tree visit the gift shop. http://plutfarms.embarqspace.com/#



Wyckoff’s Tree Farm, 249 Country Road, Belvidere, NJ  Family owned since 1839, Wyckoff’s Tree Farm has been featured in the NY Times. Open daily beginning November 27th 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. You will find an ample supply of both cut-your-own and fresh cut trees available. Wyckoff’s Farm starts the season with approximately 5,000 trees available including: Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Blue Spruce, Norway Spruce & Concolor Fir. Wyckoff’s also has a gift shop that features wreaths and ornaments. http://wyckoffs.com/index.htm


Glenview Farm, 2 Glenview Lane, Blairstown, NJ
Located atop the picturesque Kittatiny Mountain Range, come and cut your perfect tree. Open daily beginning November 26th  9 a.m. to dark. Large assortment of Spruce, pine and fir trees. Refreshments are available.  http://glenviewfarm.com/




Jolly Holly Christmas Tree Farm, 56 Maple Lane, Blairstown, NJ
All trees $48 no matter what size. Open weekends beginning Thanksgiving weekend through December 19th 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Santa comes to visit! http://www.jollyhollychristmastrees.com/




Stonerow Tree Farm, 242 Wykertown Road, Branchville, NJ
All trees $50. Open weekends November 27th -December 12th. Stonerow also has the Merry Moose Gift Shop where you can find all kinds of holiday decorations and gift ideas. http://www.stonerowfarm.net/Home_Page.html




Holiday Tree Farm, 44 Augusta Hill Road, Augusta, NJ
Open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday beginning November 26th from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. All trees $59 regardless of type or size. The Christmas Shoppe offers holiday decorations, gifts, and refreshments. http://www.holidaytreefarmnj.com/




Edwards’ Christmas Tree Farm, 338 Jacobstown-Cookstown Road, Wrightstown, NJ 
Open seven days a week beginning November 26th from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Wreaths and ornaments are also available for sale. Trees vary in price according to size from $40 for a 3 to 5 foot tree to $70 for a tree 9 foot and taller. http://www.edwardstrees.com/Trees.html




Anne Ellen Tree Farm & Shoppe, 114 Daum Road, Manalapan, NJ
Open daily from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Thanksgiving weekend to December 23rd.  Over 100 acres of trees to choose from and Santa visits on the weekends! Anne Ellen Tree Farm is also an ideal place to grab a cup of hot chocolate and a cookie and have a picnic. Anne Ellen’s also has a holiday shoppe that will personalize your ornaments while you wait. http://www.annellenfarms.com/




Simonson Farm, 118 Dey Road, Cranbury, NJ
Open weekends beginning November 26th 10 a.m. – 3:30pm. Featured on CNBC, Simonson Farm has two fields with over 50 acres of trees to choose from. Wagon rides and horse-drawn carriage rides available.   Simonson Farm has a Holiday Shoppe that features wreaths and other holiday gifts. http://www.simonsonfarms.com/




Barclay’s Christmas Tree Farm, 35 Orchardside Drive, Cranbury, NJ
Open weekends Thanksgiving through Christmas 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. All trees up to 9 feet are just $45. Over 9 feet just $70. Dogs ok on leashes. http://www.barclaystreefarm.com/




Cherryville Farms, 352 Quakertown Road, Pittstown, NJ  
Open weekends beginning Thanksgiving 9 a.m. to dark. Cherryville Farms is a family-run farm that offers the best in cut your own trees. They also offer handmade wreaths and crafts for sale. Hot chocolate provided with a tree purchase. http://www.Cherryvillefarmsnj.com/


Wintergreen Christmas Tree Farm, 14 Gorney Road, Lafayette, NJ  
Open weekends beginning Thanksgiving to December 19th 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Wintergreen Christmas Tree Farm is a family-run farm that offers a large selection of Christmas trees to choose from. Leashed pets o.k.  http://www.njchristmastreefarm.com/


Perfect Christmas Tree Farm, 999 U.S. 22, Phillipsburg, NJ
Perfect Christmas Tree Farm is owned and run by John and Cynthia Curtis, the farmer and his wife. You can take a hayride out to the fields or walk across the covered bridge to find the perfect tree. Watch wreaths being made and decorated in the barn and then come inside & warm up by the fire in the Gift Shop. Children find Santa’s Box – a special trunk filled with small toys for good boys and girls, irresistible. http://www.perfectchristmastree.com/


Spruce Goose Farm, 194 Bordentown-Georgetown Road(Rt 545) 
Chesterfield, NJ
Open daily from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Spruce Goose Farm is a family-owned farm. Ride the wagon into the fields to cut your tree and then visit the gift shop. http://www.sprucegoosefarm.com/index.html


The Evergreen Farm, 4 Bass Lane, Lebanon, NJ
Open weekends beginning Thanksgiving through Christmas 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Family-owned and operated, The Evergreen Farm has a number of different types of Christmas trees all in the 6 to 9 foot range. http://www.theevergreenfarm.com/


Types of Christmas Trees:

Douglas Fir

- The most popular Choose-n-Cut tree in NJ
- Outstanding needle retention and fragrance
- Soft needles about one inch in length

Canaan Fir (a Balsam variety)

- Closely resembles a Frazer Fir
- Needle retention is excellent
- Branches are somewhat stiffer than Douglas Fir
- Excellent fragrance

Norway Spruce

- Rich dark green color
- Stiff branches to hold heavy ornaments
- Needles are prickly
- To maximize needle retention, Norway’s should be
kept in a cool spot, and regularly watered. Don’t let it
run out of water!
- Use of a tree preservative is recommended

Blue Spruce

- Indigo Blue to dark green in color
- Stiff branches hold heavy ornaments
- Needles are prickly
- Good needle retention
- The premier ornamental evergreen

Concolor Fir (also White Fir)

- Silver-blue foliage with flattened needles about two to
three inches long.
- Branches are stiffer than Douglas Fir
- Excellent needle retention
- Unique fragrance

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

THANKSFORGIVING (Expanded Version)



Like your mother-in-law and Herpes Simplex 1, holidays always arrive unexpectedly and at the most inconvenient times. As bad as they can be, they come back every year with the shining promise of more drama.
Thanksgiving is here. Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863 as a way to bring peace in the midst of the Civil War; a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father.” Speaking strictly for myself, I’ve been present at many Thanksgivings that rivaled the Battle of Bull Run where everyone but “our beneficent Father” threw a punch. Which is why while Hallmark prefers to celebrate, I prefer to inebriate. There have been so many Thanksgiving disasters in my family that it’s amazing I just don’t lock myself in the closet on the fourth Thursday of every November.  
Thanksgiving 1992 was a seminal year for me. I was a newlywed drunk on love (more drunk on wine) who announced during dessert at a relative’s house, “From now on I’ll do all the holidays!”  I had no idea why the host was so excited. Well, I found out why the following Thanksgiving Day. My life being like an unscripted Broadway show, I invited 30 for a sit-down dinner and 15 more for dessert. My fireman husband was having a near coronary—not because there would be so many bodies in our house, but because there would be so many bodies using the plumbing. “All that flushing is going to kill our pipes!” he exclaimed.
“Don’t worry,” I responded calmly as I read “An Idiot’s Guide to Cooking Turkeys.”  “I’ll just hand every guest a roll of toilet paper and send them into the bushes to take care of their business.”
Well, needless to say, three hours into that Thanksgiving, as I went down to the basement to remove the pies from our second refrigerator, guess what? Our plumbing did back up. All over the basement. Let’s just say that while Jim was calling Drain Doctor I was blaming the smell of raw sewerage on his aunt who had four heaping plates of everything and was now asleep in the corner under a pile of coats that the dessert guests had indiscriminately thrown on top of her corpse. Let me add, Drain Doctor drained everything including both our checking and savings account, but they got the job done fast! I even fed the plumber when he came. However, when I saw the bill I told him that while he charged hundreds and hundreds of dollars for holiday plumbing, “I charge $100 per slice of holiday turkey and $50 per side dish so why don’t we just call it even, okay?”    
          Back to the turkey. I had never cooked a turkey in my life, but I got up at 5 a.m. to stuff and shove the 28-pound bird into my oven. The fact that I couldn’t close the oven door was somewhat concerning, but more perplexing was the aroma. It didn’t smell like a turkey dinner should. As it continued to cook I knew that was one foul fowl. I called my mother frantic.
          “The turkey stinks!” I shouted hysterically.
          “I told you not to buy the ShopRite turkey,” she responded.
          “No, I mean it really stinks!”
          “Did you forget to remove the neck?”
          “What neck???? Don’t they chop that off?”
          “No. It’s wrapped with other internal organs and stuffed inside the bird in a bag. What did you do with that?”
          “I guess I’m cooking it!” I howled in fear.
          “Then that’s what stinks. You need to get it out.” Click.
          I proceeded to remove the turkey from the oven, unstuff it, and remove the packaging that was now singed black with ash. I’m sorry, but that was no neck that I unwrapped. That was turkey genitalia! Was this a bris gone horribly wrong, or the black hand of the turkey mafia that had gotten their scratchy claws on my Tom and taught him a lesson for some undisclosed indiscretion with someone else’s ‘gobbling goomah?
Then there are the guests. Holidays have the tendency to bring out the worst in families. And it wouldn’t be a proper holiday without that one negative relative who counters every statement with doom. If you tell them you’re pregnant they’ll tell you about how they miscarried on the “A” Train on Christmas Eve as The Salvation Army Choir was singing “What Child is This?” If you tell them that your child went to bed early the night before they’ll tell you that he probably has a brain tumor because that makes normally energetic kids tired. If you tell them that you and your husband are going away for a romantic weekend they’ll tell you that you’ll get nothing but the clap and bed bugs if you stay in a hotel because 20/20 did a special on how filthy they all are.
          Thanksgiving 1998 everyone decided to keep pouring vodka into my now ex-sister-in-law’s glass because the only time she wasn’t giving everyone the hairy eyeball was when she drank vodka. That poor girl got so pie-eyed drunk that her head fell into the mashed potatoes during grace and no one bothered to wake her until dessert was over.
          Then there was “Bad Dog’s” first Thanksgiving with us. I had cooked two turkeys that year. A 28-pounder and a small 17-pounder. As I had the 17-pounder resting in the roasting pan on the open oven door “Bad Dog” managed to dig her canine incisors into its flesh and lift it out of the pan. I blamed Jim for the missing turkey until I saw the drippings on the floor and followed them to the porch where “Bad Dog” was getting ready to give thanks and chow down. After wrestling all but one leg from her growling mouth, I pieced the bird back together and fed it to the relatives who had arrived empty-handed.
          Then there’s my favorite Thanksgiving—the one where a relative got so violently ill that the cops and ambulance were called. They arrived lights and sirens blaring signaling the neighbors to their front porches. Other families might have been fazed by someone being carried passed them on a stretcher. Not mine. Everyone remained seated at the table passing the turkey, corn, beans, stuffing, potatoes, and wine. A few guests even wiped their hands on the stretcher’s sheets as it rolled passed them completely ignoring the relative who was lying prostrate upon it battling consciousness. There is a happy ending, though. That night I was awaken at 1a.m. as the relative, released from the hospital, came to claim their Thanksgiving dinner and a martini—with a twist. I didn’t say it was a happy ending for me.  
          So I’m gearing up for hosting Thanksgiving this year. And by “gearing up” I mean drinking steadily. Alcohol is my Teflon against snide remarks, Debbie Downers, uninvited raw sewerage, turkey genitalia, criticism, Bad Dogs, oven doors that just won’t close, and the fact that I am not an orphan. As always, my door is open to anyone without a family. After being with mine, they give thanks for having no family.
          May your Thanksgiving be quiet, uneventful, and easy. If it’s not, check the address—you’re probably at my house. Bring wine and Advil. And don’t worry about driving home. The cops will probably be here so they can escort you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

WE GATHER TOGETHER



Her name does not matter; only her story does. She was three years old in the fall of 2005 when her mother asked if I could watch her at my house. She did not ask me to watch her daughter because there were errands to run, or appointments to be met.  No, she asked me to care for her three-year-old daughter because her only son would die that day.  He was 16 years old. He had cancer. “He has a weed growing inside of him that’s poison,” this little girl explained to me that day, “and he will be an angel soon.” She told this to me while nodding her head very matter-of-factly between licks of a cherry red Blow Pop; her red-stained lips pursed together in solemn contemplation. I, of course, had to turn away from her to hide my tears while she and my children ran into the living room to watch Dora the Explorer and dance spasmodically to the addictive Latin beat. 
          I tried to hold myself together as I bent over the kitchen sink scrubbing it for no other reason than I could run the water to diffuse the sound of my sobs.  I could think of nothing but this girl’s mother, my friend.  Here I am in my cozy little house where just a few hours ago I was completely unnerved by the fact that the free turkey from Shop Rite would not be enough to feed the 25 people coming to my house for Thanksgiving dinner.  While I was losing my mind, she was losing her child.
Time has passed, and days gone by, but from that day forward, every Thanksgiving this is what I remember—a child smiling and laughing and playing unaware that something of great value had been taken from her. Some part of her is gone and will forever be missing. I just wish that I could tell her that when her brother died, the moment his spirit fled his body, she was playing, she was laughing, she was happy, she was whole. I like to think that when her brother’s spirit left his body he came to be with her, here, in the dim autumn light that seeped through the paned glass of my living room windows. I wish that I could tell her how from that day forward her belief in better angels inspired me to be a stronger, more thoughtful person. She may not remember what is was like to have had him as her brother, but she knows with the certainty that only a child possesses that he is her guardian angel, and he will never abandon her.  And I give thanks for my own life, for the health of my children, and for the grace of being with this precious little girl on that day, and gaining a lifetime of strength from the unwavering courage of her belief in heavenly angels.
 I know what she did not, and what she may never come to understand; that the day her brother died was a crushingly sad day; a day of massive loss; a day she will probably never ever remember, but question for the rest of her life. And I want to tell her that she was okay, that she was loved, that she was protected. I want to tell her that on that day, at that moment, she was not alone because every mother in the universe gathered together to hold her in their arms to protect and comfort her.  Because that is what we mothers do—we put aside our collective differences to gather together to protect the child of every mother in the time of her greatest need.  
To all of you who take the time to read this column every week I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. And I ask you to gather together all the people you love this Thanksgiving and take a moment to remember every mother who has an empty seat at her table, and an empty place in her heart, this day and every day.  

Monday, November 22, 2010

MAN I AM IN A THANKSGIVING TRAFFIC JAM

Man I Am in a Thanksgiving Traffic Jam

I am man.

Man-I-Am.

“Man-I-Am, Man-I-Am, hear me say that Man-I-Am.”

Do you like this traffic jam?

“I do not like them,” said Man-I-Am, “I do not like this traffic jam.”

Why can’t you get from here to there?

“I cannot get from here to there, I cannot get to anywhere. I do not like this traffic jam, I do not like them Man-I-Am.”

I am sitting beside you my darling spouse, so do not act like such a louse.

“I do not like them my dearest spouse, and I AM NOT ACTING LIKE A LOUSE! I cannot get from here to there, I cannot get to anywhere. I do not like this traffic jam; I do not like them, Man-I-Am.”

Can you make a turn down any blocks? And this traffic jam outfox?

“There are no blocks, this jam I cannot outfox; my dearest spouse, I AM NOT A ******* LOUSE. I cannot get from here to there, I cannot get to anywhere. I do not like this traffic jam, I do not like them Man-I-Am!”

Would you, could you, calm your nerves? Or the children will repeat those words.

“I would not, could not calm my nerves!”

And did you have to flip that car the bird! You must stay calm and you will see, an exit sign to Fort Lee.

“I would not, could not, see Fort Lee, not in this mess, so let me be! I cannot turn down any blocks, this traffic jam I cannot outfox; I do not like them my dearest spouse, and I AM NOT ACTING LIKE A LOUSE! I cannot get from here to there, I cannot get to anywhere; I do not like these traffic jams, I do not like them Man-I-Am!”

A ramp, a ramp, please find a ramp; because my stomach has begun to cramp.

“Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no, before we left I told you to go! I cannot turn down any blocks, this traffic jam I cannot outfox; I do not like them my dearest spouse, and I AM NOT ACTING LIKE A LOUSE; I cannot get from here to there, I cannot get to anywhere; I do not like these traffic jams, I do not like them Man-I-Am!”

Say, will we arrive in time for dinner? Would you, could you before dinner?

“I would not, could not promise to arrive in time for dinner.”

Would you, could you before dessert?

“I would not, could not promise before dessert, so your mother you should alert! And oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no, before we left I told you to go. I do not like them, don’t you see, these traffic jams are not for me. I AM NOT ACTING LIKE A LOUSE, my dearest spouse; I cannot get from here to there; I cannot get to anywhere!”

Would you, could you get a GPS?

“A GPS will not get us out of this mess!”

Would you, could you next year leave on time?

“I would not, could not leave on time, to miss the football pre-game shows would be a crime; I will not get GPS, for it will not get us out of this mess; I will not get there for dessert, so my mother-in-law you should alert; oh, no, oh no, oh no, oh no, I told you before we left to go;
I cannot turn down any blocks, this traffic jam I cannot outfox; I do not like them my dearest spouse, and I AM NOT ACTING LIKE A LOUSE! I cannot get from here to there, I cannot get to anywhere; I do not like these traffic jams, I do not like them Man-I-Am!”

You do not like them so you say, and now you’ve ruined Thanksgiving Day!

 “Please, can you just let me be; all I want is football on T.V. Say, the traffic jam seems to be thinning, I’ll get to see if the Giants are winning!”

And that’s what this day is all about for sure, getting Man-I-Am to Thanksgiving dinner in time to see the Giants score.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

THE CHRISTMAS NEGOTIATOR

If you deliver one more Christmas Toy Catalog to that kid...

As the sun began to sink in the west, I heard the scratching of slippers against the wood grain floor and thought, “No. No. It’s too early. I’m not ready! I’m not prepared! Halloween is two weeks passed and still I haven’t carved the pumpkins I picked at Dante’s Fifth Circle of Hell!” (See blog for pumpkin picking at Dante’s Fifth Circle of Hell.)
As the slippered feet shuffled closer and closer to where I was sitting in front of my computer trying to come up with a topic for my column, sweat began to map my forehead. My breathing became erratic. Sounds took on a depth that my ears had difficulty processing. The story I had been concentrating on writing suddenly slipped from my mind and I could only focus on the footsteps that kept coming closer. And closer.  Fear gripped my sense of sensibility and I knew what was coming. I was right to be afraid.
The shuffling came to a complete stop before my chair. Slowly I looked up from the keyboard of my computer and my eyes connected with his. I tried to look away, but he held my gaze and my eyes were held hostage by the force of his stare. Standing before me was my eight- year old son. Wafts of his father’s Old Spice cologne orbited the space around him. As I feared, he stood before me showered, coiffed, in his pajamas; his completed homework was tucked into his folders and ready to be returned to his backpack. It was 4:45pm. In his hands were two thick Christmas Toy Catalogs—Target and Walmart. “Where did you get those?” I asked trying to turn my suspicion into curiosity.
“Well, when I was outside the mailman pulled these from his bag and gave them to me. Along with about 40 more. By the way, I already showered so you don’t have to worry about it later. Also, I’m planning on going to bed at 7 and I’ll read for an hour.”
Oh no! He was now employing “Christmas Good Behavior.” I was sunk. From now until December 24th he will do everything within his power to be the perfect child.
Usually I’m able to intercept the delivery of the Christmas catalogs. At least I take them from the mailman and give the kids one each. This year I was remiss in my duties. I forgot. Hearing my son sing the praises of the mailman made me think of the pivotal mailman scene from the classic Scorcese film Goodfellas. When the mailman delivers delinquency notices from the school to Henry Hill’s parents, Henry’s father throws him the beating of his life. Tuddy and Tony Stacks have Henry i.d. the mailman and together they teach the mailman a lesson by forcing his head into the pizza oven in Paulie’s Pizzeria. Now, of course I harbor no thoughts like that against my mailman, but that scene did play through the loop of my brain as my son continued to sing the praises of the mailman who personally handed him this pile of catalogs. In fact, he couldn’t stop singing the praises of our mailman while he painstakingly circled every item of interest with his thick black permanent Sharpie marker.
Admittedly, I don’t know if it was the intoxicating Sharpie stink that made me entertain thoughts of cinematic violence, or the fact that with every item my son circled (read: everything) I could feel the money drain from our account.
As the Sharpie continued to stink with each successive circular squeak I said, “Now Jack, obviously Santa doesn’t get everything that every eight-year old boy circles. Remember, Santa is in the middle of a bad recession.”
“Isn’t he getting an obscene Wall Street bonus?” he inquired.
Yes, I read the paper out loud. I can’t believe he really listens!
“No, Santa isn’t eligible for a Wall Street bonus,” I replied. “It's not about the money for Santa. Santa wants every child to be equally happy and happy with whatever they get. Most importantly he wants every child to be in good health and to have access to good healthcare.” (Dear God! I just created Socialist Santa!)
“Well, I’m just giving Santa an idea of what I want. By the way, Mother Dear, would you like a cup of tea?”
"Mother Dear? Mother Dear?" I thought. "Oh Lord, I'm in for it!"
As my son shuffled off to get me a cup of tea I grabbed the Target catalog and did a quick calculation of everything he had circled. The fresh toxic scent of Sharpie gave me a brain freeze. Or maybe it was the sum of all fears--the actual cost of that calculation. Doesn't matter because Santa needs either a Sugar Daddy or a Daddy with an obscene Wall Street Bonus. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

THE SQUIRREL CHRONICLES, OR EXHIBIT C IN MY FUTURE DIVORCE PROCEEDINGS



Dear Jim, 

As I opened the door to the attic I released my customary squirrel 
repelling howl before charging up the stairs only to be greeted not by one squirrel. No, no, not two squirrels. Yes, yes, three squirrels. Three bushy tails waving like three enoromous middle fingers pointed directly at me. Oh, and did I mention that one them was holding onto one of my brand new Carlos Santana stillettos and chewing on the heel like it was a churro? He even spat a piece of the leather out onto the floor in disdain as if he's used to dining on Manolo's. 

Now, I know you've called repairmen in to find the place in the roof where they're coming in, and I know that each handyman deemed the job too small to undertake. And I admire your attempts to remedy the problem on your own given that you only have a lifetime of experience in construction. I even applauded you when you said, "Problem solved." Perhaps you were talking about your aching bunions and not the squirrels in the attic? My bad. 

I know that this is a sensitive topic since I went all harey-carey on you two weeks ago when I went up to the attic to my hermetically sealed Container Store garment bags to bring down my fall clothes only to find that the squirrels had chewed through the bags and ate the sleeves of almost all of my blouses, blazers, and coats. Yes, they have expensive taste--they ate only through the Michael Kors leather, Calvin Klein suede, and Ralph Lauren blouses. Really, really, I'm sorry if you think that my throwing wire hangers at you was too Mommy Dearest for you, but frankly my dear, I don't give a damn. I told you repeatedly that I was sorry. Sorry I missed. 


Since you're not fond of confrontation, I'm writing to inform you that even though you promised me that you really did fix the problem this time I don't know what problem it is that you think you fixed, but the squirrels are back and man, those furry bastards have some balls. Which is more than I'll be able to say for you if you don't get rid of them!!!! 

Ann 

  

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

SURVIVING THE SEVENTIES…SORT OF

Forget the play ironing set, stamp me up that slick cigarette case!

Have you ever paused to consider how the decade you came of age in (or at least spent the better part of your pre-teen/teenaged years in) affects your world view? Well, I have. Because I don’t have enough to worry about. Without suspicion I’ve been mentally examining the people who enter my world every day—family, friends, and strangers (strangers who randomly, and publicly, implode for no apparent reason) in an effort to determine if their behavioral choices reflect a cultural influence.
My penny-psychological study has forced me to conclude that if you came of age in the 1930’s you’re a product of the Great Depression and have the “ketchup bottle” approach to life: you refuse to throw away that bottle of Heinz 57 until you’ve drenched the sedimentary dregs with enough tap water to shake at least three more clots out of it. If you came of age in the 1940’s you’re a product of World War II and have a “let’s party today for tomorrow we may die” approach to living: life is a swinging Sinatra song and you’ll Lindy your way into the grave. If you came of age in the 1950’s you’re a rock-n-roll boomer: you still have great style, all your own hair, religiously summer down the shore, and truly believe that every generation that has followed yours doesn’t know the first thing about being cool. If you came of age in the 1960’s you’re either still stoned out of your mind and/or extremely critical of the culture you sent into a tailspin. If, like me, you came of age in the 1970’s, congratulations—you’re a complete mess.
          I mean, we children of the ‘70’s had more than our fair share to deal with—an unpopular war, Nixon, Watergate, H.R. PUFNSTUF, streakers, perms, Beatle’s break-up, disco, and, as if all that wasn’t bad enough, plaid and stripes together. And I’m sorry, but no matter how hard J.C. Penny tried to market it, there was just no way plaid could ever be “rad” or stripes make a fat person look thinner—striped muu-muus made my full-figured aunts look like walking parentheses. I mean, if Marcia Brady couldn’t rock the plaid, what chance did we mortals have?
And then there were the S&H Green Stamps. I chased that dragon for years, looking everywhere for orphaned stamps--sidewalks, grocery store conveyor belts, the countertops of my friends’ kitchens. I hoarded those perforated square stamps in my Saver Book like an angry troll. I fantasized that I could save the 170 books of stamps required for the Silver Cloud Motor Boat, outboard motor not included! After months and months of saving what did I finally purchase? A play iron and ironing board set. If I had known that my future held endless piles of laundry I would have purchased the slim ladies cigarette case with the paisley cover and satin-lined interior. I iron every night, so trust me, smoking would have been the sexier choice. Put Hazel next to Polly Bergen and who do you think men would choose?
          This flotsam overtook my consciousness when someone asked me if I had any ideas for interesting fundraisers. That simple query sent my mind rushing back four decades to a time that seems steeped in meaning. Almost every social outing my family took in the early-to-mid ‘70’s involved a fundraiser. How many of you spent entirely too many warm-weathered weekend afternoons watching Donkey baseball games? I seem to remember my uncles and the then Mayor of Fort Lee, spastic passengers upon the backs of non-compliant donkeys, riding erratically around the field of Intermediate School in Fort Lee, mitts waving unsteadily in hand, in an effort to raise money for some cause. My favorite was the pitcher. Donkeys are fond of making mounds, not standing idly on the pitcher’s mound.  If the donkey stood still long enough to let the pitcher pitch, the ball would feebly wobble its way to the batter's box, but thanks to his donkey, the batter was now somewhere outside of first base. How no one ever got a hoof to the head boggles my mind. Let me add that they were riding donkeys after having imbibed more than a few cocktails. I must say, man-on-donkey baseball did put the “fun” in “fundraisers.” Clearly these kinds of shenanigans were the inspiration for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).  And there was that time I almost caught a glimpse of Donkey love, but I was at the concession stand and my parents ushered me away from the field before my eyes could see anything that they promised would cause me to go blind.
          It’s true, my generation didn’t endure a depression, we can’t dance, and we’re not cool. And although we never upended culture, we almost certainly drowned in the tsunami of its pop. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

PARTY TALES OF SHELTERED MOM

"I'll take another martini. Oh, and a doggy-bag for my liver."

Once upon a time, Mother was invited to two parties. This made Mother very happy because she couldn’t remember the last time she went to a party where the little people didn’t rule. Nor, could she remember the last time she went to a party where the red stuff in the bottle was Merlot and not Hawaiian Punch.
But Mother was scared. Mother wondered out loud in the middle of A&P what one wore to parties these days. That thought made A have to P, but I digress. While waiting on the endless checkout line Mother perused a copy of In Style magazine. Mother was surprised to discover that bras were still in fashion. Mother couldn’t remember the last time that she actually wore one. Mother stopped wearing them when she couldn’t find a clean one. Mother noticed other mothers had abandoned their foundation so she abandoned hers. Good thing. Mother’s Victoria Secret push-up had pushed-out.
          Mother’s first party was an intimate dinner with friends at their minimalist Tribeca loft. (By minimalist I mean that they have no children. Mother realized the easiest way to avoid clutter is to avoid having children. And getting married. But that’s for Mother’s fairy tale about couple’s therapy.) Mother decided jeans and a long sweater would be the perfect ensemble for a Manhattan dinner party. The long sweater would both camouflage her ginormous ass, and the enormous tear riding up her seat. Clearly “7 for all Mankind” is not for all mankind. At least not for mankind sporting a post-baby body. (And by post-baby I mean10 years.)
          Mother was greeted at the loft door with a glass of champagne that she finished before reaching the snow-white sectional. Mother marveled at the space. Mother marveled at the 52” fingerprint-free screen of the Sony Plasma HDTV. Mother marveled that the remote control was not duct-taped together. Mother marveled at the spotless white walls and suspected that Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser never came calling.  Mother marveled her way through two bottles of champagne and three bottles of Merlot. Father carried Mother out at 4 am. Mother’s shouts of “I love you” echoed down deserted Franklin Street. Father didn’t wake Mother for the 8:30am soccer game. Father is afraid of hung-over grizzly bears.
          Mother recovered just in time for the next night’s party. This party was for a film screening at a restaurant. Mother didn’t know what to wear to a restaurant. Mother usually wears pajamas to restaurants. (And by restaurants I mean drive-thru’s.) Mother purchased a pair of pantyhose, but her big toe shred the nylon. Mother forgot that one needs a pedicure before inviting one’s big toe into pantyhose. Mother had forgotten what a pedicure was.
Mother went up to the attic and rummaged through her old work clothes. Mother unfolded a pair of Ann Taylor slacks. Mother found $20 and the telephone number of a man she can’t remember in the pocket. Mother wanted to call that number, but some things are best kept stored in your pants, especially when you have a big toe with special needs.   
          Mother took two Sudafed tablets because Mother’s head gets awfully stuffy when she drinks. At the party Mother ordered a martini(s). Mother thinks that martinis could end warfare. Mother asked for extra olives. Mother likes the thrilling explosion of gin when she bites into an olive she’s swirled around with the anchor of her plastic sword.
Mother was introduced to the filmmaker and her husband. Mother’s Sudafed kicked in. Mucous rushed from the faucet of Mother’s nose just as her hand reached for the extended hand of the young, talented, and beautiful filmmaker. Because martinis misinterpret messages Mother’s brain sends to Mother’s body, Mother sniffled out instead of sniffling in. Mother watched a bubble of mucous inflate beneath her nose. Mother saw the filmmaker restrain from recoiling in horror. Mother wondered if the bubble would become airborne or just pop and ruin a perfectly good martini. Mother couldn’t worry about that because Mother had forgotten how to swallow. Four martinis do that to Mother.  When Mother tried to apologize for the inflatable balloon of mucous still hanging precariously from her right nostril, drool, not words, came spilling forth from her mouth. Mother doesn’t remember Father escorting her from the party. Nor does Mother remember going to bed with her boots on.
Mother slept happily ever…after…several trips to the porcelain god.

The End…until the next party.