december, 2007

Mon, 10 Dec 2007 20:21:28 -0800

December, for whatever reason, is always a battle -- at best, a series of small victories; at worst, a close second to April for "cruelest month." People load holiday stressors upon the usual ones; suddenly, there's a lot of stuff to have the perfect outfit, gift, or changelist for. (The latter is of course an artifact of me being new on my team at work, and drinking from the biggest firehose I've probably encountered to date here; but, given that it's coincident, it means there's just lots going on.) I looked up last Monday and realized that not only did I lack an outfit to wear to the company holiday party on Friday, but I had zero time between now and then to shop for one. No matter, as it turned out -- I pulled something together out of bits in my closet, dug up my fire-engine-red lipstick, managed to coerce my hair into an intentionally messy partial up-do, and looked hot without the purchase of a couture dress -- but it was a bit hard to remember that concentrated shopping was not necessary this time 'round, given the effort I'd put into last year's outfit. I wore flats, to the great relief of the still-aching ball of my right foot (must ... call ... acupuncturist); I had pockets! (I need to plan more outfits around those two parameters.) And I did exactly what I love doing at these outrageous parties: pranced around chatting with old teammates, managers, and friends; meeting new ones; having a few people recognize me from my presence on internal mailing lists. We were even bussed straight back to the lower Haight, where we squeaked in under the wire of last call, and culminated the night. A successful evening.

I think the key for this month may be to let some things go, or at least to forgo strict adherence to the order of my to-do list. The manicure was supposed to happen before the party, but instead I found time for my talons to be shellacked bright rouge (and the patience to not ruin the paint before it set!) only in time for Eddie's holiday shindig the following night, rife with (unlike the last house party I went to) people well worth talking to, butternut-squash-and-sage bruschetta, even a new cocktail. Worth the belated manicure.

Good people abound: The brother of a new friend with whom I've been having at lunch; a new coworker with an impish smile I could swear was Chuck (M.)'s; new friends at the holiday party.

And, lest the reader begin to think that these weeks have been nothing but parties and primping, let me assure them that there have been daylight activities as well: Mike & I took his motorcycle out yesterday, to brunch and accomplishing some holiday shopping goals; two tiny kittens rappelled up the denim of my jeans and then cuddled in my lap at Malcolm's over fresh pizza last night. And, oh yes, there's that new-team-at-work thing, which has left my brain so overloaded that all I really feel capable of doing, as soon as this paragraph ends, is staring at my screensaver, or out the shuttle window into the blackness of the 101.

Sat, 29 Dec 2007 21:51:01 -0800

I'm finally home, back in San Francisco, staring out the bay windows of the living room out at a hillside covered in houses, lilies blooming in the backyard. "Home" for the holidays? Hardly -- as we age, we erstwhile-teenagers, we move not only addresses but attachments. Yes, there's nothing quite like Midwestern snow -- the light, unpackable white stuff dusting the tree branches on the sides of the roads Ari, Stoll & I drove along late at night in Madison; the drab, bluish white light of a flat town fully covered by it -- but it hasn't been home-home for years. Certainly not since I've been in California (about my residence in which Ari commented made me seem "more Nori-like," and Mike, over dinner tonight, corroborated as "effervescent"); really not in DC, despite the fact that I was not in love, or even in much like, with that city. College was a weird holding pattern of a series of dorm rooms, new friends in new places and old in one place; since then, though, it's been a series of establishing one's self in a place, setting up shop and getting a library card, and then moving. One's twenties: transient.

But SF have I loved. And the Midwest is still a place of parents' cars and other people's houses -- this time especially, due to a wrench thrown in the works that managed to disarray the tacit schedule my family has been keeping ever since the divorce, fourteen years ago: Thanksgiving at Dad's; Christmas at Mom's. I've always gotten to be the resistant one, and the role of long-suffering holiday misanthrope is quite a natural one for me. "Mom, do we have to go to church?" -- et cetera. I fly out from California; presents are disbursed; cheer is had; I go back with a sense of obligation fulfilled, family time had. (Laments Mike [paraphrasing]: it's as if we were still in high school, for one week of the year.) But, when the option to engage in that manner of cheer through resistance is denied me, the rituals I always say I hate of Christmas suddenly seem to take on new importance I never would have predicted from myself.

Farouk, despite his age but given his background and inclinations, never having participated in a Christmas celebration until this year, was shocked in an almost pitiable way about the collective "gentile craziness" (as Dad & Delia's friend David put it) of what is trumped up to be such a joyful season. "Noori," he says, "I had no idea!" And it's like I wanted to tell him that yes, there was a Santa Claus, but couldn't quite bring myself to do it. (I don't condone lying to children, but it does soften the blow -- or maybe just make them blog about it in their later years.)

And so it was that I took perhaps even greater pleasure than usual in the interactions I had with my friends over the last four days: High-school friends and acquaintances; those dating back to middle school; those formed as recently as college or at Ben's wedding last month. People are taking and passing the bar, working as freelance photographers, in the throes of grad school -- in short, we're all really growing up. (This is especially easy to see from the stop-motion zoetrope of one glimpse every December.)

It's notable that I have no idea how to get from Point A (stable friendships among peers) to Point B (a stable family Christmas) -- which, I feel, makes it all the important to reïnforce the former, not having the latter. So it was extra therapeutic this year to have time with my age cohort, singing old choir songs, eating, drinking scotch in a closet in which we used to negotiate alliances for our Diplomacy games, driving to Minnesota, planning utopian feminist communities over the dinner- and coffee table, even a quick breakfast of Madison bagels.

Mike even picked me up from the airport, circling until I'd dealt with paperwork for a lost bag (the last crushing straw in a crushing week), and I babbled about my week over penne and zinfandel at one of our cute Italian cafes in North Beach. And as I talked through all of this, plus theories of perennial singlehood as related to geography, I watched the light mist come down outside; dipped bread in real, delicious olive oil; watched the foot traffic outside on Columbus go between cafes and coffee shops in the evening dark, and the neon lights of the book shops and massage parlors on the block -- and remembered how good it is to be home.

all this Šnori heikkinen, December 2007

<-- November || today

back to front