Look, lots of people struggle at the holidays, for an infinite variety of reasons. And me, too. During my Christmas Nazi decades, I feared I wouldn't show as something enough. What? Generous enough? Creative enough? Cheery enough? Poor fudge maker? I'm not sure. Just not enough of something. Less than. Just about the year I began to think I might be OK enough, came the Christmas Eve dinner for 40 in my home when the upstairs water heater blew about the time I served the prime rib. I was unprepared to deal with ankle-deep water on my tile floors in front of guests. That house had miles of tiles.
The 2010 holidays were on target to be the worst ever. I've written elsewhere of dark December. My journey toward "better" had barely begun. To state that most everything I'd once been was now stripped away and I presented as bare bones, a skeleton, an empty shell is not an exaggeration. Some people who love me on a personal level and others who are paid to take very good care of me conspired to help me get through. And I did. Just. When the sun rose on December 26th, I grinned, very ready to pull down the Christmas tree, swing like a monkey beneath the eaves taking down lights, and move on.
I am no whiz at properly cleaning and shining hardwood floors and I spend too much time at it, never learning to perfect my methods, but simply slogging more, not better. All the Christmas decor having been placed in the garage for next year, I turned my attention to the miles of hardwood floor. I wasn't enjoying it, but the busy-ness of it was steadying. If I'd only had my hair in pincurls and a bandana tied around it, I'd have resembled my Granny on cleaning day some 50 years previously. I decided to get another cup of coffee and test the theory that one can consume enough coffee in one morning to jitter right out of one's skin. Although I am not hard of hearing at all, I hadn't heard my phone, and - with it lying next to the coffee maker - I saw there was a voicemail waiting.
"Leslie, it's Kass. I'm in Las Vegas. Call me!" Huh? Kass is here? I took that cup of coffee to my chair and sunk very low. I was depleted and dull and weak and confused - generally. All day, every day. I hadn't shaved my legs in . . . . too long. The floor still needed attention and the cat needed a good brushing and I didn't know how to do anything as simple and joyous as go meet a friend any longer. I didn't know what to wear or what to say. On the other hand, how could I not go? We'd met in the blogosphere when I sent her an official fan letter and she declared a "girl crush" on me. I've been more excited about very few dates than I was about meeting Kass. She makes my head spark and alternately soothes me and kicks me in the ass. She makes me laugh and want to misbehave. No, we're not outlaws. Just fun-loving. Quirky girls. I had to pull it together and go do this.
We connected while she was in the buffet line at the newest, latest and greatest casino. I had to ask her where it was. A little out of touch with my surroundings, I was. I could hear my own voice - cheerful, upbeat. But I still needed to borrow some time, arranging to meet her the next day, not 5 minutes after the phone call. I stewed. I bubbled. I took something for sleep. All those bloggerly associations danced through my head - those I'd dashed 6 months previously for my own sanity. And on the next morning, I got up, bathed, dressed and squared my shoulders. I had to MapQuest the location of her hotel. Oh, yes, I can see it towering above the cityscape, I just didn't know onto which major boulevard its driveway emptied. I drove there in sunny cold, parked the car, and recognized that the really cute shoes I'd worn were poor for running. Later, however, they'd make me appear a little taller than Kass, so all was not wasted! Dashing through the glass revolving door, I could see her peering out the windows, watching for me. She looked just like herself (from her pictures)!
As I charged across the lobby, she spotted me. Out went four arms, close and warm hugging to ensue. She blurted the first gift she was to present to me that day. "You're so cute!" Yes, I had the grace to blush. I told her I didn't feel that way, whatsoever. We agreed coffee, not a meal, was in order - mine was pumpkin pie latte which wouldn't be available for much longer after the holiday season. "Want some of my parfait, Les?" I didn't. And then unfolded more than 2 hours of the loveliest girlfriending I've ever experienced. We spoke of bloggers and blogging, about our children, about her mother who had recently died, about my recent fall from grace. She told me that certain things were not my fault, nor my responsibility to "fix". Nor could I fix them if it were my responsibility. When I declared I'd really like to like a particular person but it was complicated, she told me I was inherently good. She urged me to write again and to look back on other struggles and successes in my life for inspiration . . . . and to find my way. I cried a little. I'm like that. I told her my deepest secret - the one I hope to write about someday, but which is still just a little tender around the edges. She has not betrayed my confidence. We ranted about narcissists - persons we know enough about to be a little dangerous - and then it was time to part.When the camera came out of her bag, I began to snarfle. How could I have forgotten she carries the digital everywhere and aims it at everything? There were a couple of abortive self-portraits snapped ~ mostly shots up the nostrils of lovely middle aged ladies. This did not deter her, however. She shanghaied a willing accomplice from the coffee bar who did an OK-enough job of taking pictures of girlfriends united in a place in time. One needed to be filled up again. The other filled her up, despite the recent loss of her own mother. "Come to Utah, to my cabin?" "Yes, I will!"
When I left the casino, the shoes weren't so miserable. I didn't need to wear my coat any longer. I drove home rather more slowly than my usual, and I craned my neck out the window of the car, as goony as the family dog hanging her head out from the back seat. The sun was bright. Her plane would leave in a few hours. "How was; your visit with Kass?" It was lovely. It took her only 2 hours to show me her special grace and loving care. Oh, many have read it in her writings and commented on it. But I got the gift of friendship in a short-acting, in-person capsule. It was a turning point for me. Things really did begin to get better. If that wonderful woman thought I was kind of OK-enough, then obviously, it must be true.
In my head (and figuratively my ears) right now:
Do not make a reservation in my name
Do not make a reservation in my name
For I will not go. I will not attend.
And the elephant graveyard will charge your credit card.
Unfair to both of us.
Something that charmed me: I took a little road trip and snoozed in the car on the way home. After lunch, it would be my turn to drive for a couple of hours. "Want coffee and a meal, Les?" "Yeah, yeah," as I stumbled out of the car in Washington, Utah before Dorthalee's Cafe on State Street. I could see by the hand-lettered poster in the window I could have breakfast, lunch or dinner 24/7 for $2.99, $3.99 or $4.99 respectively. The hostess and waitress made me smile, some dim bulb of recognition coming on. The lovely old paw-paw in a booth with his 20-gallon hat and every hat pin ever made . . . where had I seen him before? The coffee was great, the food kind of nondescript, but hot, and everything was squeaky clean. "He's A Rebel" playing really loud on the oldies station. Finally, a bathroom break before going back out onto I-15 south. I came out of the restroom, passing a large party tucking into burgers, looked at the eclectic decor in Dorthalee's, and that's when it hit me! Kass hosts a number of blogs, including the aptly named Shooting Strangers In Restaurants. The reader must trust me about this and find the blog on my sidebar, as Blogger is being a booger at the time of this writing. This blog is where Kass keeps photos she snaps of unsuspecting patrons dining in restaurants, to the mortification of her daughter and sometimes dining companion, Mary Ann.
I dashed to my table and began to babble to my companions: "Kass", "blogger friend", "Shooting Strangers", "camera's in the car". They looked at me like I'd lost my mind. Perhaps I had. Throats were cleared. "Ummm, we probably should go." I am sorry to say I got no photos. I failed the test of big brass ones in a restaurant - just step up, grin graciously and snap. Kass taught me better. I won't miss the next opportunity. And I know the hostess, the waitress, the paw-paw and the large burger party have all been featured before on "Shooting Strangers".
Some photo credits: To Kathryn S. Feigal, with friendship and gratitude