Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Merry Christmas!

OK, so I didn't get the cards done this year. I'm a little, uh, late. Hey -- if we were multicultural (or at least if some of us were tanned) and we weren't standing in front of the ginormous Christian symbol, I would wish you a happy MLK Day, a day late! Which I do anyway.

It's a nice picture of our family anyway, isn't it? We had the photographer son-in-law take it when we were in Florida (in the lobby of Disney's Vero Beach Resort) shortly after New Year's Day.

Photo notes: The young lovers in the middle got engaged on Christmas Eve. They're quite attractive, don't you think? And there's Emily's boyfriend in the yellow shirt. Isn't he handsome? They had to stand me on a high step so I wouldn't disappear completely. What can I say? I gave birth to these tall, Germanic children. The Reich would have been proud of me. But one day, one day, a recessive gene and poof! One of my grandchildren or a stray third cousin twice removed will be, like me, short and sunburnable. In the meantime, I have 3-year-old grandboys who look old enough to be in kindergarten, am dwarfed by everyone in my family and get the 30 sunscreen all to myself. It is a tad intimidating to scold with an index finger shaken to, uh, a belt buckle. Oh, well.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

'Little boxes on the hillside ...'

There's a certain kind of twilight at this time of year that reminds me of how it felt to come home from school when I was a kid. I don't know why that is, but around 4:30 in the afternoon, when I drive home from work and pass the row of little '50s houses (read: ticky-tacky boxes), it takes me back. In the late '50s and '60s where I grew up, it seemed we didn't pay too much attention to people's houses. In the postwar building boom, they all looked alike. Yeah, some people had great gardens and gorgeous lawns, but everyone's houses looked alike: little "living" rooms, eat-in kitchens, a couple of bedrooms (if you had three, that was large) and a bathroom. Most had cedar-shake siding (making them a bugger to paint). Some had shutters or awnings, but most had little "curb appeal," to use a term foreign to our parents, beyond a "picture window" in the front.

These standard houses made visiting pretty easy; you could always see who was coming up the walk, and you never got lost in a friend's house because it was identical, in most respects, to yours. Because of that, you didn't spend a lot of time envying anyone's house. Neither did your parents. You didn't hear grownups talking about so-and-so's beautiful countertops in this pre-Pottery Barn world. You might have heard a mom or two sing the glories of coved-corners in her linoleum floors, but that's because they were easier to clean, not easier on the eye. Appearances weren't all that important, I guess - no, wait. Appearances were important, but not in the way they are today. It mattered that your home was tidy and squeaky clean because that elevated your moral standing in the community. It mattered that you tipped your hat or nodded when greeting someone on the street because friendliness was valued even more than privacy.

My musings have to do with trying to figure out how I can employ these basic values comfortably in the consumerist, individualistic world in which I find myself now.

I'm not done with this post yet ... to be continued.