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Joyeux Noel de la Nouvelle Orleans

28 Dec

Now that was a great trip.

In the year since my separation from my children’s father, my parents have come to the rescue and invited me to some of the most wonderful places in the Americas.  We went to Puerto Vallarta for Thanksgiving last year, New York for my 40th birthday in a snowstorm in February, Chicago in May (oh the flowers!), my alma mater, Sewanee, Tennessee along the Cumberland Plateau in July, nowhere this fall (can you believe that?), but Christmas in New Orleans. 

I have been on some other wonderful trips in 2009/2010, mostly in Texas, but those listed are the parent-planned trips, and they have been a lot of fun.  Of course, the need for them to take me in on holidays and special occasions arose during a parent-participation trip in Florida last August, but we just don’t think we are going to go back there for a while.  Until certain memories have been overlaid by many more good times.

New Orleans was fabulous.  The last time I was there was several years ago for my Dad’s 60th birthday.  We stayed at the same location – the Roosevelt Hotel, but since that occasion, Katrina intervened and shut down the grande dame of New Orleans hotels, and she has re-opened as a member of the Waldorf-Astoria, and the change has been positive.  I thought the hotel was wonderful then, but now the linens and baths are first-rate.  The rooms are large and elegantly-decorated.  For the first time in my memory, the Carters reserved a suite.  That is how you know it’s a special occasion.  Of course, my mom and I noticed how the living room would have been the perfect place to make pallets on the floor for the grandchildren, but they will just have to come on the next trip.  The existing children came on the last New Orleans trip, and it wasn’t nearly this much fun.  They were two years old and five months old.  Not exactly great travelers, but now, they would have a ball.  Especially that Anna.  She could really get into the spirit of the crescent city – she is a party girl.

We had our first dinner at the Grill Room at the Windsor Court.  The food was so delicious, and such a beautiful dining room.  I have heard stories about the Grill Room, but I had never been invited to dinner there.  This was Christmas Eve, and it was such a treat.  After supper, we walked through the French quarter.  You just haven’t reached full maturity until you are partying with your parents on Bourbon Street.  And we were not the only people out.  Lots of Santa hats. and other interesting accessories.

On Christmas Day, we had a nice late breakfast in the hotel dining room.  My mom and I then took a tour of hotel lobbies.  We only made it to the Ritz-Carlton and the Westin, but both provided great places to sit and watch the people.  We are not city people.  We come from the kind of town where everything closes down for Christmas and everyone stays home in their pj’s opening presents, so it was wonderful to see the brunch and pastries set out at the Ritz and to watch the people dressed to the nines – and some dressed in ways that make you scratch your head.  But the point is that it was fun to watch them.

We had dinner plans starting in the late afternoon with friends.  Their home is elegant and old and lovely with modern touches like a wine cooler (essentially a walk-in refrigerator) and hot tub, but still so elegant and uptown. 

We retired early to our hotel, had a few drinks in the Sazerac bar and went to bed.  On Sunday, it was once again time to have another brunch – this time at Commander’s Palace.  It was perfect in every way – from the bloody mary to the eggs sardou.  Then my mom and I shopped while my dad saw a movie.  We reconvened at 5 p.m. for supper at Galatoire’s before an 8 p.m. seating at Snug Harbor – Ellis Marsalis’s jazz club.  The lineup was amazing.  All the artists live in New York and play regularly in the house band at the Lincoln Center, but hail from New York, and loved getting together at home.  Nicholas Bennett, Hurlon Riley, Victor Goynes – they were amazing and finished the evening with funeral procession tunes. (edit: please check my dad’s comment below for their actual names!)

All of these activities were designed to keep my mind off the fact that I was away from my children.  And it worked.  I have heard that when you are digesting food, your blood supply actually diverts to your stomach and you can’t think very clearly.  That was true, because I hardly thought of the little tikes at all.  Rather, I did think of them, but I didn’t weep and mourn about it  – I trusted that they were having a wonderful day with presents and parties in San Angelo.

It was difficult at certain times – such as when I saw any other children dressed up with their bows and shiny shoes.  But I can’t say that I didn’t appreciate having my own bed and not getting up early.  It was a real, grown-up Christmas, and if I am forced to suffer such hardship every other year while the children have Christmas with their dad, well, I will simply have to endure it.  It was all very civilized, but still, I can’t wait to have them at home tomorrow!

Merry Christmas, y’all.

good tidings of great joy

15 Dec

The first requirement (or would it be a goal?) of successful parenting is the survival of the parent.

I really dislike whining.  Just ask my children.  And my friends.  And so I have lost patience with me and my sorry emotional state.  I tell myself to buck up.  You wanted them to be in Nutcracker.  You love Ambleside and its drop-dead gorgeous Christmas worship service.  You love three year-olds wearing reindeer antlers and snowman overalls.  You are thrilled that St. Luke’s sanctuary is standing room only when a few years ago enrollment was precipitously low.  Preschoolers singing “Up on the Housetop” with hand motions makes you weep tears of sentimental joy.  It’s that sehnsucht again.  Beauty has smiled again, but not necessarily at you.  Just in your presence, and now she’s gone.

The Lakeview auditorium is just beautiful and state of the art acoustically and for viewing.  Every seat is a front-row seat.  You love watching Helen Clare Kinney, home from Canada’s National Ballet School in Toronto, dancing Sugarplum Fairy.  You loved watching her as a little girl as Clara.  It’s sheer poetic and artistic justice.  And, of course, years of dedication and training.  Whatever. It’s just lovelyto see.  You love that you have set boundaries and just said no to supervising the dressing rooms.  (even though you feel selfish doing so).  You love that you live in San Angelo, and that the furthest distance to the most remote hinterlands in Lakeview is still only about 10 miles away, if that.  You love that your boss has children in Nutcracker, too, and hasn’t fired you yet for poor job performance due to maternal exhaustion.  You are even secretly thrilled that the children’s father is away on a hunting trip and can’t exercise his visitation this week or attend any Nutcracker performances, because the children will be all yours during this very difficult and very rewarding week.

You have ALL THIS AND MORE to be happy about.  But sometimes, you still feel like crying.  In the dark at Nutcracker practice.  Is it the beauty of the dancers?  The dedication of even the littlest angels?  The sheer love of Miss Meghann for her etudiantes?  Is it that she is just as likely to correct their grammar as she is their arabesque? (“You had eaten, Molly, not you had ate”).  “Have any of you had supper?  No?  I can tell.  Please, eat something, and then let’s do finale again.  I know it’s late.  I’m sorry.” 

Is it Christmas itself?  the errands undone and gifts unbought or even thought about?  Is it gratitude for your own mother who will drive twelve hours to leap from the frying pan of her own Christmas into the fire of your chaotic single-parent home?  Is it the sinus infection or sheer fatigue?  Is it knowing that soon enough the chaos will give way to silence?  Just you and the dogs as the children accompany their dad and his family to the beach for a pre-Christmas vacation?  What in the world will you do then?  Probably cry.

It may be the three year-old who asks you to read the Bible to him.  So you read him the Christmas story from Luke and he wants to hear it again.  We have some special time together every night around 9:30 p.m. when he has to be removed from his bed so that poor, exhausted, sick Wade can go to sleep without being harassed and assaulted by Henry.  Once Wade  has succumbed, I can put Henry back in bed.  If Wade isn’t awake to protest Henry’s onslaught, Henry gives up quickly.  We have a mandatory, Christmas story-reading time out every night.  Just another step in the routine.

I am sick.  I am tired.  And sometimes it feels like I may be depressed, but I don’t really think so.  I think I am just exhausted and overwhelmed with what it means to be this fortunate.  It is a rich, rich life.

the reason for the season

30 Nov

In an effort to instill some values in my progeny, I started talking to them tonight about Advent.  I wanted them to know that long lay the world in sin and error pining til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.  But all that sin and error is a little bit heavy for a three year-old and an eight year-old, who were all I had with me tonight.  Wade was at Boy Scouts picking up enough popcorn to ensure that he is busy delivering from now until Christmas Day.

I started with Christmas.

“What is Christmas really all about?” I asked the crew in the back seat.

“PRESENTS!” Anna shouted gleefully.  My worst nightmare.  A spoiled, ungrateful, materialistic child.

I decided to try another approach.  “Whose birthday do we celebrate on Christmas?”

“MINE!” Henry exclaimed. “It’s MY birthday!”

You would think they had never set foot in a Sunday school class.  And yet, they have starred in 5 Epiphany pageants, playing angels and lambs and shepherds.  They are all baptized Episcopalians.  We have read all the Christmas books and attended church on Christmas Eve as well as all through Advent.  We have nativity scenes set up in our house this time of year.  Did I mention that Ambleside is all about teaching an enduring love for Our Savior, Jesus Christ?  And Henry attends St. Luke Methodist Church Christian Child Development Center.  He goes to school at a church.

I think I am going to ask for a refund on all that tuition.