Chasing Reindeer

December is a hectic time of the year.  The sudden realization of how many days left before Christmas makes us a desperate lot, and then there’s all the great traditions of the season which must be carried out.  One, the annual hauling up out of the basement of the lights, ornaments, tree stand, fake garlands of spruce and pine, the statue of Father Christmas looking resplendent in fur collar and slightly scraggly white beard, sleigh bells to hang on the front door, and the stockings to hang over the fireplace.  I always seem to miss the mild days of opportunity to hang the lights outside, and wind up trying to get my hands to work on a cold, windy day, dangling dangerously under the eave of the porch to string the icicle lights.  First is the challenge of untangling the strings, which I was sure I put away last year in an orderly coil, but somehow, I suppose due to their boredom in the basement, become intricately woven together in a free=form, almost spiteful, version of macrame.  Having laid them out, finally, on the porch, tested them to be sure I have a live string, I pick out the working strands to hang.  Of course, I’ll spend thirty minutes with a strand that won’t work, trying to figure out which of the one thousand bulbs is out and needs replacing, only to fail completely, throw out that strand, and move on.  The “icicles” of the new replacement strand, fresh out of the box, are contracted up and won’t hang down naturally no matter how much I tug on them.  Hmmm…., anyway, I proceed to get them up on last years’ nails, starting at one side of the porch and making my way around the perimeter.  Then, there’s the moment I bring them to life, ala Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation, with a little drum roll in my head, as I plug in the extension cord.  Yes!, I say to myself, they’re all working!  Not to last, though, as sure as reindeer can fly, one or more of those strands will fail, creating a dark space in the icicle light line up, giving the house a certain trailer park chic appeal.  Of special note, this year my son and daughter did the work, and somehow, they managed to get the lights up and working better than I’ve ever  been able.

The next major task involves finding a tree.  We can usually find a tree to our liking at any one of many spots selling them in our area.  We like  a nice, full spruce, tall to look proportional in our old house with the high ceilings.  I am amazed at how that tree can be forced through the chute with branches held in by the web of plastic around it, but it makes for easy transport.  We prepare a space for the tree in our parlor, rearranging the furniture to allow for this gargantuan icon of the season.  Getting it up in it’s stand is a bit of difficulty, although not too hard.  We then cut open the binding web and watch as the branches unfurl.  Hopefully, we’ve given adequate space to those branches, and they don’t take out any eyes or things hanging on the wall.  My wife is particularly good at taking out branches and trimming up the edges, to make it look just right without having been obviously altered.  If I were to try that, I know it would come out looking like a victim.  Putting up the lights and ornaments is certainly one of the most pleasurable things to do, although it doesn’t hurt to have some Christmas music playing and a steady flow of beer or enhanced eggnog to allow us to appreciate the moment.

Our gift buying is a combination of guesswork and direct grilling of the subject to see what we should wrap and put under the tree.  I’ve certainly turned to more on-line buying these last few years.  Nothing satisfies me more than to be able to avoid the mall parking lot.  I had the opportunity to visit a high-end purveyor of home goods a week ago, in Philadelphia, to return an unfortunate on-line purchase.  I thought I was getting a steal, paying $40 for a coffee maker of good name, good pedigree.  It turned out it made weak coffee much less flavorful than our old, ugly Mr. Coffee, so I took it to the “bricks and mortar” store to return it.  The store was filled with high-end Christmas shoppers, examining carefully a $35 set of ice tongs, or listening to a slick presentation of why they really need to spend upwards of $1200 to get that perfect cup of coffee Christmas morning.  No wonder my purchase was so incredibly wrong.  I misplaced the decimal point by two positions.  Regardless, and without shame, I brought that machine to the counter asked to return it.  “Had it been used?” the woman behind the counter asked.  “Yes, that’s how I know it makes bad coffee,” I replied.  With a dour look, and without even asking if everything was in the box, she took it back and gave me a refund.  I suspect it is going in the trash, as it can’t possibly be worthy of repackaging.  My favorite real shopping experience at Christmas time, though, is visiting Barnes and Noble.  It’s busy, but not so busy one can’t move about in the store, see what the new novels and biographies look like, pick up a real book and thumb through it, get a few laughs in the humor section, examine the games and puzzles, and look through the calendars.  I went yesterday, and was quite pleased to not only find the books I was looking for, but to have had an uplifting time doing so.

Another tradition is the annual office gift carousel.  I always give my secretary a nice, large spiral cut ham.  While this may seem a throwback to some industrial age era of Dickensian mindset, I see it as a true thank you for all she’s done for me this year.  She has my back, so to speak, and anticipates my daily struggles.  She fends off attacks from the flanks and calms worried callers.  There are a thousand things she does to make my life better, and I’d like her and her family to have a nice, tasty meal to show for it.  Perhaps originating with the writer Dorothy Parker, the definition of eternity is two people and a ham.  So that’s the best part of office gift giving.  We also give the rest of the office staff home-baked small cakes, lemon-poppy, pumpkin, pecan and apple, and they all seem to like them very much.  This year my daughter did the baking, and word at the office was, they couldn’t tell the difference from the ones my wife made in years past, so that is high praise.  For my partners, there is a tradition of trading wine bottles.  Not fancy wine, not special wine, just whatever is convenient to grab a case of at the moment.  It has become an obligatory, drab exercise, made slightly better by the underlying humor of seeing your name on a sticky note attached to the bottle in place of a real gift card.  Personally, I can’t just buy a cheap, mass produced bottle with a kangaroo on the label, so I do look for something unique and special, without spending a lot, but I’m not sure whether that translates to appreciation of the wine.

With all the rushing around trying to get things done in time to settle down and truly enjoy the holiday season, when do we run?  Well, there’s nothing wrong with backing off some of the intensity of training at this time of year to let the old bones and joints recover.  Yet, we still need to keep up with the base.  Running in the dark is challenging and dangerous, but there’s little daylight when one can run, especially since work doesn’t stop.  Dressed up for a run, I look like a miner, with my headlamp and reflective chest-wear.  When I see the rest of the runners in our Wednesday night run heading down the street, and see the reflection off the gear from a car’s headlight, they do stand out, though, as they should.

As this year closes, I’d like to thank my family for all their support in keeping me going in running and all my pursuits.  I’d like to thank the members of my running  club, South Jersey Athletic Club, for their terrific motivational support and companionship.  And, I’d like to thank my fellow bloggers, whose blogs I have been following, for their posts with clever writing, beautiful photos, and inspiration.  I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and we’ll catch up in the new year, when plans for our next marathon adventure will be laid out.

Frank

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6 Comments

  1. Nice blog entry Frank! The precipitation overnight could have made for a very White Christmas…if it had been about 25° colder.

    Reply
  2. walterplods2012

     /  December 21, 2012

    Frank you had a great 2012 for running. From the cold winds and rain (but warm pizza) of the Ceaser Rodney run; to the early morning encounter of the civil war cannon at Steamtown; and don’t forget the vocal support at mile 25.8 from Bryan and Tony at Philly marathon which you didn’t acknowledge, but we know you appreciated it somehow at least subconsciously. Lift a beer and toast for another good running year in 2013.

    Reply
  3. Thanks, Tony. I always knew you guys were with me in spirit, even if I didn’t see you that moment. You’re right. It was a good year.

    Reply
  4. Brandon

     /  December 28, 2012

    I read your blog. It’s one of my New Years resolutions to read more of them. Well written and entertaining. I am thankful to have you as a friend. Hope to see you at the New Year’s runs.

    Reply

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