I’m trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey, bloomered and bonneted and petticoated and caped, singing Christmas carols at a nursing home. The assembled residents are far more grateful than we deserve – my quartet of Victorian-clad singers has hired itself out to raise money for the symphonic choir we belong to. It’s the end of a long week. We’re tired and distracted and secretly wishing that we hadn’t volunteered to do this depressing gig. It’s at least 89 degrees in the dining hall, and we are all very well-upholstered. The facility is clean and beautiful, but there’s an inexorable undertow of failing health and failing spirits. We plaster on fake smiles and resolve to get through the damned obligation as quickly as possible.
We belt out a bunch of holiday chestnuts (roasting on an open fire). The room fills with waves of nostalgic gratitude that whap us alongside the head and whip us into shape. We see tears sliding down wrinkled old cheeks and eyes shining with visions of Christmases past. The folks we’re singing to pat our hands and touch our costumes and tell us stories of long-dead friends and lovers and ask us to sing Jingle Bells again, especially that part about going it while you’re young. I have a tear on my cheek now, too.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that the Victorians invented crotchless panties. I made myself a pair of historically-accurate bloomers for this year’s caroling season, and was amazed to find that there’s no center seam of any sort. “You mean there’s no Crotch Protection?” asks my horrified mother (mothers everywhere are big on Crotch Protection). Alas, there is not. Almost three square yards of fabric in those underpants (as opposed to the three square inches in modern versions), and nary a scrap of modesty. You could give birth without having to remove those babies.
I do not share this interesting bit of trivia with the audience at Fading Sunset Acres. Nor do I display the garment in question.
We sing “Good Christian Men, Rejoice!” and I cringe at one of the verses: “Now ye need not fear the grave.” Who am I to say, “Don’t Fear the Reaper” to a room full of seasoned octogenarians?
I don’t fear him, exactly. I accept his inevitable victory and I am polite to him; I’m just not ready yet to spend a lot of quality time together. Yet I know he is waiting for me, and so I focus on enjoying myself in the interim.
To maintain that focus, I drink a lot of red wine.
I commiserate with the Grim Reaper, though. I, too, know what it is to be the Death of Fun. Sons #1 and #2 christened me the DOF years ago (Husband was most probably involved in this as well, but he denies it stoutly). I walk into a lively family-filled room and everyone shuts up, eyeing each other nervously. There’s a certain power there, of course. But it gets lonesome.
The shroud and scythe have followed me to work as well. And not just via the lovely European hand-blown insulated glass a friend gave me, etched aptly and beautifully with “dof” (for “double old-fashioned,” but I use it for coffee).
I’ve written about my ongoing delight in the workplace at sitting three feet from the departmental refrigerator. It’s four feet away, now, since I moved my computer and turned my back to the big gleaming white Frigidaire. But there it is, constantly making noise and constantly attracting a steady stream of people who walk back and forth past my desk eight times a day, either pausing for an obligatory chat or skulking by hoping I won’t talk to them. And it’s just like home: they open the refrigerator door and stand there for seeming hours, vacant-eyed, door open, searching for a snack or for the meaning of life.
I am blessed with my mother’s wonderfully sensitive nose (she could tell if I’d had half a beer when I walked past her open bedroom door late at night). This heightened olfactory awareness adds a great deal of pleasure to life, but extracts as payment a great deal of pain. That work refrigerator is full of stinky neglected decaying crap. Every time the door opens, a green cloud of fragrant contagion wafts toward me and hangs heavily in the air.
Periodically, I send out food storage emails to our department and to the other folks on the floor who use our fridge. At the beginning of the school year, I tempered my complaints with humor and made the effort to be polite. Today’s letter was rather terse. Subject line: The Refrigerator Stinks. Body of message: “… and I am stuck here sitting next to it.”
No-one will claim what looks to be a club sandwich, cut artfully in triangles and stacked sitting upright in a clear plastic shell. I thought it might be a fancy sliced paté of some sort, studded with fat and peppercorns. It’s brownish, with accents of white and black. But those accents have been growing and getting fuzzier. I’ve never known peppercorns or larding to balloon in size.
Work buddy Rita Johnson came to my rescue today with her trusty camera. Bravely, we opened the clamshell holding the sandwich/pate and discovered to our horror that it actually contains what was once sliced pineapple. That pineapple is pining for the fjords. That pineapple was grimly reaped long ago. That pineapple belongs in a forensics laboratory. Rita sent her picture to the high school science department, offering the specimen for study. They declined the gift. We’re going to the school newspaper, next. We’re keeping at this until someone ‘fesses up and, more importantly, cleans up after himself.
Something is rotten, and not just in the state of Denmark. That pineapple is a metaphor, the ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.
We carolers heard the bells on Christmas day, their old familiar carols play:
“And in despair I bow’d my head:There is no peace on earth,” I said, “For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth good will to men.” Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth good will to men.”
Wouldn’t that be nice? And in the meantime, please God let someone clean out that goddamned refrigerator.