Tuesday, December 27, 2011

CHRISTMAS... AND BOXING DAY!

It has been, for The Buddha Diaries, a long silence. Time to catch up on an amazing week that culminated, yesterday, in a disaster. But let's start with the good part...

It was the "holiday season," as those of us who wage a joyfully vindictive war on Christmas like to call it. (I actually have nothing against Christmas per se, but I do have it in for what has come to be the yearly celebration of crass commercialism in the name of religion; and the abandonment of virtually every value that religion espouses in favor of the acquisition of "stuff." But let's not get into that.) Our daughter, Sarah, arrived last Wednesday with her now seven-week-old son, Luka...

who brought with him nothing but joy and wonder at the miracle of new human life.

Ellie and I spent a good part of the week in preparation for his arrival, and for the large number of guests we expected to join us for dinner on Christmas Eve. There was plenty of food shopping to be done--on numerous expeditions because, of course, something was always forgotten or something new was needed. There were what seemed like hours of chopping and dicing: I am the sous chef, Ellie the menu preparer and the main chef. We made casseroles and salads, soups and stuffed peppers, cakes and muffins... food for an army: Ellie does not like the prospect of running short or anyone going hungry. In between times, we entertained our grandson...


... while his mom enjoyed the luxury of some quiet moments for herself, and took long walks with the baby in the stroller. He also went downtown with us to do some last-minute gift shopping and a visit with Santa...



I found him a fine Laguna Beach baseball cap...



Our Christmas Eve dinner was a great success. Sarah's friend Azalia and her sister Jan arrived in the early afternoon, followed shortly by Ed, Luka's dad, fresh from work; and soon thereafter by Ed's brother, Stan, and his girlfriend, Kelly...



... and finally Stan Hudecek senior...



We drank our traditional family toast in the champagne that Ed had brought with him, remembering not only those close at Christmas, but also those in more distant parts of the world, from Iowa to England and the Czech Republic, where Stan senior was born and where his family still live. And sat down for the feast at our Christmas table...



Much merriment at the table, along with the appreciation for the excellent--and, in honor of our daughter preferences, exclusively vegetarian--fare. With many of our guests leaving after dinner, the rest of us settled down to a game of team Scrabble, in which Ellie and I gloriously--and decisively--defeated the Hudecek brothers and their mates.

Christmas Day, Ellie and George and I were up at our usual early hour, abducting our grandson for a walk...



... down to the cafe near the beach where we often go for breakfast. We sat with a cup of coffee and a muffin in the beautiful, warm sunshine, thinking that life could not get much better than this. Then back home for our traditional brunch with, this year, the substitution of buckwheat pancakes for our usual English scrambled eggs, along with lox and bagels and a mixed fruit salad. No one, again, went hungry. Not even George...



After brunch we did the Christmas stocking bit--usually an early morning event, but postponed beyond its normal time in honor of Ed, who is a night person, and rarely puts in an appearance before noon! When Sarah was no more than a tot, one of the graduate students I worked with made her this enormous Christmas stocking...



... which has proven quite a challenge, in succeeding years, for Santa to fill. Somehow he manages each year, and our now not so little daughter still delights in the ritual...



... as do her parents. Many wonderful gifts, then, all around, and much pleasure in the spirit of generosity with which they had been found, wrapped, and given.

I had discovered earlier that there was to be an unusually low low tide at four in the afternoon, so we headed down to the park around the Montage hotel for a walk on the beach. We were surprised by the traffic and the crowds, and had a hard time finding a parking spot; but soon headed down the path in front of the hotel and transferred Luka from his stroller to a sling carrier before crossing the beach to the water's edge.


A glorious late afternoon, with the sun heading down to the horizon over Catalina Island, reflecting pearlescent colors in the breaking waves as they reached the shore...


Out beyond the breakers, to our delight, a school of dolphins leapt and played, while cormorants and pelicans dive-bombed for fish in the fading light. It was all almost too beautiful to be true--a superb ending to one of the most wonderful holidays in memory.


Sarah and Ed and Luka left for Los Angeles later in the evening, and Ellie and I were looking forward to a day of rest and relaxation Monday. Alas... (Now for the bad part!)

I had noticed, Sunday evening, a suspicious little puddle gathering around the clean-out valve for the drain that leads from our cottage to the city mains, and called in the morning to arrange for the plumber to come later in the week and do the semi-annual roto-rootering necessitated by the insistent growth of our neighbor's tree roots. We had decided to postpone our scheduled visit by a month--a decision that was to prove foolhardy this Boxing Day. With some chairs to return to their place in the basement storage area, I opened the door to Ellie's studio under the cottage and was greeted with a foul stink and hideous mess: the raw sewage had backed up from the drain and exploded through sink, flooding the studio and soaking books and sketch pads along with everything else in reach.

The plumber graciously responded to an emergency call and arrived to clear the drain. But the mess that remained behind him required hours of painstaking clean-up—not to mention the loan of a neighbor’s industrial power fan to help air out the space and drive out the stench.

What kind of karma was this, we wondered, following so close on our week of love and generosity? No doubt, in retrospect, it will seem a lot funnier than it seemed yesterday. And I guess it will make for a good story. Still, no way to spend a Boxing Day…

4 comments:

kevin21 said...
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kevin21 said...
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PeterAtLarge said...

I definitely do not appreciate this comment area being used to advertise totally unrelated matter. This is why I deleted the two (identical) "comments" above.

Anonymous said...

the memories and photos are beautiful, the stink will go away.
have a great new year.

love Amy and Stuart

p.s. try and watch "My dog Tulip" with George.