The Twelve Days of Christmas: The Top 25
1) Attending the Shandaken Theatrical Society’s annual free festive show in Phoenicia on December 23rd: a comedic song-story Twelve Days of Christmas. Enormous fun for all the family. Thanks to all the actors, writers and other volunteers for continuing such a great annual tradition.
2) Seeing, later that same night when the rains subside, the full moon at its highest point in the sky in sixteen years (Higher even than the midday sun in summer.) Bonus attraction: Mars sitting right alongside it. Because of the earth’s ever-changing angle to the moon, this was not something you could see in Europe, on the west coast, or even down south. Thanks to the Woodstock Times for pointing it out.
3) Spray-painting a Blue’s Clues paw in the snow, at dawn, for Noel to see when he wakes up on Christmas Eve, his third birthday. His face is a delight. Posie has a whole day of Blue’s Clues events planned out for him – and his friends.
4) Throwing Noel his third birthday party: sure enough, it turns into a full-on Christmas Eve open house event. A friend in the beer business brings a hundred dollar copper kettle of $100 beer at 25% alcohol! Another friend brings home-burned Christmas mix CDs. And a Christmas cake. And home-made chocolate almond treats. We order pizzas and someone picks them up en route to our home. Posie makes “Handy-dandy notebooks” for the three-year olds who then go off looking for Blue’s Clues. Then she brings out a blue cake designed as the Blues Clues paw. Noel blows out his candles; appropriately it takes three attempts. Our opera-singing friend sings “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch” while I accompany him on the Hammond with Uncle Rock on guitar. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
5) Letting Campbell open a present on Christmas Eve – a book on how to program games in Flash. (His friend in the computer biz got him a copy of the software a few days ago.) He’s about as happy as I’ve ever seen him.
6) Our first Christmas morning in ten years – and likely the last in ten years – where we don’t have to pretend Santa came down the chimney overnight. It’s an unusually quiet morning.
7) Getting a Fender Blues Junior amp for Christmas. Wahoo! My first amp since I left Apocalypse. It now sits alongside the Hammond organ and the drum kit in our front room. Furniture is overrated anyway.
8) Noel getting a little six-string guitar for Christmas. After turning away from most other gifts (he doesn’t know better), he is absolutely ecstatic about this one and won’t let go of it.
9) Talking to my family in Beverley. My younger nephew has a band, Fishing for Eyelashes, and they’re playing Club Academy in their home city of Manchester on January 25. He tells me their major problem: two of the band and most of the fans are under 18 and they can’t get gigs in the major pubs as a result. Now why does that sound familiar?
10) Driving 170 miles down to the Jersey Shore for Christmas Night Dinner with the mother-in-law and a sister-in-law. Hate driving at Christmas but it’s worth it because, a) it’s the right thing to do see Grandma and b) I bring a couple of bottles of good wine, and the glasses to drink it from.
11) Driving 170 miles home on Boxing Day. Hate driving at Christmas but it’s worth it because a) we’re home again and b) some of our best friends are having a Boxing Day party.
12) Eating at the Boxing Day party: so many of our friends are fantastic cooks.
13) Drinking at the Boxing Day party: I think everyone expects me to bring the wine these days! So, after, the party goes dry alarmingly quickly, I head home to do just that, picking up a couple of bottles of Gigondas alongside some cheaper wine too. To my surprise – not many people know the appellation – a couple shows up that are massive Gigondas fans. We bond over the 1998 Brusset Le Grand Montmirail.
14) Waking up on the 27th, knowing that it’s my one complete day off, a chance to help Campbell with his Flash books, watch live football, paint the wine future cellar in the basement, listen to some of the music I’ve otherwise missed out on over 2007, go for a training run and work on my web site. Um, so much for a day off!
15) Going to Belleayre with Campbell on the 28th. There’s always one day between Christmas and New Year when the ski mountains are totally packed, and sure enough, this is it. It takes us over an hour though to get our local residents’ reduced pass. And somehow, in our (unsuccessful) rush to beat the crowds, we leave our packed lunches at home. Belleayre does not just have the worst food of any ski mountain I’ve ever visited – but it’s unsanely, unjustifiably expensive. I promise Campbell our next day out will be at Hunter.
16) Having friends over for Saturday night dinner. The dad brings his bass guitar and amp. The son can play the drums. The daughter the guitar. The mum can sing. I joke about them being our local Von Trapp Family – in the nicest possible way. We open two good bottles of Domaine L’Oratoire St.-Martin Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne 2000 and a Eric Texier Côtes du Rhône Brézème from the same year. All taste great. Spread out across four adults and a long evening, the amount seems manageable. Although I do have a date the next day…
17) Running the Viking Race in Rosendale on Sunday lunchtime. This is an annual mid-winter 10K that has not a single foot of flat surface; everything is hills. Last year, the big hill on mile 4 defeated me; this year, I’ve been training. Even with the fogginess of Christmas food and wine, I take three minutes off last year’s time, finishing 14th out of 50-something. Believe me, I feel good. So good I don’t even celebrate at night: snow is forecast and I want to make the most of it.
18) Hitting Hunter on New Year’s Eve with Campbell as promised: we’ve had eight inches of snow overnight. Of course, at Hunter, it only takes a morning of snowboarders to carve it into moguls and reveal the sheets of ice underneath, but it’s a fantastic day’s skiing/riding all the same. Those who also do the winter sports thing will understand: I’m as happy out there with my boy today as I am doing anything else, ever.
19) Spending New Year’s Eve at the same friends who threw the Boxing Day party. Campbell has been invited to sleep over with his friend. Our host’s husband is off out to play at a musical NYE party and invites me to join him. No can do. I left the wife at home already the last two years for rock’n’roll. So, our host and her friends cook great Indian food. I drink beer and bubbly. Just about everyone leaves to get home before midnight. Except us and one other couple. Our friends don’t have TV, and I’m not sure about the radio, so we kick the kids off the computer and count in the New Year via cnn.com: a more bizarre mix of rural living and 21st Century technology I’ve never experienced. I’ve been on an adrenaline rush after two days of hard and rewarding sports, but when Posie drives us home, it catches up with me. I fall asleep in the car, just like Noel.
22) Getting up at 6:30 Jan 2, going straight to the computer where, sure enough, e-mail alerts have been sent out about a two-hour school delay. Back to bed for much needed additional sleep. Why can’t we have Jan 2 off school and work to begin with, like the Scots?
23) Five of our closest local friends, under the NRBQ-like name of JRBW (they have their reasons) forming a jive-honkin’ covers band and taking over Phoenicia’s Arts Upstairs for its Phirst Phriday. Lots of local kids are in attendance, by which we mean the elementary school set. The adults sweat in their overcoats. Our five friends rock hard and we all agree they need to play somewhere more open and booze friendly and under less time constraints. Several of them suggest our house and its band-friendly front room .
24) Getting Posie on the snow-shoes Saturday morning under beautiful blue skies, hiking up the road that goes past our house and up the mountain. At the point the trail ends, the trees are devoid of leaves and we can see all the way to the reservoir. It’s an astounding view. I’ve hiked this mile with my skis on my back; I’d like to say that skiing it down was a blast but the road is narrow, the slope is gentle and it’s all I can do to keep traction. But it’s another of those “must-do’s” ticked off the list.
25) Hitting up Belleayre again on the Sunday. Despite the zero visibility up top – by which I mean we can’t even tell which run we’re on! – neither of us falls all day. We even remember the packed lunch. Given that we get the locals’ reduced rates every Sunday from now on in, I’m determined to enjoy Belleayre this year. And thrilled to have finally done so for once. It’s Twelfth Night. Time to take the home-cut tree down, I guess. But not yet: it looks too festive.