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Sugar and Spice, PuppyDog Tails

Monday, December 26, 2005

Merry Christmas, everyone! I got a present on Christmas Eve as the kids and I did some 11th hour running around in town--an immature Cooper's hawk atop a lightpole in the Parking Partners lot in downtown Marietta. It allowed me to snap its picture and even show it to a group of passersby. One man asked, "Are they bringing them in to control the pigeons?" which was a good question, considering the publicity peregrine introduction (notice I didn't say re-introduction?) has gotten. That gave me a good laugh, and I replied, "No, they're doing it for themselves!" and told him about the urban Cooper's nestings I've seen. I stood under an active nest with nestlings in the middle of a mature suburb of Pittsburgh two springs ago. It was a residential street, with beautiful townhouses and gardens, and it was just right for this family of Cooper's hawks. I like seeing things like this in the city, and I like showing them to others. Since nobody keeps chickens anymore, nobody calls this a chicken hawk, and nobody shoots it, either. At least not in the middle of town. Doubtless the hawks have figured that out. More power to them.

Snow is falling gently, and it's quiet here. I'm stalling, because today I have to try to find places to put all the stuff we got yesterday. We had a peaceful if groggy Christmas morning. Our family attended the midnight service Christmas eve, which meant that the kids were in bed at 1:15, and Santa's helpers didn't collapse until 2:15 AM. (There's an awful lot to be done after the kids go to sleep on Christmas Eve). Liam awoke at 5 AM with a nightmare, and I was up from then on. Oh, three hours of sleep just doesn't cut it. So we dragged ourselves out of bed, opened our presents, and were back in bed by noon. We slept away most of Christmas day, which was dark and dreary, anyway. Then we went into town to Bill and Elsa's for a proper Thompson Christmas celebration and feast. Here's Phoebe in her cool hat and new PJ's, and Bill and Liam in theirs. Elsa gets them for everyone, every Christmas. The Mr. Bill jammies are so appropriate for Bill, no? The little plant blooming in the vase in front of Phoebe is Cestrum nocturnum, night blooming jessamine. It emanates the most heavenly sweet-spicy scent starting at about 8:30 p.m., and it continues until dawn. The magic of this
aroma coming from such inconspicuous flowers, and at such a precise time; the fact that it fills the room with fragrance, and then shuts down completely as the light grows at dawn, delights me. I forgive it its forsythia-like growth habit, because I can root the cuttings in water, and sometimes the cuttings still bloom, like this one. Plants. Such a gift. My dear friend Dave Brigner at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus keeps me supplied with wonderful plants like Cestrum. The best gifts are usually the free ones. Unless, of course, you ask Liam. He'd tell you that the best gifts are the Lionel trains that make his parents groan as they pull out their credit cards. Yowch. I find it interesting that our girl seems to be content with lots of neat little things, like hats and snow boots and small toys, while our boy sets his heart on the One Big Thing and No Other. And I wonder how much of this behavior is fed by our cultural expectations of boys and girls (Oh, she'll be happy with whatever she gets, but we mustn't disappoint our boy!). And yet, when I ask Phoebe what she wants for Christmas, she just looks confused, and says she doesn't really know. I ask Liam, and he says, "Wal, I want an engine with ten wheels and a tender. Lionel."

Chet got his own presents, and he figured out how to open them by watching us. I left one on the kitchen table because it is a monkey that howls when it's chewed, and he climbed up on the table and unwrapped it right there. Nobody told him it was his, he just figured it out.
It was a fun and blessed Christmas, and we're looking forward to this week, when we'll have friends from Connecticut and D.C. coming out to visit. Aggh! Gotta throw away some boxes! Happy Boxing Day! (Can I say that without offending anyone?) Yes? Well then, Merry Christmas, too!


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