And so here we are...
The end of the year draws close, as it always does. There is something to be said for the grand cycle of life, where the holidays come in predictable fashion, including my very own December ritual of wandering around muttering “how is it already the middle of the month?” while promptly doing nothing about the season drawing near, like an iceberg in the North Atlantic.
The upside of this is that my family knows where to place their expectations, after so many years. There will be a tree (at some point).1 It will have lights and decorations and a gift or two under it. They may even be wrapped. Cookies will happen (unless they don’t). I will send cards, if only because it is my absolute favorite thing to do. There will be Larcenous Waffles2 on Christmas morning. Anything else that happens is bonus Yule.3
I’m planning to send this out on Christmas Eve, which is when you might read it.4 You may be deep within your own holiday scramble.5 I see you and I salute you. But let me float an idea: maybe chill the fuck out. There is absolutely nothing that you can do about any of it at this point. Everything will be ok.
Re: the holiday hooplah: Focus on the stuff you love doing. The rest? Meh. It’ll happen or it won’t. If it doesn’t, then no one will miss it. And if someone misses it, they are welcome to do it next year.
But I also strongly recommend chilling out in a more general way. Take some time to let your brain do more or less nothing for a little bit. Who the heck knows what the new year will hold?6 Now is a good time for some slack before the next onslaught hits.
If you have HBO Max, Finding Magic Mike is and isn’t what you think it will be. I mean, there is a fair amount of grind and buff and hyperbroness. But it is also oddly heartwarming? And about dudes learning how to be human men? There’s a lot to unpack7 here, is what I’m saying, and yet my brain is too puddling-like to unpack any of it.
If you need something to watch that has less naked8 men in it, School of Chocolate on Netflix is surprisingly good and not just another re-tread of “Bake this thing. Judge this thing. Boot someone off the show.” First: no one is eliminated during the course of the series and second: chocolatier Amaury Guichon is a genuinely good teacher. Will the show blow your mind? No, but it is just engaging enough to soothe it.
If you want to get out of your house without getting out of your house, The Alpinist (also on Netflix) is not at all soothing, unless you have some serious thrill issues.9 It is gorgeous, tho, and shot by the same team who did Free Solo.10 I legitimately felt vertigo in some scenes (in a good way) and the story takes some vertiginous11 turns, too.
If you are able to nestle all snug in your bed with an iPad or related device, let me recommend The 2021 Haters Guide to Williams-Sonoma. Those who already know Drew Magary’s work know how blessed this annual-ish take-down is. Those who don’t, welcome and please come in.
If you want to look at some cool gifts that you can buy for yourself when the mood strikes you after the holiday mayhem, the New Yorker’s Rachel Syme made good on a Twitter threat and assembled Exit Through the Gift Shop. I hope this, too, becomes an annual tradition.
Finally, in keeping with *waves at the season,* my go-to story for this week is Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather.12 It’s about Christmas and faith and carbunkles and fears.13 It is the balm you need right now.
However you mark the passage of the year and where ever you find yourself at the end of this one, may it be a merry and bright as possible. Thanks for hanging out with me.
This year, we decided to wait for the Elder Teen to make it home from college on December 14 so that we could go as a family to the local cut-your-own place, where we’ve gone for years and years and years. Only this year, the local place sold all of their trees for this year right after Thanksgiving, as did nearly every other place we checked within a 15 mile radius. We managed to score one of the last trees at Home Depot, which is always the most homey and festive place in December. The tree is (maybe) 5 feet tall and we had to do a serious ornament triage to get our faves on it but, my dudes, it is a tree and it is festive AF.
So the waffles started our first year in Austin, when my husband and me were but babies. I was working at a Crate and Barrel knock-off and my paychecks started bouncing. Some of us decided to take our backpay in home goods. (I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS. IT WAS HEADY DAYS IN A CITY THAT KNEW NO LAWS.) I scored a waffle maker and a Le Creuset Dutch oven. The pot I still have and use; the waffle maker died after a decade of faithful service (vale, waffle maker) and has been replaced several times over. And lest this footnote get too long (too late), let me just briefly mention that my kids tell the story of the First Larcenous Waffles every year as we eat that year’s decidedly less larcenous batch.
Let me mention here how happy I am that I never had to deal with Elf on the Shelf nonsense. If having to deal with a stuffed holiday snitch brings you joy, you are a stronger person than me. I just … cannot.
or not. I don’t know your life.
Even if you aren’t a Christian/Christian-adjacent. There’s something about the arbitrary ending of one year and the beginning of the next (to say nothing of how freaking dark it is in the Northern hemisphere right now) that brings about a sense of needed to complete all the things.
I mean - who saw 2021 coming?
THERE IS A “PACKAGE” DOUBLE-ENTRENDRE IN HERE SOMEWHERE BUT I CAN’T FIND IT. HELP.
Name. That. Film.
You know you’re doing something truly dangerous when even Alex Honnold thinks you are nuts.
See what I did there?
The BBC mini-series, which is on Amazon Prime, is … adequate. Reading the book is good. Even better, tho? Get the audiobook narrated by Bill Nighy. Even more better? Listen to it on a road trip with your kids/pets/thoughts.
(and copious amounts of pig urine)