At least, hard to watch without crying.
Robin’s work permit expires this month, and I’ve sent a letter to his agency telling them that it was a blast but we’re dropping out of the modeling biz. Once the novelty wore off the whole thing was just more hassle than it was worth. And although he ended up with several paid gigs, I don’t think his picture actually got printed anywhere.
After agency fees and taxes, Robin’s career earnings are about $180. So I guess that’ll sit in his bank account until he gets old enough to decide what he wants to do with it.
Here’s my beautiful boy mugging for the camera:
I made these little gingerbread people, aren’t they cute?
I hope all our far-flung family and friends are having a warm and happy evening tonight. Merry Christmas!
The veggie box came early this week on account of the holiday. Taking into account both what we got fresh and what we still have leftover from last week, our fridge now holds: a bunch of collard greens, two bunches of kale, two bulbs of fennel, two bunches of beets, two broccoflowers, two kinds of lettuce, two potatoes, three leeks, nearly a dozen lemons, and some little satsumas. Also Santa brought us apples and pomegranates in our stockings.
With all this bounty to be eaten, what am I doing for lunch today? I’m going to take Robin out to get some pasta. But tonight we’ll have a big salad with fennel and beets (the one I meant to do last week and didn’t). Tomorrow Robin and I will eat the broccoflowers roasted for lunch, and dinner will be kale with onion, bacon, and black-eyed peas, served with cornbread. Thursday night I’m thinking we’ll continue the soul-food streak with pork chops smothered in spicy collard greens, and sometime later in the week we’ll have potato-leek soup. And I’ll just trust that the fruit will take care of itself.
Edited to add: I forgot to remind myself to make beef broth with the leftover bones and scraps of the prime rib!
We had a wonderful solstice yesterday. In the morning we got up and opened our presents. Robin didn’t quite understand what was going on but he caught the enthusiasm of the moment, especially as one after another of the intriguingly wrapped boxes proved to contain a present for him. There were clothes, there were toys, there were delicious things to eat. Robin was eating graham crackers when we unwrapped our present to him, a little boy doll, and the first thing he did was eagerly take the doll into his arms and carefully, precisely lift a graham cracker to its sculpured lips. It was the cutest thing.
After the gift-unwrapping I spent most of the day cooking. I was well prepared and everything went according to schedule, so it was fun rather than stressful or tedious. Robin amused himself with his new toys for most of the day.
This year our guests were drawn from my gay male coterie of friends, allowing me now to lapse into a flight of generalizations based on very small sample sizes. Our guests all showed up right on time and bearing gifts. They made witty conversation all night, they were effusive in their praise of the food, and this morning they each sent me very nice e-mail to say how much they’d enjoyed themselves and to thank me for the dinner. Now, we love our straight friends too, but I have a very vivid memory of a solstice a few years ago when one of our guests cornered me in the kitchen after the meal to tell me—with the sympathetic air of one saddened by the news he is forced to deliver—that the green bean casserole had arrived at the table lukewarm. And I can definitely say that thank-you notes are not the norm, at least among straight Californians of our generation.
Why is that, I wonder? Why are gay men such better dinner party guests? It can’t have anything to do with upbringing because most of these particular friends have hilarious stories about their graceless family origins. These kind of manners must be taught and enforced by the gay community, is all I can figure, maybe in the same way that good personal grooming is taught and enforced? I don’t know, I’ll bring it up with them next time I see them.
After our friends had gone we put Robin to bed and spent a little time together cuddling in front of the TV before we followed him there. I was filled with an intense happiness and sense of security and warmth that actually really surprised me, because it is exactly the sentiment that Christmas greeting cards hollowly evoke in their formulaic way: the peace and joy of the season. When I say that it surprised me I don’t mean that I am usually unhappy or that I expected the holiday to be bad: I can’t remember the last time I’ve had an unhappy winter holiday, and I can remember several very nice ones, very recently. But I guess I think that “peace and joy” is mostly something people say, not a special sort of feeling that really comes to you on Christmas (or in our case the solstice). In fact if I had to guess I’d probably say that the expectation of such a feeling causes more unhappiness than joy, because people get all stressed out trying to achieve the perfect Christmas and then they fight with their families and end up all angry and alienated. Right? I mean, I’m not making this up, there are all kinds of books and jokes and articles about de-stressing the holidays and insulating yourself from family drama and all the rest of it. So what I mean is that, at least since I’ve become an adult and the sheer mercenary excitement of getting presents has faded, a happy Christmas means the ordinary happiness of good food and relaxing with family. It doesn’t mean special happiness. And yet there I was, peaceful and joyous, basking in a unique kind of holiday glow. So it exists! Isn’t that interesting?
I wonder what has to be done to get that holiday high. I suspect you have to put some work into it, but not too much work: enough so that you are proud of the payoff, not so much that the stress overwhelms you. Having small children around has got to help. Also, apparently gay men are essential to holiday happiness. If you can’t get gay men where you live, people born before 1960 may have the same kind of good party manners and might suffice. Certainly I will be attempting to replicate these results!
My grandfather, Ned Fritz, died early this morning. He was 92 and he went peacefully in his sleep. In his blog he wrote regularly about becoming old and being prepared for death, but he also wrote about enjoying life even as he weakened. In his memory I want to quote something moving and profound that he wrote two years ago, an essay titled “Old Age Is Worth Living To.”
About five percent of Americans live to age 96 or longer. Many of those feel good. I have lived three months past age 90, and I usually feel good, although I no longer can be much help to the world, as I used to be.
At old age, most people spend time enjoying life. As my memory weakens, I no longer perform much, but I deeply enjoy life. My wife, Genie, and my three daughters help me a lot, with food, walks, talks, and gifts. I usually feel good. Many other people say and do nice things for me.
My wife still takes me to beautiful places, like wild areas, musical events, monthly and annual meetings. My wife also fills my outside bird feeders. So I can enjoy seeing many species, like red-bellied woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, tufted titmice, goldfinches, and even house sparrows. Nearby are many more species, including cardinals, mourning doves, white-winged doves, and white-throated sparrows.
We have over twenty kinds of wild trees, including Green ash, Gum bumelia, Eastern red cedar, Black cherry, Eastern Cottonwood, Box Elder, American Elm, Cedar Elm, Common Fig, Pyracantha, Sweet gum, Common Hackberry, American holly, Honey Locust, Mesquite, Southern Red Oak, Bur Oak, Live Oak, Osage Orange, Pecan, Mexican Plum, Texas redbud, Flame-leaf sumac, Common Sycamore, and Texas Hercules Club. Occasionally a red-tailed hawk from our deep back yard comes looking for a bird to eat, but I never see it catch one.
At old age, most people like me, cannot lead a battle to maintain human population and peace. Most old people can merely support younger officials who lead a big movement to stop over-population and war. The trouble is that few people in positions of power actually lead a powerful effort to end the growth of population or to prevent the beginning of another war. Therefore, we old people can mainly be nice to others and enjoy the remaining days or years of life.
Life began as cells 3 ½ billion years ago and gradually spread out from one species to another. There is no evidence of any species living after death. Therefore, each human should enjoy life, itself. Long before our Earth formed, our Universe spread out 14 billion years ago, long after material existed, which may have been forever. On that basis, I think human lives are a result of amazing development. We can enjoy life deeply into old age and on almost to death. No human should weaken true enjoyment by physically attacking another human. A human may argue with another human with the purpose of keeping both lives enjoyable.
When approaching death, a person should overcome huge pain by mental concentration or medicine and enjoy the remainder of life. This can be done by listening to music, relatives, friends, reading, and other actions. Life can be pleasant to the end, or about to the end. Enjoy yourself. Be nice to others.
This week in the box: bok choy, two bunches of kale (and we hadn’t even finished last week’s kale!), chard, leeks, fennel, four small beets, a small broccoflower, a whole bunch of little satsuma oranges, and four persimmons. Robin loves the satsumas and the persimmons, so those won’t be a problem. The rest of the meal planning is difficult this week, as I’m preparing for a big dinner on Sunday—in years that we’re not visiting family for Christmas, we have our holiday celebrations on the solstice. One nice effect of this is that it’s easy to get friends to come over and have dinner with us. So I’ll be cooking for six, and I need to get some of the meal prep done ahead of time: meaning that I want the dinners this week to be simple and quick.
Yesterday we had two bunches of kale cooked with calypso beans and bacon. (Robin and I had the leftovers today for lunch, and the flavors had markedly improved by sitting overnight.) I expect we’ll eat the bok choy tomorrow for lunch, and maybe the broccoflower, roasted. Tonight we’re having pork chops with the other bunch of kale, and tomorrow night I’m thinking a salad with sauteed fennel and roasted beets.
Saturday I am not cooking: I’ll have too much work getting ready for Sunday.
On Sunday we are eating: prime rib! yorkshire puddings! mashed potatoes! possibly a ceasar salad or some other nod to the concept of fresh green foods! plum pudding! cheese and spiced pecans!
On Monday we are eating: leftovers!
So I’ll have the leeks and the chard on Tuesday and I guess I’ll do something with that. I don’t like leaving the chard so long (it wilts) but I’m just not feeling inspired about it. Maybe on Tuesday it can go into some kind of a soup.
Among the clothes I pulled out from storage was a fleecy jumpsuit that Nanita sent us last year. At the time it seemed huge, ginormous; I couldn’t really imagine Robin ever filling out that vast expanse of fabric. But whaddyaknow, It fits great now—and just in time for the cold snap we’re having! Here’s a few pics of Robin at the playground:
I gave Robin a haircut the other day, although by that I actually mean to say that I snipped randomly at his hair for a while as Robin tossed his head and tried to grab the scissors. The results are predictably uneven, but nonetheless cute.
The doll he’s holding in the snapshot is a stuffed Wild Thing, from the Maurice Sendak book, which is really an atypical accessory these days: mostly he’s been carrying around the Elmo that his Pappy and Nonna sent. I forget who gave us the polo number, but I think it’s adorable. I recently rummaged around and pulled out a bunch of things folks sent that were too big at the time, and that I’d set aside for a later date: that date is now, and it’s awesome to have a whole new wardrobe ready right when he needs it.
Incidentally, isn’t it funny what kind of daring fashion choices only toddlers can get away? A stripy polo catsuit would not work on me, is all I’m saying.
This week’s box: chard, kale, bok choy, three leeks, three beets, a head of cabbage, a bag of potatoes, oranges and lemons. You can see how things start to get repetitive…
Tonight: pasta with easy tomato sauce
Friday: spinach, leek, and mushroom lasagna
Saturday: I’m out with friends all day, so dinner will be leftovers/delivery
Sunday: chicken roasted with the remaining potatoes
Monday: chicken soup (using carcass of Sunday’s bird)
Tuesday: orange pork stir-fry with brown rice and steamed bok choy