At work we had our annual White Trash Christmas lunch at a nearby casino, where I won $28.50 playing blackjack. It must sound like my work is all about these freaky parties with lutefisk and gambling, but there's lots of unmentionable boring parts in between. The origin of WTX: one year, maybe a decade ago, G. & I were doing field work the day before Christmas and saw a man exiting a casino by himself. It seemed really sad, and we imagined this whole story behind it that we re-enact each year, much like a live nativity only completely different.
The rules are that you have to eat meat, and you have to gamble at least a dollar. So, while buying one pull tab satisfies the rule, there’s something that cracks me up about playing cards in a casino, which I’ve only done twice now. People act all Humphrey Bogart-y, using subtle hand motions for this and that, and being super serious. But when you look around, you’re just in Tukwila in a small fakey casino designed to look like NYC in the dark.
I froze for a moment because I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I lie to her and say, “yup, this is it, all done,” or should I tell the truth, that I was just getting started? I must have looked deer in the headlights-y or something, because she just said, “Yeah, me neither. See, I don’t have any money til Wednesday, but I work from 10 – 6 that day, and the bank won’t even be open, and I’ve gotta’ get something for the potluck. I had to get a payday loan to pay the rent, and I’m going to have to set aside enough for bus fare…”
I was drawn in, because she just started talking to me as if I already knew about the potluck, and the bus, and so on. You know how people do that? They don't introduce the topic, like, "I've been invited to a potluck...", but rather they just mention it as if you already know what they're talking about?
All of her problems seemed so big, but I thought we could at least figure out what she should bring to the potluck. She said she was assigned to bring a main dish, but she wouldn’t have time to make anything. There were all these logistical issues about when the potluck is, and the bus, and the carrying something hot, and the money, and it all seemed overwhelming. I suggested she could maybe buy a brownie mix at the drug store and make that, which she thought was a super idea except for that she’d been assigned to bring a main dish.
I was really annoyed at these people hosting the potluck, I don’t even know who they are, but fer chrissakes, it’s a potluck, you don’t freakin’ assign things. You just say bring something if you’re able. And certainly these people, whoever they are, must surely know that her life is complicated.
At any rate, that whole brainstorming session with her took maybe 20 minutes, and by the time I left I think we were on good enough terms to be FB friends or something. It left me a little exhausted; all of her problems had started swirling in my brain like a miniature tornado. I considered suggesting that she take $5 and go to the casino, never take a card on 16 or above, or 14 if the dealer is showing a 5, but I didn't.
It was still going okay, though, because I had been so ultra-speedy in the store up to that point that I decided to walk over to the knitting store. For an idea. About Christmas. In 3 days.
The woman in the store asked if she could help, and she looked literally almost stricken when I told her I was thinking of making a few things for Christmas gifts. She did that thing of backing away, maintaining eye-contact all the while, like people are supposed to do with dangerous animals. I know! But her look did cause me to move away from the un-spun wool; it probably was a bad idea to spin yarn and then make the item. So I bought things for two little projects, one of which needs to be mailed. Across the country.
I got home to find that most of the Christmas cookies I had made to give away to neighbors and friends had been consumed by the teenage boys. The two who were still present were pretty sure it had been the third, not-present boy who had done most of the eating. I decided to just laugh about it because I so do not want to be some bitter cookie hoarder. But I will confess here that it took conscious effort on my part, because I spent ALL FREAKIN’ DAY on Saturday making 6 kinds of cookies, to give away to Other People, but the day had been rather fun because M. & E. were helping and making me laugh and so on.
That’s where I’m at. I’m pretty sure I used to be not so ADD-ish. I still need a few more ideas and a bunch more time, but tonight I’m taking a lovely group of teenagers to Seattle to feed homeless people and see Christmas ships and such. For some reason, every time I see the Christmas ships, I get all choked up. I know. It is so ridiculous, because I’m not really that into Christmas, and the ships aren’t that pretty, and so on. But the word “ship” gets me. Like, here’s this ship full of good cheer going out on some important sweet mission of Christmas. Ship is such an solid word. But the other part is all the little boats that dress up in lights and follow it around, like, “Hey Christmas ship, we’ve got you covered, if anything happens.” It is very sweet.
Alas, my main obsession right now is this blog, for some sorry reason, because I should be knitting, and baking cookies, and coming up with a list so that my loved ones feel as loved as they are.