|It’s the kind of cold when you can hear the gas rushing through the gas meter and the dials spinning. Otherwise all is silent and motionless (including the car with a dead battery). Nothing smells. 10 degrees while walking for 30 seconds from the house to the garage is something different from 10 degrees for five minutes, or ten. How is it possible in such weather that when I return to the house from a few short chores I find the sliding door open? “Why is the door standing open?” I ask. My soon-to-be-nineteen-year-old son answers from the couch “Oh, I forgot.” It would be one thing if we kept the house at 20. Maybe then the draft of an open door at 10 would not be quite so perceptible. I’m tempted to ask “Did no one else notice?” but before I open my mouth to say it I realize that obviously one else did. This is the way a lot of my conversations with my kids go. I gain useless information and end up having a discussion only in my own head.
Today is trash day. The rolling container has been full since last week, when someone, performing his chore of returning it from the end of the driveway, did not bother to wait until after the trash truck had come. Christmas generated a lot of additional trash. When the trash container is full, and the dogs spread whatever did not fit inside across the yard, you realize the full trash-generating aspect of the season. Every ingredient in every dish from every meal comes with its own trash. Cans. Bottles. Boxes. Sacks. Then there are also the Styrofoam clamshells from the leftovers from Sumo, where we went Saturday night after The Darkest Hour, a movie about Winston Churchill deciding to resist the Germans rather than capitulate to them. I suppose that gives away the ending. Let me try again, The Darkest Hour, a movie about Winston Churchill deciding whether to negotiate peace with Hitler or to fight. Sumo is a Japanese place where the chef cooks at your table. So I suppose it was full-on WWII night on Saturday.
Of course presents create a lot of trash too. Boxes. Clear plastic shrink-to-fit-containers that require a pair of scissors and a hack saw to open. Hunks of packing foam. One good thing about giving people books is that the only trash they produce is the wrapping paper. Well, I suppose that it depends on the books. I got my two driving sons each a battery with cables for jump starting their cars (presents producing two cardboard boxes). The batteries also have air compressors built it. I got my youngest son a blowgun (packed in a clear plastic tube) that shoots steel-wire darts up to 100 feet. Obviously that is for outside use (or at least it becomes obvious within the first ten minutes or so). I suppose the blowgun also might provide the older boys with reasons to use the tire-pump feature on their jump-start batteries. They also all got games—board or card—and clothes. And new toothbrushes, which have those shrink-to-fit clear plastic packages that require something sharp to open. I got a pair of kitchen scissors packaged that way once. I thought about buying a utility knife in order to open them, but saw it was fastened to its cardboard by thick zip ties and thought about that old lady who swallowed a fly.
I did not swallow any flies. But I did swallow some soup made with lamb, apricots, cinnamon bark and squash. And some soup made with extra-sharp smoked cheddar and a rather large amount of ale. I suppose that both soups are acquired tastes. I’m more inclined to acquire the taste for the cheddar and ale personally.
I did finish a book. And gained some weight. And watched vaudeville acts on YouTube, something that struck me as ironic though I don’t quite know why.
At church there used to be pews for seating. In bow to modernization, flexibility, and comfort, they were replaced with well-padded chairs about ten years ago. Well, most of them were replaced. There were a few old people who demanded to have pews still, so there are three of the benches intermixed with the chairs. Other old people report that a similar issue arose years ago when they changed from hard seated pews to pews with built-in pads. “Church is not supposed to be a comfortable place.” "How can I hear the sermon if I’m sitting on a padded seat? I’ll fall asleep.” It turned out that those complainers of old were not as concerned with preserving their own discomfort as they were with preserving the discomfort of others. Once the pads were in, no one sat in the remaining hard seats.
This was not the way of the padded pews and chairs, however. The padded pews remain. Now used not by old people, but by very old people. And the church, perhaps five years ago, added yet another seating option—chairs circling round tables, set up at the sides and the back of the sanctuary. Chairs circling round tables set up at the sides and back of the sanctuary have many advantages. If you like to write, or color, having a surface on which to do so helps. They also permit those with squirming kids a place to let them squirm without distracting the very old people in the pews. Those who need to step out quietly can do so without stepping over a row of other people. And those who want to have a conversation before or after and yet be assured of a safe personal distance, can do so around the table.
The tables can also, apparent, be used for more nefarious purposes. Teenagers. Teenagers can, gasp, sit with their friends. This. Must. Stop. So Christmas eve morning signs appeared, taped to the tables. “Reserved for the elderly and the disabled.” Now, so far as I know, there are no people attending this church who are disabled in a way that sitting on a chair at a table rather than sitting on a chair without a table is a meaningful accommodation. And as to the elderly, well, they were none too happy and the implication of the signs that they were being pushed out of their few remaining pews and forced to sit where teenagers and parents with small children sit. “I can sit at a table perfectly well in my own kitchen!” one matron was heard to say. “I don’t need to come here for that experience.” The maker of the rule and taper of the signs was a parent of a teenager. Why he didn’t just tell his daughter he didn’t want her to sit at the table, I do not know. But I am thinking now that I should put a sign on outside of the sliding door. “Do not use. Door lets out the heat.”