December 3, 2006
Lynn called about two. I had just popped the pie in the oven and Ron had set up the tree and strung the lights and we’d had our annual disagreement about the need for new lights and more lights. (I want new and more. Ron says there are plenty of lights and more will just get tangled, yadda, yadda. He prevailed, again.)
Harry (the new boyfriend) was sick, she said, and they both had big complicated projects and papers to finish in the next few days. (Their semester ends this week and finals begin.) She could come alone, but Harry really wants to come, and would it be possible to do this next week, Saturday or Sunday or even Friday night. That would mean the tree standing undecorated for a week and the creche not in place, my first Sunday in Advent traditions (rigatoni with Ron’s homemade sauce, my Italian bread, and the ceremonial watching of Dragnet) bumping up against my second Sunday in Advent traditions (mulligatawny soup and naan, an Indian bread, and the ceremonial watching of the California Raisins Christmas special).
Of course, I said sweetly.
And I meant it.
I’m really getting good at rolling with the changes and performing mid-course corrections. Ron’s sauce keeps two weeks, I can bake more bread and another pie, and the empty tree will kind of symbolize the somewhat chaotic goofiness that marks the way I have always done things.
With five hours freed up I decided to get moving on some other holiday tasks. I packed up some sauce and a loaf of bread along with a package of linguine and a small shaker of Parmesan cheese, enclosed a note and a party invitation, and took it to my new neighbors. They moved in last May. I have met them but only briefly when we had a discussion of the very nice landscaping changes they were making. They’re a couple in their late twenties, and they’re expecting their first child.
No one was home over there, so I put the package on the back steps. I called and left a message that it was out there and should be brought in from the cold. (I didn’t say that I had the thought that they might be vegetarian or people who avoid pork, either of which would render the sauce unsuitable for them.)
Then I reminded myself that printing the invitation, the address labels, the return labels, and the sticker that says “INVITATION!!” (that I started to include the year several people said they didn’t know they’d been invited to something because they never open Christmas mail till Christmas Eve, or some such excuse), plus stuffing, sealing, and stamping the whole thing TAKES FOUR HOURS. (The capital letters are in the notes I keep from year to year.)
I’d printed about ten invitations this morning, and then left for church. This evening I got down to business with the rest of the project. I printed out all the labels and started on the invitation.
I have a laser printer that makes the paper very hot, curling the edges and crinkling the pages a little. Sometimes the pages don’t feed evenly, and when you’re working with decorated paper that costs about six cents a sheet you don’t want to waste any. I’ve learned to do a job like this a little at a time, letting each batch of the front page cool before I turn it around for the text on the back.
Things were going well. I had 25 pieces done. The feed was going smoothly, the crinkling was minimal. I put the remaining 75 sheets in the tray and went to look up a friend’s phone number to invite her to a harp concert.
By the time I’d found the phone number and returned to my study the first side of the invitation was done. I turned the stack around and started the second side while I made my phone call. I got a machine, and while I was leaving the message one of the sheets coming out of the printer slid over the top of the previous sheets, starting a small cascade of finished sheets down over the screen of my computer and onto the keyboard.
That’s when I noticed the white streaks. Or, rather, the gray streaks of broken letters against the white paper.
Along about Invitation #50 my printer cartridge began to die, and by the end of the job it was leaving nothing but little gray tracks here and there.
This is either some divine or demonic power Ron (who hates this party that I love to give, and all parties, actually) has engaged to discourage me, or some weird karma that is getting me for making fun of the claim of a friend from church who said her printer suddenly started applying color to the evangelism piece she was printing. (Her: It was supposed to be in black and white but while it was printing, there was purple and gold! Me: Sounds like you need a new printer cartridge. Her: NO! The purple and gold were in the right places. Me: It’s a Christmas miracle!!)
I’d expected to get a lot done today, and I set tomorrow as a Gallivanting Day. (Tuesday is Lasagna Day.) The gallivanting will have to start a little early, so I can get a new cartridge and more paper.
In Holidailies news: The piece I wrote yesterday about ornaments was judged a “Best of Holidailies.” Recognition of my writing talent has always been one goal of my online journal, and I covet a nod from the Holidailies panel of “distinguished readers.” I feel honored that this year I made it onto the list so early in the season, and I thank the distinguished readers for their selection.