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Entries in nostalgia (3)


Final voyage of the hippo car

Twelve years ago Jon won a composing internship in Los Angeles. It was a well earned honor and a very exciting opportunity, and because we were young and impetuous we threw caution to the wind and wrapped our fairly newly married and very newly house-owning lives around that moment. We arranged a long-term house-sitter (my brother), a hiatus from my job that would allow us to keep the health insurance, and even a job offer for Jon on his return. The one thing that we didn't know what to do with was our cadre of dogs. We had three, one of which was a paraplegic dalmatian with a wheel chair and some very special needs. So what do you do when you have a dog—three dogs—that you can't leave behind on your once-in-a-lifetime journey/exploration/vacation/internship? You trade in your sedan for a car that will accommodate the entire group and you all go together.

That car was a Pontiac Vibe, and all on our long journey, whenever the sun was low on the horizon, first early in the morning as we headed west, then late in the evening as we aimed home again, through mountains and plains, the brown of dry desserts and the verdure of lush valleys, its shadow stretched out in front of us on the open road as a fat, round hippo with adorable ears sticking out on each side. Our hippo car.

This all took place long before our blog, and the story of the two-month journey is a post all its own, but the story of that car, purchased with packing two months of necessities and three dogs in mind, turned into a twelve year saga. It trucked those dogs from Michigan to California, and later from Michigan to Washington D.C. Even later it was the car we brought our baby home from the hospital in, and the car that hauled all the dirt for our first garden, and boxes when we moved, and picnics when we hiked.

It's been a great car—no recalls and no major problems, just twelve years of oil changes, tire rotations, and all other regularly scheduled maintenance appointments. But all good things must come to an end, and, twelve years being a good run, when our hippo car started showing signs of wearing out, we decided it was time to take the money and run towards the down payment on a new car. So we drove our twelve-year-old hippo friend one last time . . . to the dealership where we traded it in for a new car.

I should end there, because this post is about saying goodbye to our hippo car, but when any door closes, another one opens, and there is a new car in our midst. When Jon told me four years ago that he wanted an orange Hyundai Veloster, I thought he was kidding. He was not.

We drove there in a hippo, we came home in a pumpkin.


Holiday thread

The leftovers have been stored (or eaten), the best china cleaned and put away, the family come and gone, photographs snapped to share. Our house Transformed over the Thanksgiving weekend from its fall harvest wear to its Christmas finery.

When I was a child, the holidays felt far apart. They were stand-alone oases in a wide, barren plane of ho-hum days. As an adult, those days slip by so fast that the holidays seem connected. Especially the fall holidays seem to meld Halloween into Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving into St. Nicholas Day into Christmas into New Years, and on into my birthday at the end of January. There is not a day in that stretch that our house is not decorated, lively, and festive, only the color of the embellishments changes.

Thanksgiving for us is a whole weekend affair. It's a holiday of family and food and laughter, a celebration of these things we value most greatly, and it starts with ordering pizza. What does pizza have to do with Thanksgiving, you might ask? It turns out that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Eve, if you will, is the biggest night for carry-out or delivery pizza all year, bigger even than the Super Bowl. We unwittingly participated in this American tradition a few years ago when I was too tired after baking and cleaning to make dinner, and therein lies the tradition's appeal. We have wittingly participated every since, and dragged the family along on many an occasion.

When we are home, our Thanksgiving morning is spent exchanging our Halloween harvest decorations for the bright reds and greens of Christmas while watching Detroit's Thanksgiving Day Parade. And, when we are home, dinner is still traditionally held by my parents, as when I was young it was held by their parents. My dad's turkey, done on the smoker, is moist and flavorful, and our table is always laden by all the favorites everyone has to offer: gravy, stuffing, squash, cranberry relish, cranberry sauce, beans, wine, and, later, pie, pie, pie.

On Friday this year we ate the curried and aromatic Lamb Genghis Kahn, and on Saturday we had our first ever Thanksgiving weekend cook-off, a battle of Carbonara chefs in our kitchen. But, although it sounds so delicious, the best part about the weekend wasn't the food so much as the company. We shopped together, we played games together, we went out to get our tree together, we cooked together.

And the good news is that we get to do it all again at Christmas, which, regardless of what my impatient young self used to think, is really just around the corner.


Legos from the past

While having dinner with my parents last night Calvin, with those sharp child eyes that can spot fun and mischief from miles away, caught sight of my old Lego castle which was down in the basement. We'd been cruising the shelves down there looking for games from my childhood when he happened to see the logo on the side of the yellow box. Before Christmas he wouldn't have even known what a Lego logo looked like (alliteration anyone?) but at this point the jig was up. Being more complex than his lighting truck it took him a bit longer to assemble, and being designed for an older age bracket than his train he needed a little more help, too. But not much. And now he's happily flying witches all over the kingdom and scaring unsuspecting knights with the trap door skeleton. I had almost forgotten those joys.