A Charlie Brown Christmas

Vince Guaraldi Trio Charlie Brown Christmas Album Cover

This right here is my favorite thing. I’ve probably listened to the whole album ten times since Thanksgiving. It would be great holiday jazz even if it didn’t make me think of the Christmas special.

There are so many good clips from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” but the one I love the most is this:

Kids, ask your parents about how when they were your age, this “special” would air once during the weeks leading up to Christmas, where “special” means something other than regularly scheduled programming, and “air” means that we had to check the TV listings in the newspaper (the what?) to find out which day and time it would be shown, and on which network, and we had to watch it at exactly that time because there was no DVR or streaming or on-demand or YouTube in the olden days of yore.

I tried making my boys watch this a few years ago. I was so excited to share it with them. They thought it was dumb. And maybe it doesn’t hold up all that well. I’m willing to admit that my hypernostalgic feelings compromise my ability to view it objectively. But you can’t take this away from me.

When I was young, the Peanuts gang was as much a part of our family as the Brady Bunch was. We read the daily comics, we ordered the Peanuts cartoon books from the Scholastic Book Club, and we eagerly awaited the airing of the holiday cartoon specials. They were a cultural phenomenon almost without equal.

Anyway: If you haven’t listened to the album yet, there’s no need to drop the needle on vinyl – you can stream it! Here’s a link to it on Amazon Prime Music – free to listen if you have Prime. It’s also on Spotify, but I can’t figure out how to put a link to it here. Which could be related to my hypernostalgic feeling about some crudely-drawn cartoon from the 1970s.

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!


A remarkable evening

THERE SHOULD BE NO REASON for me to want to capture in writing just another Monday evening at home. I should not feel compelled to write about sitting on the sofa, fire in the fireplace, sports on the TV. Maybe it's like this every night in your house, but last night was different here.

For starters, all five of us were in the room together. Even Ross the Boss, who, at age 14, would rather convene with friends via xBox Live than watch sports with his family, joined us. Even Seth, now 16, who spends many evenings in his room, his thumping subwoofer pounding out the soundtrack to… whatever it is he does in there.

Peezer, of course, is always around. At 7, he is still of the age where he demands our attention, craves our approval. He is happiest when we are interacting with him: Tossing a ball, playing a game, or simply watching whatever it is he does when he says "Mommy! Mommy! Watch this, Mommy!" And I watch and say, "Wow, Peez!" or whatever half-hearted response, and then feel half-guilty about it, knowing that in a few years he mostly won't care what I think.

The teenagers are long since past that stage. I believe they still want the attention and approval, but they'd rather die than show it or – gasp! – say it.

But last night, Seth asked for another foot rub. It all started on Sunday, when he and I had been on the sofa watching football. (We watch a lot of sports in our house, especially during the fall.) His legs were stretched out and he put his feet on my lap. I started to massage them. Without asking. Something new. He's reluctant to hug me, let alone have me touch him for an extended period of time. But he luuuuuuuved the foot massage. The King of Sarcasm turned into a puppy dog. He didn't want me to stop.

His brothers saw how good this made Seth feel and wanted in on the action. Peezer was next. Predictably, he couldn't get beyond the tickle factor. So his was short.

Then, Ross. He LOVED it! So I rubbed and rubbed some more. Peezer wanted another go at it. I said, "No, Ross hasn't let me touch him for this long in many years; I'm not done yet." Ross just smiled.

And, we talked. I made observations about their feet. Seth, poor kid, has feet like mine: Wide and calloused. There are probably bunions in his future. (Sorry, Seth.) Ross's are narrow and straight, like my sister's. My mom used to take her to a special shoe store to get shoes that fit what the shoe guy called her "aristocratic feet." I think Peezer's are more like Seth's than like Ross's.

We also talked about Homecoming, which is coming up in a couple of weeks. This is the first year Seth has wanted to go, and it's Ross's first year in high school. Seth is going with a big co-ed group of friends and has nothing dressy he could wear, so we were trying to plan a shopping trip. Ross put himself out there last week and asked some girl with a thoughtful, clever Big Ask. She said yes at the moment, but found him at the end of the day and reneged privately. "Was she at least nice about it?" I asked, fighting every urge to unleash my protective Mama Bear. "Yeah, she was," Ross said then. Last night, he says he was only a little bit disappointed, and hasn't decided yet whether he'll go to the dance or not. If he goes, he, too, needs new clothes. But I told him he may not sequester himself in the basement and play xBox that whole evening.

Maybe in your house, this is just another weekday night, but in mine, it was different. I've been joking lately that the teenagers are trying to kill me with their antics. They can be so moody and sarcastic. Selfish. And just downright mean to their little brother. I assure them daily that I don't live to make their lives miserable; they seem unconvinced.

But last night, I saw the other side of what sometimes feels like a giant parenting abyss. Maybe we are connecting with them; we just haven't been witnessing the fruit of our efforts. Last night, they set aside the snark and sarcasm. The big boys went easy on their little brother. They let me touch them. And they opened up and we talked.

And this? This is how I picture it. This is how I want it.

It was just so, so nice.

This post isn't for you, friends – it's for me. I'm coming back to read this one the next time I have to say no. The next time a teenager attempts to twist my words and provokes my ire during what should be a "normal" conversation. The next time one rolls his eyes at me to convey impatience and disgust. The next time one forgets to call or fails a test in school or demands, "Where are all the towels??" or leaves yet another mess of empty soda cans and potato chip bags on the family room table.

Last night seems unremarkable on its surface, but to me, it was worth remembering.



THINGS ARE PROCEEDING APACE here at Casa de Soup. Yesterday, the insurance adjuster came to see things. It sounds like he's willing to coordinate with the estimates provided by the restoration / repair company. Meanwhile, I have to prepare a list of contents we lost and the replacement value of each. So, I've been Googling bikes and lawn mowers and string trimmers and basketball backboards and Little Tykes sliding board and hammocks and all kinds of stuff I'd forgotten we had stored in our shed.

Today's circus includes the "duct suckers" (air duct cleaners, who just arrived), and carpet cleaners, scheduled to be here soon. Meanwhile, I have a guy from DirecTV outside who seems to be very busy reinstalling our satellite dish. Things didn't start out so well this morning between me and Parfait (that's his first name and I'm not even making this up):

HIM: I can't bury your cable.

ME: Of course you can. The last guy did it.

HIM: But I will have to charge you.

ME: Yes, that's fine, whatever it takes.

HIM: But the ground is probably frozen.

ME: Well, we can try it first and see, can't we?

HIM: I don't have a shovel.

ME: You can use ours!

HIM: OK, I'll have to charge you $100. How do you want to pay me?

ME: Can I write you a check?

HIM: I would prefer cash.


HIM: I'll give you a receipt.

ME: I don't have cash on me.

HIM: Well, when you take your son to school [which he knew was about to happen], you can stop and get some cash.

ME: Um, no, I have a lot of stuff going on today, due to the fact that my house almost burned to the ground, and I don't have time to stop. It will be easier for me to write you a check. Can you cash a check?

HIM: Oh. It's okay.

Every time I call them, DirecTV thanks me for being a loyal customer since 2004. Let me assure you, it isn't because of their stellar installation contractors, because the last time we had a guy come out we had much the same go-round. No, we have them mostly because they are the lesser of two evils, because Comcast/XFinity is operated by Satan himself. We can't get Verizon Fios where we live, otherwise we'd switch in a heartbeat.

So I have Parfait digging in the back yard and Ozzie sucking gunk out of my ducts, and who knocks on my front door but two Jehovah's Witnesses, offering me copies of the Watchtower! Fortunately they saw the work trucks in the driveway and didn't ask for time to talk. I thanked them for the copies and away they went.

Fortunately, Calgon is going to take me away from the madness, albeit briefly. In 25 hours I will board a plane, destination Ft. Myers, Florida –


where the forecast includes sunshine, temperatures in the '80s, plenty of wine, a float on a boat, and probably no one under the age of 70. I'm going – solo! – to visit my mom and her husband at their new home.

For the record, this little jaunt was planned before my home almost burned down, but I need it a hundred times more now than I did when I booked it earlier this month.  Big thanks to Curt for making it possible for me to clear my head of smoke and soot and replacement value and contractors and snow and all the what-ifs circulating in my brain.

Now if you'll excuse me, it looks like Parfait is done and our TV is working again. Hallelujah! He has asked me to make the check payable to a company name, not him personally, so nice try on the "pay me in cash", friend, but let's keep this one above-board.