How I Spent My Holiday–and Teaching–Break

by Memoir Mentor on January 5, 2008

It has been about five weeks since my fall classes ended. During the break, I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for my family, which included my mother, my cousins, a good friend, and all of my children and grandchildren, except for my musician son who lives in Chicago. I branched into new territory this year and brined my turkey, with good results. I will do it again next year. We played a fun game as we sat around the table after dinner, letting our food settle in. Prior to the holiday I had asked everyone to email me short answers to the following questions: What was your most embarrassing experience? If you could trade places with anyone famous, who would it be, and why? When you get to the “Pearly Gates,” what question would you like to ask God? Though some of my children grumbled beforehand about having to participate in what they call a “Mom Game,” everyone participated and seemed to enjoy hearing what others had written. We heard lots of funny—and painful—stories about wetting pants, falling down, accidentally pulling security alarms, and other embarrssing faux pas.

On December 15 Morrie and I hosted our annual Christmas party for all my writing students. This year we had over 80 in attendance, which made it a challenge to find places for everyone sit down for dinner. As always, my students brought an abundance of delicious food and we all heaped our plates high in an hearty (and probably foolhardy) effort to sample everything. It was fun to have former students Gene Hensley, Tom Murphy, Andy Washington, Dori Miller, Ellie Rosenbaum, and Ruth McQuerry join us. After dinner we squeezed everyone into the living room and adjoining dining room for singing of Christmas carols (led by Andy Washington and accompanied by Morrie), and a few games. Chaos ensued when we divided into teams to create a Christmas limerick. I fed them the first line. Teammates huddled together and created a second line, then passed their paper on to another team to add a third line, and so forth, until all five lines had been completed. Morrie gathered all the limericks, picked the 10 he thought worked best, then submitted them to the crowd for judging. More chaos ensued. When the dust settled, we had a winning team. The victors magnanimously attributed their triumph to teammate Taoward Lee, guest of my student Bonnie Copeland.

Our Christmas day was quieter than usual. Two of my sons spent the holiday elsewhere this year. Our son David and his wife, Melanie, fulfilled a cherished dream to spend Christmas in Paris. So they flew off for some fun-filled days strolling through the “City of Light,” eating in sidewalk bistros, and then speeding through the Chunnel to take in some museums and theatre in London. Our son Matt proclaimed he also wanted to do something different this year, so he packed off his wife and our grandkids to snowy Park City, Utah. What sounded like a good idea to him, bummed us out considerably. He took our grandkids, after all. We were fortunate to have Tyson fly in from Chicago, however, and we ended up having a warm, festive day with Mom and our daughter, Ashley. Nevertheless, the day after Christmas, we packed up the car and headed for Park City and our grandkids. We were informed upon arrival that our six-year-old grandson, Quade, had celebrated Christmas Eve by stripping down and diving into a snow bank. His dad got it all on video to embarrass him when he becomes a teenager. (The photo above captures Quade busy with another pursuit: stealing icicles!) After several days of the busy, noisy family fun of eating together, playing games, sledding, watching movies, and making art projects, everyone departed for their respective homes, leaving a quiet house to Morrie and me and our dog, Emma. We brought our laptops with us and hope to spend a week in earnest creative pursuit. I packed everything I need to make some good progress on my Parrett Family History project. We’ll see… The blog that follows this one is meant for me as much as anyone!

One more thing…. I read a good book last week, Born Standing Up, the memoir of comedian Steve Martin. It’s a quick read and an interesting read, for me at least, because it chronicles his beginnings as an entertainer in a place and era that is my own, Orange County, California, in the fifties and sixties. He describes places as I remember them—Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, small folk music venues—as they were then, not now. The book reminded me of places and incidents I haven’t thought about in years. I also admired the memoir for its honesty. Because Martin is frank about mistakes he made and people he knew, the book felt real and true. You may find the book enjoyable if you admire Steve Martin or are interested in the development of comedy and television during that time period. He captures it well.
–Memoir Mentor

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