Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How to Know You're in the Mall at Christmastime

Christmas is here. You can tell it by going to the mall. You know that feeling of being so heavy, so tired, so thirsty, and so hot you just might die? Its a sure indication that you have accidentally wandered (with your coat on) into a mall at Christmas time. In that land, only the ridiculous is allowed. The FIRST of all ridiculous things at the particular mall we got sucked into tonight, is that Dillards is in two locations. After braving the mad crowd and making it into the store (many, many hot miles away from the parking place, mind you), you are curtly told that the section you want is in the women's store, which is the building on the opposite end of the mall. Yes, whomever thought that arrangement up must have been on his fifth month of non-stop Christmas shopping, and had already lost his logic.

Another indication you're in the mall at Christmas, is when the salespeople recommend at least four times (I am not exaggerating) that you head to the store next door instead of continuing to search in theirs. This is exactly what the jewelry-store guy did to us, even regaling us with a description of the pendant he bought for his girlfriend next door at Zales, where they have much cheaper quality stuff (I'm quoting, not de-endorsing). Since she was so young, he said, she didn't know the difference between nice diamonds and bad diamonds. We really should go over there (for the fifth time) as they may not yet be all sold out of said pendant. (We did go over there, and I did find what I believe was the pendant in question. I cannot even begin to describe the tackiness. Big cross of diamonds, with a gold heart twined around it, and in the center a bright pink fake sapphire. Wow. Wait, hold on, I may be able to find a picture online...
It was much worse in person, I assure you. Huge. And the stone was pink. What could the man's girlfriend have done, be she 25 or not, to deserve to be treated to such?

Anyway, having been many times thwarted we headed toward the used-games store (I can say all this because the gift recipient never reads my blog, I'm pretty sure). On the way we passed a booth. One of the many. Do you know, these mall booths all pretty much strike me as being on about the "above-board" level as, say, a pawnshop? So this particular one was advertising 30-minute teeth whitening. Yep, sit down, please! While I was ogling the ink-jet printed sign advertising the sale price of $75, Elizabeth claims she was observing many depressed people waiting there, willing to plunk down their money to sit in the fake leather chair and try to pull their legs in far enough from the aisle that the hordes did not all trip over them as they got their teeth very publicly and very un-dentist-involvedly, whitened. I can't blame them too much. It's just the sort of thing a crazed, thirsty, materialism-oppressed person might do at 9 pm after walking the mall all evening being attacked by demons of lust and self-hatred and inferiority. And that's just in front of the Victoria's Secret store. Just imagine when they walked past the rest! After all that, it's no wonder they thought $75 was a good deal. My sister asked, "WHO is going to plop down in the middle of the mall, bare their teeth, and get a bleach job?" And I countered, "WHO is going to trust the $6 an hour bleachers?" Oh, it makes me want to run back there and rescue them, now that I've gotten a good 5 glasses of water in me and have sat still for a while!

We did make it to the target spot, where we found a rack of used games and a frail, pale, underdeveloped boy to assist us. Yes, frail. It's just the best word. You could tell by his head that his body should have already grown much bigger than it had. He needs to stop gaming, poor boy! (He was probably much older than he looked, too, for he was barely the size of a 10-year-old.) I didn't have the words to help him, though, and so we continued on, having realized we were poorly equipped to choose the right game from that mess.

Lest you think it was an entirely unsuccessful trip, let me tell you what good has come out of it. A determination (mostly on Lizzie's behalf) to never go into another mall again. And on my part, a determination to always leave hat, gloves, scarf and coat in the car if I do! I can deal with heat, and I can exercise authority over demons. But heat and demons together makes me want to just sit down and cry. Is this Christmas?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm Melting

Have you ever been in an icestorm's meltdown? This is what the world looked like this morning:

Behind my house is forest. What had been see-through, scraggly trees became a hoary, opaque whitishness. It reminded me of flying through clouds. Now, the sun has come out. A melting ice storm is like hail mixed with rain, all under a sunny blue sky. The wind comes up and small pieces of ice litter the air, constantly falling in tiny,medium, and large chunks, dripping sweet, clinky splots of water onto the puddled ground. The roof sounds like the day the acorns fell, and the baby hasn't taken her nap. How could you, when outside is a wonderland of nature's best sequins floating through the air and lining the trees and roofs, and music like you've never heard the best orchestra play (or, in Glorie's case, the best ipod selection)?

We did have some fun, instead of sleeping, playing around with some of the Christmas decorations. We found them in the windowsill. I'll have to try to rearrange it all before Lizzie comes home, but it was worth it!

This was indescribable fun. She kept putting it on her head and over her shoulders, as she just learned to do with hats. How did she know white tulle is so appropriately placed there? Dressing for weddings must be an instinct of the very youngest of girls.

Do you know how delightful it is to push chairs around the living room? Glorie does.

It's something we need to learn, this taking joy in simple movements and new noises. I feel I'm melting like the ice, though it takes me longer and is often not so beautiful. What was treacherous is now just moist. What was hard is now pliable. What was fear-inducing is being banished by the Son.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Impending Ice

Kansas City is bracing for tons of ice to fall from the sky, starting at about 5 pm today. Being a transplant from Chicago, I have to say I have never experienced anything quite like these KC ice storms. When every inch of pavement, asphalt, yard, house, tree, and power line has a glass-like sheet of fresh ice covering it, stepping anywhere near your car is like taking your life in your hands. The experienced here have jugs of water, generators, stores of food, and a way devised to keep themselves warm if all the power goes out. The inexperienced have treadless shoes, weak car batteries, and a gleeful attitude.

I hear tell of a storm a few years ago that took out power for two weeks. Friends were crowded into houses that had working fireplaces and no one took showers. Doesn't sound too fun. Although, if the heat doesn't go out, and one is safe at home with no need to leave it for a few days, it could get kind of cozy and fun. I'm from Chicago, where mayors are elected and/or deposed based on how swiftly the city salt trucks clear the streets after a snow storm. This hilly Missouri is an odd land indeed, where one can count on never seeing a salt truck on a side street. Days after the main thoroughfares are drivable, neighborhoods like mine are still snow- and ice-locked. Sure, Red Bridge and Grandview roads are ok, but getting the five blocks to them could kill you!

Last year Kim and I almost died (that could be an overstatement) driving to the airport during one of these storms. My sister and her children were arriving after a harrowing overnight delay in a strange airport, and I happily set out to get them, having yet had no experience with storms such as these. It started raining ice when I got in my car. Three blocks from home I had to pull over to scrape off the layer that had coated my windshield. It had only taken about 30 seconds to completely blind my car. So, I get Kim and we head toward the highway, where, to our dismay, the white truck that had preceded us up the on-ramp tried to merge into the lanes, spun out of control, and did several 360's across the four lanes.

Everything went in slow motion for me. I remember watching the man's face. He looked horrified and helpless and...waiting for the worst. His eyes were on us as he spun, and during the seconds his truck was facing us (and all the oncoming traffic) it seemed to me that he was sure he was going to kill us and was quite sorry and grieved about it. I didn't hit the brakes, because I knew my car would do the same thing his was. And I tried to let my instincts gauge both my speed forward and the speed/trajectory of his spin sideway, so that I knew whether to try to avoid him by moving cautiously into the left lane or the right lane (hoping, of course, that I also didn't spin out when I tried to change lanes). That sounds great, but is kind of hard to do when both vehicles are going about 40 miles an hour and there're only two car lengths between them. As I said, time slowed down for those two car lengths. Kim says I gripped the wheel and said slowly: "Kim, whaaat shouuuuuld I do?" I remember saying that. I also remember obeying the little physics calculations in my head and choosing to move to the right hand lane. I had to do it SLOWLY, or we'd spin out too. It worked. We missed him by a few feet, just in the nick of time. Angels orchestrated that, I'm pretty sure.

So, we lived. I felt like I'd left a fellow human behind for the wolves, though, for it was impossible to stop or help the man, who ended his spin in the middle of 4 lanes, facing the oncoming cars. I pray he lived too.

That is what Kansas City is like in an ice storm. Like I said, get within a few feet of your car, and you've taken your life into your hands. Kim is currently on a grocery run, stocking up on the food three households need to get them through a possible ice-in. Normal food for her and Lizzie, milk for me. How could I face houseboundness sans tea with milk? That would be impossible!

Last night at 2:30 AM, driving to Lizzie's in my pajamas, glasses, and coat (they were going to the ER, and I was coming to watch Glorie-baby), I almost hit a deer. Once again, either quick-thinking or sluggishness saved the day, for I didn't slam on the brakes and both the deer and I lived. Odd, these deer. Even odder, these intermittent ice-storms.

If the ice doesn't knock down the power lines, you might hear more from me in the next few days. Writing novels and blogging seem like natural sorts of things to do when iced into a house. Do you have any better ideas?