Sunday, December 28, 2008


i wonder if being shut up in a modest apartment made christmas better this year. passed in the suburbs, it is so easy on christmas to crawl into one's own space, in one's room, or on a sofa, or in front of a TV in the basement. but there in my parents' apartment, in an ugly unzoned area of baltimore, there were only two spaces: the kitchen and the living room.

so christmas was wonderful. dad and i took a walk before noon, past hundreds of small houses, and talked about politics and society. he said he did not know how society could ever heal the wounds and tears suffered by people in those poor neighborhoods. actually, these urban social disasters have been there since the 50s, when white middle classes emptied the cities for the suburbs and left them to rot. but one is insulated in the suburbs, away from the damage.

we opened presents, seated in a semicircle. sara and i got a rice cooker, which we had to carry on the greyhound bus yesterday.

then we put on "its a wonderful life," which sara had not seen before.

then we threw ourselves into cooking christmas dinner.

after stuffing myself i was exhausted, hit by a calorie bomb. i slept for an hour or two.

we sang christmas songs from the hymnal, with mom playing along on the piano. then we read the story from the bible.

around the kitchen table over more pie we talked about the old house on hickory lane, its curious details so obvious to kids: the venice canal scene on the formica shower enclosure, the black fridge in the basement, the musty smell there. and what was obvious to adults: the flooding problem. despite our investment in the old place, we left it behind so easily. even karen, who despised its discomforts (and its memories of an overcrowded youth), still dreams of it.

in short, rather than slipping into a bored malaise, we connected with each other. and with cranberry and rhubarb pie.

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