Happy Sweetest Day!

Happy Sweetest Day!

Wait, you have never heard of Sweetest Day?  That’s okay, no one else really has either.  It’s a Hallmark Holiday, although Hallmark didn’t invent it.

Here’s the back story: In the early 1900s, a bunch of confectioners got together and thought it would boost sales if they introduced a new holiday, which they termed “Sweetest Day.”  The original premise was to give sweets to someone who was a little down and out– an orphan, an elderly person, or someone convalescing– to boost morale.  A great idea that never took off and never went farther than the Cleveland area, from what I have come to understand.

When I started dating Tom in 1996, I thought everyone celebrated Sweetest Day.  My father would go to the Malley’s store on Brookpark and wait for hours to buy my mother chocolate covered strawberries.  Of course, he would stop at the florist as well.  To me, Sweetest Day was the second half of Valentine’s Day, and to share something special with the one you loved seemed like a wonderful sentiment.

Tom was in Wisconsin on our first Sweetest Day.  I baked homemade chocolate chip cookies and mailed them to his hotel.  When he received them, he called me.  “Umm, thanks for the cookies, but I don’t know what Sweetest Day is,” he said to me.

What?  How is that possible?  Did he live under a rock?

“It’s the third Saturday in October,” I said.  “Everyone celebrates.”

“Sugar (He likes to call me Sugar when he is being condescending), no one I am working with knows what it is either.  But thank you.”

I was a tiny bit miffed, until I talked to a few other people who did not grow up in the area, and I realized that unless you are from Cleveland, you don’t really celebrate this holiday.  Huh.  I was flabbergasted.  How could such a lovely holiday be a local phenomena?

Fast forward seventeen years, and I still like Sweetest Day.  Since that first holiday, Tom has never missed.  Each year, I have gotten flowers or candies or some little treat because I am his Sweetie.

006This year, however, Tom is in Green Bay.  He took a little road trip with “the guys” for a Browns game.  Yes, it will be exactly what you are thinking– a whole heck of a lot of drunken middle-aged men pretending they are twenty-somethings.  Before he left yesterday morning, he ran to the grocery store to pick up supplies.  He got snacks, beer, and a special treat of donuts for our girls.  For me?  Nothing!  He forgot.  And even though I received two carnations from a Secret Admirer at school that were strategically left in a vase on the kitchen counter, he didn’t think about what he was missing– so excited about his weekend, he forgot about me.

“You forgot,” I said.

“Seriously?” he said.  “I promise I will make it up to you next week.”  He left, and I felt a little sad.  I secretly hoped he was running back to the grocery store to buy me an overpriced bouquet.  Nope.  When he left the house, he left for good.

In the scheme of things, I knew it didn’t matter.  We have been together for seventeen wonderful years, and Tom surprises me with flowers every-so-often, and I know the random flowers “just because” mean more than the made-up-Cleveland-only-holiday flowers do.

But, I cannot say that I wasn’t a little bit giddy when the delivery truck pulled into our driveway late yesterday afternoon and delivered this beautiful bouquet.

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Day 261: Tradition, As I Understand It

One of my favorite stories to teach is Alice Walker’s Everyday Use.  If you don’t know it, it’s a story about a poor African-American family in the 1960s.  The one daughter, Dee, wants nothing more than to escape what she feels are the chains of her family’s poverty.  She wants to go to college and make something of herself.  However, while in college, she learns of her African roots, and suddenly, the butter churn carved by her uncle and the quilts that her mother makes mean something to her.  She wants to hang them on the wall and show off her African “heritage.”  Ultimately, the mother will not allow her to have either because the mother realizes she does not understand what heritage is: she doesn’t see that these items represent family and tradition.

Family.  Family can be a tough nut that is uncrackable.  Family can put up walls that cannot be knocked down.  I joked around a few days ago about the money crunch associated with the holidays, and I suggested that pissing everyone off would be a nice way of saving money.  Ironically, I guess I have done just that!  If you ask my extended family, I single-handedly caused the annihilation of an almost fifty year family tradition.

To explain: I inboxed some of my cousins and suggested a different type of Christmas exchange.  Some of our family members are having a difficult time financially, so I suggested a “pick a name” exchange instead of every person buying for every child.  Our family is large, and our children get a disproportionate amount of gifts from their relatives.  Watching the children ravenously tear into gift after gift after gift is unnerving.  By the end, no one knows who got what from whom.  I have come home many Christmas Eve’s with more gifts than the children get from Santa.  I wanted to do a pick a name exchange.  What I really wanted is to do an adopt-a-family and buy for a family way less fortunate than us, but I did not think that would fly, so I didn’t even suggest it.

What came of it all?  A week-long discussion that ended up with a mailed letter canceling the whole event.  Done.  Caput. Canceled.  Just like that.  With the tap of a keyboard and the seal of an envelope, the date has been erased from the calendar.

I struggle to wrap my head around how different we view this time-honored tradition.  To me, I thought Christmas meant celebrating our Christian heritage with our family.  I thought Christmas was about the get together, and the celebration of the extended family.  Even as a child, getting together seemed like what was important, not the amount of gifts under the tree.

Everyone views life differently and attaches meaning to events differently.  I will always have fond memories of 41 years with extended family.  This year, Christmas will be different, and I do believe, change is good.

Day 255: Top Five Ways To Make It To Christmas

I’ll be the first to admit, I am not a budgeter.  I do not exactly live paycheck to paycheck, but I am not exactly sitting on a nest egg, either.  Every time I think I am about to get ahead, really start putting some money away, something major needs repair or replaced, and I am dipping into savings: the garage roof leaks, the water heater goes, the lease on my car is up.  The perfect storm is not a category 5 hurricane.  The perfect storm is a cataclysmic break down of reality, when my bank account flutters, and I am suddenly experiencing a clusterfuck of emotion.

Christmas is 99 days away, and to some people, this may seem like an eternity.  However, it is looming.   It’s out there; it’s really out there.  Each day that passes, the bells jingle louder, the sleigh picks up speed, and the turtle doves get restless.   Those eight maids a milking, they don’t care about the band tuition and the instrument rental.  Those 11 pipers piping, they don’t care about the breaks that need replaced on the car.  Christmas and all his minions ignore my screeching objections; all they care about is holiday cheer.

Hence, I have come up with five sure-fire ways to alleviate stress and get to the Christmas season without having a coronary or a stroke.

Five Ways To Make It To Christmas

1. Drink.  In the past, I have found that drinking makes whatever is upsetting to me seem less upsetting.  At times, it even offers a mind erasing quality, and thus, actually makes me forget what I was thinking about at all.  Tossing back a few shots of Sambuca, bellying up to the bar for a martini might just make me forget about worrying at all.

2. However, drinking can get expensive.  The whole reason I am stressing is because I do not feel like I have enough disposable income for holiday shopping.  Maybe instead, I should ask my doctor to increase my Zoloft prescription to 100 mg, or 200 mg even!  Surely, if I am feeling euphoric, the stress of making shopping lists, planning a Christmas card, and thinking about the oodles and oodles of Benjamins I will be spending will bring about a feeling of rapturous delight.

3. I could always take a sabbatical and follow in the footsteps of Elizabeth Gilbert; maybe I need to spend four months in a sacred ashram in India and try to commune with the divine. If I leave on the next flight out, I am sure I could be on a prayer mat with my legs crossed and my eyes closed by sundown tomorrow. “One with the Universe. One with the Universe. One with the Universe.”

4.  The flights to India this time of year are outrageously expensive, especially when trying to travel last-minute.  I could always just work on pissing a few people off.   Nothing like a pre-holiday fight to get everyone in the mood.   The upside would be that if everyone is mad at me, we probably won’t be exchanging gifts.

5.  Or, I can just believe in a Christmas miracle.  Didn’t that little girl get a house somewhere around 34th Street?  Didn’t some boy get a ride on a train in his pajamas?  Surely, a Christmas miracle is not too far-fetched!  A bag full of money dropped on my door step would do the trick, but in lieu of that, I would be happy with a winning lottery ticket or a tip for the trifecta in the third race at Pimlico on the 30th.

I believe.  I believe.  It’s silly, but I believe.