Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

Bluffton Today Column
December 23, 2009

Growing up in our house, Christmas Eve was much anticipated. This was the day our entire family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins - would gather to celebrate.

We’re a sarcastic family, as you may have gathered from moi, so it only made sense that some torture be included in our annual holiday gathering. You see, tradition with my Mom’s side of the family was that Santa would visit on Christmas Eve. However, in order to get your first gift, you had to sing for Santa. This was especially fun when a new and potential significant other would be introduced to the family and be put on the spot. We lost quite a few good prospects over the years!

So, each year as the Christmas decorations would come down from the attic, so would the song books. My sister, Sharon, and I would pore over the books making our selection for the “big show.” For years and years (and decades before we were born) we placated Santa with musical mumblings of “Jingle Bells”, “O Christmas Tree”, and “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer”.

But one year it all changed.

Maybe it was the eggnog.

Maybe it was the festive green Jell-O-mold decorated with maraschino cherries.

Whatever it was, Uncle Al and Aunt Madeleine upped the ante. That year, Santa didn’t just get lyrics. He got a choreographed routine that would have put the Von Trapp children to shame - hand gestures, fancy footwork, and a little miming to boot. Uncle Al and Aunt Madeleine stole the show and the competition was on.

After that year, it became each family unit’s mission to out sing and out dance the others. We added background music, dance steps, lip-synchs, and song parodies. This was serious business. And, it became a new tradition. One that we continued until the year our “branch” of the family tree migrated south.

Our branch will celebrate our fifth Christmas here together in the Lowcountry tomorrow. And the tradition will continue. (If your dog starts howling around 7:00 p.m. it is because I am singing and I am most certainly off key.)

But this year as I prepare - by practicing in the mirror with a hair brush as a microphone - there is an angel on my shoulder.

You see the matriarch of our tradition, Aunt Madeleine, passed away two weeks ago. And I know that Christmas will have a new meaning for our family this year.

In the eulogy my Mom wrote honoring Aunt Madeleine, she talked about her favorite memories and the best way to memorialize Aunt Madeleine.

“As I took my Christmas ornaments out I realized I had a treasure trove of memories from her. And they are, right now, adorning my tree. For Christmas I'll give Courtney and Sharon the felt stocking ornaments she made for them when they were little and the rest I'll keep for myself and every year I will pay tribute to the kind, loving, wonderful woman who made them. You know how we all sang Christmas songs on Christmas Eve and sometimes changed the words to our favorite carols? Well Aunt Madeleine ... ’Sleep in heavenly peace’.”

So, from me you’ll get no sarcasm for Christmas this year - just a wish for silent nights, holy nights, and peaceful sleep.

Merry Christmas Bluffton.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Shallow End of the Bluffton Dating Pool

Bluffton Today Column
December 9, 2009

Disclaimer: this is not a personal ad.

However, in case you are taking notes, I do like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain.

You may have noticed that my byline has two last names. This is my gradual transition back to my maiden name upon commencement of year-long, state-required separation, which will result in the finalization of my divorce this month. Special thanks to South Carolina for making this process so damn long, much appreciated. Cue religious right who abhors divorce and is adding another slash mark to my trail of sins. (Get in line!)

This all means that I am newly single. And I recently had my first foray into the art of letting someone down easy.

Last time I dated, oh a decade ago, there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no blogs, no Google Alerts, and no newspaper column where I trounced my life out in print for the world i.e. Bluffton to read. Meaning I was able to live my life without someone being able to “find me online”. Well, the times they are a changing.

Last month, a member of the opposite sex, let’s call him Mr. X, sent me a message on Facebook.

Hi Courtney. My name is Mr. X and I live in X-town. I'm originally from X-state and moved here three3 years ago. I just finished reading your Proust Interview in CH2 magazine and was really impressed with what I read about you. I don't know if you are married or if you are in a relationship but you sound like a really intelligent and down to earth woman and the type of person I would be interested in getting to know and I wanted to know if you would be interested in meeting me for coffee sometime. If you are presently in a relationship I apologize for the intrusion.

If you're interested in learning more about me please feel free to email me via Facebook.

Best wishes, Mr. X.

So, in keeping with my salty sarcasm I replied with a little challenge.

Hi Mr. X. Wow. I was definitely not expecting that, but I am flattered. And, if you learned anything about me in my interview ... you know that I am now questioning whether or not you are an axe-murderer or a nice guy?

So, I'll offer this challenge. If you can provide three references, I'll think about it.

My hope was that my obnoxious wit would immediately stall his efforts but alas, one hour later I had three references in my Inbox. What to do, what to do?

Well, upon review of the references I realize that neither his high school best friend, nor his realtor who he hasn’t spoken to in four years, nor the elderly couple who he befriended up North, are what I was looking for. So I decided the best plan of attack would be to ignore, ignore, ignore.

Five days later Mr. X appeared again requesting an answer to his inquiry. So, despite every instinct to the contrary, I was a lady, I curbed the sarcasm, and I simply said that I was once again flattered, but extremely busy and did not have much time for a personal life. All true!

Then Mr. X turned on the obnoxious with a simple response, “Your loss.”

Now I thought I handled this appropriately. I was kind and gracious. When what I really wanted to say was, listen buddy with that Hawaiian shirt and spray on hair, it would never work between us.

So, it is my hope that this was merely a floater in the shallow end of the Bluffton dating pool. But regardless, now I face the million dollar question … join a convent or jump in?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Bluffton Tradtion

CH2, December 2009

What started last year as my family’s annual ritual to the Bluffton Christmas Parade ended with a muddied shoe and a bruised ego. That’s the day I fell into a drainage ditch along May River Road.

Now, I didn’t take a header straight into a pile of muck and mud. No, I teetered precariously along the edge as I trekked from the Promenade to “our spot” at the Squat & Gobble corner.

You see last December there were no sidewalks along that stretch of road. So I stepped over dogs, strollers, lawn chairs and a small child or two (lest someone move out of the way and find themselves in the ditch) – all jammed along the roadside with nowhere to go, but down.