My grandmother had a favorite saying, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” She said it was Pennsylvania Dutch. I don’t know about that, but I do know it’s become the slogan of my life. I’m running late with everything and multi-tasking at the Honda dealership while my car’s in the shop. It’s routine maintenance: the car’s doing fine and so are the rest of the Abbeys here in Florida.
Somehow ten years have passed since I moved to Leesburg and I’m still not used to the idea that I don’t need a coat in December. (For the past two years I haven’t even needed long sleeves!) This probably accounts for why the holidays always catch me by surprise. Needless to say, we don’t get snow around here. The local towns and civic organizations will sometimes haul a truckload of snow in from up north for holiday celebrations (if someplace up north has had snow) or they fire up odd-looking machines that sound like leaf-blowers and produce jets of sparkly stuff that might be (but probably isn’t) ice crystals. It’s sad for someone who misses winter as much as I do.
But what we do have around here is alligators. In the spirit of the long-departed Braniff Airlines, since we’ve got them, we flaunt them with a custom-made display that sits beside the road that connects me with my parents. Nothing says Leesburg like alligators with Santa hats! Personally, I like the display best at night, but the uninitiated might not realize that those lights on either side of the words are alligators, so I photographed it again by daylight. On the other hand, this is the native climate for poinsettias. We use them as landscape plants. If we’re lucky and don’t have a pre-Christmas frost, there are swathes of brilliant scarlet in every neighborhood.
2007 will go down as one of those years where “things changed.” Most noticeably, 2007 has been the year where I’ve had to confront those truths which Baby Boomers resist with every fiber of their being: years add up and nothing lasts forever. In my mind, my parents and their friends haven’t changed since I left home for college back in the 1960s, which means that my reflex thought is that all my “adults” are still in their forties. Then I’ll force myself to do the math: I’m older now than either of my parents were when they retired to Florida and this past spring, when a longtime family friend passed away, there was a waiting list for veterans’ memorial services at the nearby National Cemetery.
My heart skips a beat when I come home and see the message light blinking; I have learned to fear the letters M, R, S, and A when used in that order; and to cherish each day as it comes.
It’s been a “things changed” year in other ways, too. Publishing has never been an efficient industry and during the best of times my career as a novelist has tended to be life without any visible means of support, but the last few years have been worse than usual. I’m not giving up though I am starting to explore more direct ways of connecting with my readers and I’ve decided scatter my proverbial eggs in a few more baskets. I’m looking for regular employment, hopefully part-time (so I can still write), hopefully local. I’ve got an application in for a position at the local library. If it comes through, I’ll be doing exactly the same work that I did back way when I worked in the Peekskill public library after school, which boggles my mind a bit, but in a good way.
Even an unsettled year has high points. I had one back in May when my step-daughter, my best friend, and I attended an embroidery seminar in Sugarland, TX (just outside of Houston). I took a four-day class from my all-time favorite teacher and was surrounded by two-hundred women who are as passionate about thread as I am.
Things just don’t get much better than that, although July 21st came close. I didn’t get my copy of the last Harry Potter book until 8PM, at which point I brewed a pot of tea and read until I finished the book seven hours later. The story was pretty good, but even better was the almost forgotten experience of reading for pure pleasure and without interruption. It reminded me of why I started writing in the first place and why I will find a way to keep on writing.
At least that’s the plan. I’ll let you know how it turns out next year. Until then, may your holidays be merry and may 2008 treat you gently.