Monday, December 20, 2010

Ho ho ho and all that

Am feeling very cheery about the holidays! Gifts are wrapped, items are shipped, plans to leave town are coming along and Mother Nature appears to be cooperating (we'll see about the getting back, of course, too early to know, but the getting out appears to be in decent shape).

I've done ZERO baking this year which is very uncharacteristic, but, in reflecting on this fact perhaps it is THAT element which stresses me out each year, and in not doing, I have discovered the secret to a hysteria free holiday.

I don't have a cooking friendly kitchen. It isn't a galley, necessarily (my first home had that and it was hideous...worse than boats I've lived on, truly), but it is sort of a "nook" kitchen, with limited turnaround and counter space. Two people in there is definitely one too many and can probably be identified as the location of the beginning of a number of marital "discussions." Ahem.

I am grateful, of course, to have a home, to have a nice home, to have a kitchen and to have food to cook in it, but I do get a bit of kitchen envy when I visit the homes of a few friends....especially the one who has a brand new house, a Huh-YOU-ge kitchen with marble counter tops, two dishwashers, an island with a sink, etc. I would cook more if it weren't such a pain in the ass to do so chez moi. (Oh, and if I had more time of course)

I had an interesting conversation last week with a former colleague. She's a complete socialist (but she's my favorite socialist), and we were debating the concept of universal health care and what should be included on the list underneath the headings "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." We were talking about the incessant American need for MORE, and how contagious and pernicious it is. When exposed to things like million dollar kitchens, luxury cars, expensive leather bags, fully stocked wine cellars, vacation homes at the beach, etc. it is truly tempting to convince oneself that we want and really need to have that too. It makes us instantly ungrateful for what we have and desirous to consume. What is that? Is it the unavoidable underpinnings of a capitalistic society? Is it what drives us to innovate and improve as a society? Or is what lands a lot of Americans on anti-depressants?

My friend, who works in global health and travels to the third world a lot, pointed out that what's missing is perspective, and I would concur. When your perspective is the million dollar home, rather than the complete lack of home altogether, it misalignes one's perception about what one already has. Spending a week in a shantytown somewhere makes you not only grateful for but also guilty that you have so much in comparison.

A family of eight was displaced by a house fire here over the weekend. Apparently they'd been turning the breaker for their heat on/off to try to save energy and somehow this sparked an electrical fire that completely gutted their home and took everything, which wasn't much, that they had. They had no insurance, and clearly not much in the way of resources. When interviewed, the mother said her main and immediate goal was keeping the family together somehow.

Suddenly my little kitchen is enormous and I wish I could spend the day in it cooking for that family.

I wish you all peace, love and perspective as we go forth to celebrate our holidays.


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