Last weekend our Bunny Run neighborhood, located just off the Capital of Texas Highway at the Pennybacker Bridge, celebrated a community tradition we've come to love. Las Posadas is a popular Mexican celebration that recreates the search of Mary and Joseph for a place for the birth of Jesus. Variations of the tradition are celebrated throughout parts of the Southwest U.S., and neighborhood leaders here in Austin have created our own version of the event.
I'm terrible at estimating crowds, but somewhere around 80-100 neighbors of all ages gathered for the annual Las Posadas at the home of Tom and Sharon Burns. The weather turned out perfect for the outdoor event. Two fire pits kept the revelers warm, and tables set up in the garage were loaded with offerings from great cooks - a variety of salads, veggies, and 26 dozen tamales complete with chili and cheese.
Desserts? Chocolate was definitely the flavor of the evening, and I especially enjoyed my mom's world-famous (well, they should be) brownies. And my compliments to whoever made the Zebra White- and Milk-Chocolate Cheesecake. It was divine!
Bursting open the contents of two pinatas is always a highlight of Las Posadas. The younger tykes swung the bat at a Santa pinata, then older kids pummeled a star-shaped pinata.
This was a very special evening for me. Our modern lifestyles keep us so busy that we have few oocasions for gathering as a community and just enjoying each other's company. Everybody brought card tables and chairs, something special to eat or drink, and their holiday spirit.
Check out my Flickr photos of Las Posadas 2006 as well as some photos of the Christmas lights in the Bunny Run neighborhood. I'll be posting some more Christmas lights photos soon, so bookmark the link for a return visit!
Neighbors, please feel free to leave a comment with your views about Las Posadas 2006. And for those of you not fortunate enough to live in our wonderful Bunny Run neighborhood, what kind of community celebrations do you enjoy?
Our anguish changed to relief - his suffering was over at last - then back to the grief we'd known for several years as it had gradually become obvious that this much-admired, larger-than-life figure was slipping away from us, one chunk of his central nervous system at a time.
Two years earlier I had found the answer to the questions our family physician and then the cardiologist had not been able to answer. The Internet provided a diagnosis, then we found a neurologist who confirmed it: Shy-Drager Syndrome, also known as multiple system atrophy.
I also found a support group online, where I happened to post something I had read in the medical literature. The particular type of vivd but non-threatening hallucinations of small creatures, which my father experienced almost daily, was actually common among sufferers of this disease. Although most people described them as leprechauns, my dad always called them the Little People.
When I described the antics of these imaginary beings - which my storytelling father loved to recount in great detail - e-mails began to arrive in my inbox from caregivers grateful to be able to talk with another person who understood. Suddenly they weren't alone anymore. And neither was I.
One day, a few months before he died, I sat at the computer and began to pour out my thoughts about my dad and the Little People who entertained him. What came out was more poetry than prose, and we wound up printing it in the memorial leaflet for Dad's funeral.
I miss you, Daddy. Are the Little People with you in heaven?
The Little People
I never thought I would find such humor In the hallucinations of a dying man. His body grows feeble, his brain withers From the ravages of a cruel infirmity. “Can you say ‘neurodegenerative’?” I tease him. “Not even when I was well,” he replies. Each day my father recounts for us His adventures with the Little People. He doesn’t know what else to call This myriad of unidentified beings That populate his waking dreams. He understands that no one else Sees them or hears them— Knows they are not real, Yet is powerless to make them go away. Only one of them ever speaks to him— Steve, he calls their ringleader. One night the Little People showed up In Dad’s bedroom at the usual hour. “Go away,” he told them. “I need my rest. And don’t come back for sixty days!” The next night the Little People were back. “I thought I told you to go away,” he said. “It’s okay,” Steve replied. “We don’t take up much room.” I guess that’s why they’re called the Little People! Evidently wit does not reside at the neuronal level, For my father has not lost his keen sense of humor Even as the disease continues to destroy His autonomic nervous system. Or perhaps his ability to still crack a joke Is simply a gift of God’s grace To a man and his caregivers, Who have so little to laugh about As we wait for the mercy of the inevitable. When the time comes, I’m thinking of asking Steve To say a few words at the funeral. I’d hate to exclude Dad’s little companions From the celebration of his voyage to heaven.
December 1999. Late-night trip to Walgreen's to pick up a few things. I'm exhausted, putting in long hours on an editing assignment code-named "Project A."
The book is on a need-to-know basis at the publishing house because it's the kind of manuscript that reporters - mainstream and tabloid alike - love to get a sneak peek at. Sounds like some crazy spy story, but I've actually been packing up my garbage and sending it home with a friend, to make sure that if any busybodies are skulking about the driveway and poking through my trash cans, they won't find any evidence of my top-secret efforts to insert transitional sentences while hacking away at overgrown verbiage.
I'm not just exhausted, I'm mentally and emotionally drained. On top of the absurdity of work - who would have thought copy editing could be such a cloak-and-dagger adventure? - my father's life is fading away, one painfully slow day at a time. Rare. Incurable. Untreatable. An unspoken question incessantly flutters like a moth against the screen door of my mind: What will Daddy's Girl do without her daddy?
As if that isn't enough, I'm approaching a milestone birthday in less than a month: the Big 5-0. It weighs on me, this prospect of facing another decade. I can't seem to focus on the potential it offers. Instead, I think only of dreams unrealized, hopes unfulfilled, opportunities missed. TILT. Full-blown overload of synapses. Sliding into hormone hell with nothing to hold on to . . .
Perhaps that's why I'm pushing the shopping cart with a white-knuckled grip, mentally reciting the list of items I need as I walk through the drugstore. When I hit the end of the list, I turn the cart around and head toward the checkout.
And that's when I look down at the contents in the rolling metal basket and have an epiphany: every single item in the cart is age-related. Hair color, calcium supplements, reading glasses. Dr. Scholl's inserts for my shoes. Not ordinary moisturizer, but "age-defying super-hydrating wrinkle-reducing eye cream."
One by one, I unload my necessities and set them in front of the cash register. The clerk scans each item while I bite down on my lip - hard - in a desperate attempt not to cave in and cry. Please, Lord, I pray silently. Let me get outside before I break down.
I must be living right because my prayer is answered. I make it out to the car and fasten my seat belt before giving in to the tears. Except they don't really course down my cheeks as I expect. Instead, a sudden, choking giggle bursts out of my mouth. I am the Madwoman of Chaillot!
Where ya goin'?
Crazy. Wanna come with me?
It's an old family joke, but I figure the very fact that I can remember it probably means I'm not nearly as close to insanity as I feel. I crank the engine, pull out of the parking lot, and let my big ol' premium-gas-guzzling Cadillac roll me toward home.
By the time I hit the Capital of Texas Highway, a rhyme is bumping around in my head. So when I get to the house, I drop my plastic bag of Baby Boomer age-busting goodies on the kitchen counter and sit down at the typewriter to finish the silly ditty that has helped me avoid a crying jag.
Where did they come from, these lines ’round my eyes? They weren’t there last year; a recent surprise. “Laugh lines,” they’re called; I don’t find them funny. I’d have them removed, if I had the money. Time and gravity, taking their toll; Maintaining youth — impossible goal. “Growing old gracefully” — gee, what a crock. Whoever said that has not had the shock Of shifting and sagging, of parts moving south, Or creases that run from your nose to your mouth. Me? Age gracefully? No! You can wage, I’ll go kicking and screaming into old age. My body may tire and my face may be lined, But I still feel eighteen — at least in my mind. So hand me the eye cream, the Oil of Olay; Miss Clairol and I have a meeting today.
One of the great features of the Internet is its ability to reconnect people who've lost touch. Over 20 years ago, Terry Taylor and I started free-lancing about the same time while living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. A few years later we both moved away, and I lost touch with Terry and his wife, Susan. A few months ago I googled Terry and found him here. We've had fun carrying on e-conversations since then and recently decided we'd turn our attention to a blog. I hope you'll check it out, because these two aging Southern Baby Boomers are having a blast as the Blogabillies.
How'd we come up with the name? I had created a company blog, called Blogabilities, for our PR firm. When I let the extended family know about it, my cousin Suzanne (sister of Carla, who hosted the family recording session) misread the name. She thought it said Blogabillies and asked me if it was about hillbillies who blog. Well, I just couldn't let that thought go, so when Terry and I decided to unleash our incessant scribblin' on an unsuspecting blogosphere, we called our effort Blogabillies. Now T-Bone and Belle are yammerin' on a regular basis, telling stories about growing up in the South, about working in advertising, marketing, branding, communications, writing, publishing, PR (we've covered a lot of territory between us), and in general celebrating the Southern lifestyle.