I drove into town to get the oil changed in our car today, and on the way home to the parsonage, I saw a family of six walking along the side of the road, every one of them decked out in red and white Santa hats. Every last one of them, including the baby in the stroller.
Wow, so it’s really Christmas, huh?
As a New York boy, it never seems as if it’s really Christmas here in northern California. The mild weather fools me every time. With all the falling leaves, it feels more like October.
I took this photo of downtown Sacramento’s fall color from halfway up the office tower in which I am currently employed.
All in all, this was quite a week. We started out on Sunday with brunch at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. They have veggie fajitas right on the menu . . .
. . .which I proceeded to make into tacos, thanks to the vegetarian black beans.
This may not seem like such a big deal, but believe me, it is. It’s delightful for once not to have to ask the server to have the cook make up something special, and no butter (no, not even margarine), and by the way, what type of oil do you cook with? Congratulations, you have instantly become a problem customer. Just don’t admit to being a vegan, whatever you do. Better pretend to have severe food allergies. Or tell them that you’re an Orthodox Jew and have to follow the kosher rules. Hope they don’t ask you where your “Yamaha” is. (Out in the parking lot, doofus. It’s the one with the twin cams and the Star of David).
Monday was pay day, also a big deal when you only get paid once a month. Pay bills, pay tithes, buy groceries, figure out the budget for the month. If you really want that vegan coconut milk “ice cream” that costs four and a half dollars for a thimbleful, now’s the time to speak up. Next week, there won’t be any money for it. (Don’t cry, there’s always next month.)
Monday was also the first day back at work from our four-day break (Thanksgiving is the one and only time of year that we have one). Down came my paper turkey from the dollar store and up went my purple Christmas tree, of similar pedigree (see photo above). Matching purple bows were pinned up both inside and outside my tiny cubicle domain. Fa la la la la…
Although it rained for most of the trip down to and back from the Central Valley for my father’s 81st birthday last weekend, my coworkers report that there was barely a sprinkle here. Tuesday, however, the heavens opened up over Sacramento. The entire area instantly turned into a big soggy mess. “The crops really need it,” I would hear a dozen times a day. “Finally, a break in the drought.”
As I left work on Tuesday evening, the nearly full moon attempted to show itself through the mass of clouds that had been watering the fields and roadways all day.
By Wednesday, immense puddles had formed all over the area. We had a brunch at work for an employee returning from maternity leave. I was able to help myself to orange juice and fresh fruit, and I brought in bagels for everyone to enjoy (along with some hummus as my personal substitute schmear for the cream cheese).
I wanted pasta and hot soup for dinner, so I asked my wife to bring Pastor Mom along when she picked me up from work. We had a wonderful dinner (“Yes, the cook says we can make the sauce without cheese. Yes, you can have olive oil instead of butter with the bread.”) and made our way northward toward home without incident, despite the continuing rain.
Thursday morning, many of my coworkers reported that they had a heck of a time getting home. One person who works on my floor talked about having seen four cars literally floating down the freeway. Welcome to California. Dry or wet, it’s always a disaster.
At noontime on Thursday, it was still pouring down rain, but in the early afternoon the clouds parted a bit and the sun struggled to come out. One by one, we all began to wander over to the picture window on our floor to gawk. We were treated to this:
The photo does not begin to do this double rainbow justice. It was a huge arc that gave the appearance of wrapping all of Sacramento in a giant embrace. This was among the largest rainbows that I had ever seen, and I couldn’t help thinking that this was what Noah saw when God promised never again to destroy the world by flood. Brighter times ahead. Yes!
Thursday evening, we all took my sister-in-law out for her birthday. We had a wonderful time (veggie tacos, hooray!), my niece and nephews showed up, and my two year old grandniece was in high spirits. She wouldn’t stay in her high chair very much, so we passed her from hand to hand and only had to run after her once when she made her way down the steps and headed toward the restaurant exit. When it was time to leave, our dear little one, entirely unprompted, offered each of her hands to my wife and myself. Hold my hand and walk with me, auntie and uncle. I will cherish this photo forever, my friends.
Thursday night, I went to bed a happy boy. And so, life being what it is, things proceeded directly from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Friday. Finally, the end of the week had arrived, so let’s go out with a bang, now shall we? I won’t get into the details of the Friday follies that transpired at work (I am shaking my head just thinking about some of it) other than to describe the celebration we had in honor of the birthday of one of my coworkers.
On Thursday, some people were out, and those who were at work couldn’t decide whether we should have a brunch for my coworker or take her out to lunch. The last I had heard, it was decided that it was too last minute to do anything. And then on Friday, as noon approached, I was informed that we would be bringing in Vietnamese pho for lunch to celebrate my coworker’s special day. Did I want beef or chicken?
Nooooo, not again! I happened to be working away in my cubicle at the time, crunching on fresh radishes (hot ones!) dipped in hummus. “I don’t eat meat at all,” I explained. “I’m a vegan. See? This is what I eat. Carrots, radishes, hummus.”
“Oh, I was a vegetarian for six months once,” came the reply. “Maybe just the noodle soup without the meat?”
Sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Also, we had a meeting at which my boss (who is among the best supervisors I have ever had and whom I appreciate dearly) announced that he has found another job and is leaving.
I think I’ll go with crying.
And, uh, merry Christmas.