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In Which Scott Triumphs Over All the Christmas

This Pilot Did Not Win Christmas

This is very late, but Strep prevented me from caring. Or sitting up. I am finally better, and antibiotics are miraculous.

I love to win Christmas.

Okay, let’s be real. I love to win. ANYTHING. I have a problem.

I had to stop playing online Scrabble because it was wrecking me, spiritually, in a Gateway-Drug-to-Murder kind of way, taking me down an enraged path leading through Basement-full-of-the-carcasses-of-tortured-lizards Land and from there, straight into IT PUTS THE LOTION ON ITS SKIN City.

But Winning Christmas, for me, is not toxic. To Win at Christmas is to find the secret thing that the person wants but didn’t KNOW they wanted, or that they KNEW they wanted but didn’t think they would get. I had two nice wins this year.

One involved getting in league with Margaret Maron who I met on the now defunct Lipstick Chronicles. (Do you read her? You should read her. She’s fantastic.) She and I did a book exchange; I sent her signed copies of some of my books in exchange for signed copies of some of her early career titles. Did I mention my mother in law is a HUGE fan? Did I mention she couldn’t FIND these particular titles?


My second victory was totally dependent on having the best niece on the planet, and not only superior in the general sense, but specifically be a BRIL photographer.
Luckily, I meet these criteria; I have that niece.

Erin took an amazing picture of my dad at the beach sitting in front of the blinds. It’s a little melancholy. Dad is not a sad person—but something about the stillness of it captures something true about him:

Then she took almost the same picture again, but with Maisy off to the side in a state of kinetic dance frenzy:

I had nice sized versions of them printed out framed together for Mom-N-Dad. At first, the lady at the frame shop tried to put them in the wrong order—-Dad and Maisy on top, and THEN Dad alone under. I was like,
“NO NO NO! You can’t put them in that order. That is a SAD STORY about a quiet man and a loud little girl and then OH NO he is all alone FOREVER. It has to go the OTHER WAY. Then it is a HAPPY story about this still man all quiet and then THE LIVING EMBODIMENT OF JOY ARRIVES!”

She looked at me like I had yawped open my maw and spewed a pound of loon-foam down her front, but she reversed them. AND COME ON! You see it don’t you?

Don’t you?

Anyway, it was a BIG win, as it combined the talents of Dance-licious Maisy and Photo-genius Erin (who happen to be my parents’ two favorite girls), and ALSO it had Papa in it (everything is better with Papa in it) and also, PS, TOLD A HAPPY STORY. Mom is so taken with it she is rearranging all the office stuff to showcase it. HEE.

SO I was feeling pretty smug. Feeling like, A WINNER IS ME. Feeling like, I came, I saw Christmas, I conquered.

Then Scott SMOKED me.

Now understand, Scott and I are… a frugal people. Sale rack hounds. Outlet roamers. Heck, we like hand me downs. We don’t care about name brands. We drive our cars until they LITERALLY start leaving huge chunks of engine in the road behind us. We have never bought a new car, and we could win ten mil in the lottery and STILL we would not be physically able to face driving off a lot and losing five thousand dollars in Immediate Car Depreciation. We LOVE to travel, but we Captain Kirk our budget hotels and hoard sky miles and eat cereal for breakfast in the room so we can spend on SEEING AND DOING while we are in the exciting place.

Remember when those BIG HD TVs that are all flat and fancy first happened? They were five thousand dollars, and Scott would stand in Best Buy and look at them with the hunger-eye of the true techno-phile and say, “I can’t wait ‘til something better happens and makes these babies obsolete.”

Granted, there are a few things we will shell out for, because we think it is worth it: Local produce. Organic milk and meat. Our kids’ education. Supporting local charities and outreach programs. Good seats at the theatre. Books and art by writers and artists whose work speaks to us.

And so, for Christmas, he got me a thing I desperately wanted, but did not dare to ask for, even. And it is probably too NICE a thing to go in our cess pit chaotic hole of a dog infested, cat saturated, kid filled house. BUT OH HOW I LONGED FOR IT IN MY COVETEOUS HEART.

He got me THIS.

It came with a limited edition signed print of the VERY photo that was used for the cover of A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY., so I am counting this, somehow, as this book’s Fic-Fact. But really it is a FACT-FIC, because instead of an art object coming out fo the book, the book came out of the picture.

Whenever I got STUCK writing it, I would go look at the picture until I UNSTUCK. All that burgeoning and yearning and offering, the crisp gingham skirt spreading in a fan, the fresh, sweet, hopeful sexuality of it, yet with the slight browning hint of decay and ruin where the air has JUST begun to touch the flesh of the fruit, the temptation inherent in it, the original sin APPLENESS of it all… OH, how I LOVE this image.

Reader, I married it.

I mean, no, Reader, I framed it. Here it is, next to the cover so you can see both:

Scott won. If you celebrate the holiday, I have to ask: Did you win Christmas this year? Or did someone win it and make your Christmas morning? DO TELL.

28 comments to In Which Scott Triumphs Over All the Christmas

  • liz

    I am SO glad you are feeling better again. I think your immune system needs a good kick in the pants.

    That image is beautiful and tempting and a little sad all at once. No wonder you loved your niece’s photos.

    I did not win at Christmas — I too was smoked. I bought my husband all kinds of warm, technologically advanced running gear to replace his 15-year-old stuff so that he will not get frostbite when running outside in New England winters. He is hard to buy for and I was feeling very smug and satisfied with myself, thinking, ‘Look! He won’t have chapped hands or cold feet anymore!’

    And then he got me a — sauna. A real, small sauna, so that I can come in from the cold after running and pretend I live someplace where I don’t have to put chains on my sneakers to go outside. Mostly I pretend I am a lizard and I bake in the sun. It is absolutely lovely, and though it is my Christmas gift for umpteen years to come, I adore it.

  • I saw A Grown Up Kind of Pretty on my library’s web site the other day (under the category COMING SOON!!), and became rediculously excited. It was like running into you at the grocery store, but oh so much better.
    I completely lost Christmas this year, having spent it huddled on the couch, trying not to throw up. I flung gift cards at my children and suggested to my husband that we give each other letters instead of gifts. Then I didn’t write one. But he wrote me one. So.
    You also win at pretty pink glasses.

  • I LOVE WINNING CHRISTMAS! No one ever seems to understand this?! I become a plotting sneaky ninja right around Halloween every year, trying to find the best gifts for everyone. This year, I definitely didn’t feel great about a particular win, because it resulted in the bursting-into-tears of my Sister-In-Law. Our 7 year old tomboy niece suddenly decided she wanted makeup, so I bought her a full on briefcase of the stuff from Ulta. She went into convulsions, she was so excited. And my sister in law? She got her a package with 3 lipsticks, which was immediately forgotten. Then, she cried.

    Okay now I feel dirty all over again for even bringing this up!

  • Jill W.

    Glad you are feeling better. I love those photographs. The image of the silhouetted Maisy in motion is a perfect icon of girlhood.

    And well done, Mr. Husband.

    I neither won nor lost Christmas, but I survived it, which always feels like a win. My sister did get me the most compelling little book entitled “Creepy Ass Dolls” that is simultaneously hilarious and horrifying. Too scary to really be called a win, but entertaining nonetheless.

  • I think you BOTH win Christmas.

    Those photos are amazing. And I have no idea how anyone could think the order should’ve been reversed, that makes no sense. (I SEE IT.)

    I work at a bookstore and everyday I go in and look up AGUKOP to see if our shipment arrived yet. (WHUT? I have mine pre-ordered!)

  • I LOST at Christmas this year in a very sad and real way. My boyfriend is a contractor-no work between Tgiving &Xmas. So I worked 75 &65 hour weeks to pay all the bills & buy all the presents and suggested to him that we not exchange gifts. He agreed with much relief and I spent the rest of the helliday grinding my back molars to dust with immaturity and resentment. Then his niece completely showed her ass at Christmas dinner and watching everyone cry and yell did nothing for my holiday spirit.

  • Kathy

    My win was a Wedding Photo book that I had made for my daughter and her husband. They loved it. Of course it is 4 1/2 years into their marriage so……..um win/fail?

  • That’s a hard one. My husband and I do not do Christmas for one another. We usually spend all extra money on our kids, and if we get something we get something together. Like the year we bought really nice surround sound speakers for our living room or our first flatscreen HDTV or that wonderful PS3. One year we upgraded our computers so we could raid successfully AT THE SAME TIME. My comp acted like Naxxramas was a slide show, and it was impossible to kite bosses while watching a slide show. This year, my in-laws maybe won. I’ve always wanted a piano (I fancy myself a player of pianos), but we never have the funds or the space. Then, this fall, I started homeschooling my kids and I really, really, wanted to teach them how to play the piano, too, and I researched and specced out the electronic piano I wanted to get. It had to have 88 full-size keys and they had to be weighted to feel like pressing on a real piano keyboard and it had to have pedals to press to alter the sounds. Well, the one I wanted was really ridiculously expensive so I just dreamed and thought, a little wistfully, maybe someday. Well, my in-laws got a deal on a piano almost exactly like what I wanted, and got it for us for Christmas. I’m in heaven.

  • Wendy

    I won at Christmas by default. The BoyFriend has been dragging me into and out of cell phone stores all fall so he could poke and touch and fondle all the smarty smarty smart phones and then moan and sigh at the price said smartypants phone cost. Then we would shuffle sadly back out of the store and I would pull out my super fancy smartypants phone and tell the internets all about how hard it was being me and having to look at phones again and again. So for christmas, I got him a damn phone already just to save me from having to go into another dumb phone store and spend and hour stroking the shiny objects just so we could leave again. This I felt was NOT a win because although it was a present for him, it was also, quite obviously, a present for me.


    the reason I win is because I had asked my mom for a bike for christmas. She said that wasn’t going to happen. Boyfriend overhead exchange. One day a week before christmas we were over at her house and she dragged him away for a few minutes – she says to show him what she got me for christmas – he says he has no recollection of this event.

    On christmas morning I received not one, but TWO bicycles – one from each of them. My mother insists she showed BoyFriend the bike the day he was over there. BoyFriend insists he never saw the bike. And now, I can get extra exercise by riding two bikes at once. Or something.

    At any rate, I win. And there you have it.

  • Scottsdale Girl

    I failed at the giving but WON at the receiving. A “Bazinga!” tee, a 1/65 signed print from a local ABQ artist, mucho cash from dad and gramps, which bought me a new kindle FIRE. Oh yes.

  • erinanne

    Scott did win at Christmas, didn’t he? What a beautiful gift. And Erin’s pictures do tell a lovely story.

    My brother won at Christmas, really, but was nice enough to share his victory with my sister and I.

    My mother needed towels in a desperate way. She does not like fluffy towels, likes ’em to be thin because she says you don’t get dry with the fluffy ones. (Me, I’ve never had a problem.) But there’s a difference between thin and raggedy, and to say Mama’s were the latter would be being polite. My brother knew about the towels as he stays at Mama’s some nights when he comes in to town, and had not been pleased about the lack of *ahem* coverage that they offered.

    So the towels were his idea, and the purchasing of them was left up to me. I won by managing, quite by accident, to find ones that matched Mama’s bathroom on sale at Kohls for a fantastic price. That meant that my sister also won, because she’s a poor sometmes college student who did not have a lot of money for presents this year.

  • edj

    We WON at Christmas this year! We are not what is euphemistically called “comfortable” but our 14 year old, who loved her hand-me-down-from-a-friend iPod, was grieving its loss. (It died in oct) ALL SHE WANTED was an iTouch. We told her, “there’s just no way,” and she believed us because there wasn’t and didn’t even hope for one. And when she opened it and saw it, and whispered to me, “Is this a joke?” –I still get teary just thinking about it– and then started SHRIEKING for joy when I told her it wasn’t…well. Best! Christmas! Win! Ever! Also Donn got me a gorgeous fountain pen, which wasn’t something I had thought of but I love it love it love it. I love fountain pens.
    And I can’t believe the frame shop lady didn’t see it. And I think Scott rocks! But you do too.

  • The photographs are wonderful! All of them – such touching, thoughtful gifts. You totally WON at Christmas all around.

  • My middle daughter totally won christmas this year. And yes, we play the I Won Christmas game every year, usually the one who makes Mom (me) cry (in a good way) wins. This year my 25 year old daughter made Aunt Joan candy. I was missing my Aunt quite a bit, she died last year and I was missing her home made candies. They were nothing fancy, just melted Wilton discs with nuts, raisins or coconut and dropped into small candy papers. I was thinking how I would never have Aunt Joan candies again and my daughter came in the door (literally as I was thinking of Aunt Joan) and gave me a container full of candy and said “I miss her too”.
    Cue the tears. Emily totally won this year.

  • Lori B.

    I used to LOVE winning at Christmas and birthdays, and I used to be really, really good at it. Then I had three kids, and I’m pretty sure they accidentally removed my brain during that last C-section, and I seem to have lost all ability to win, except for when it comes to my FIL. I think of great gifts for him, but before the next gift giving holiday, he buys them for himself, and then we got nothing to give him.

    This year I felt completely overwhelmed with Christmas, so my hubby ordered about everything he could on Amazon. We needed a new computer, so that was our gift to each other. With only stocking stuffers to work with, I didn’t really have much to get excited about buying. But my hubby proved that you can still win Christmas even with stocking stuffers. He got me a plug-in car adapter for my iPod, so I can play it through my radio. I had one that was a piece of junk that the kids and I used faithfully. We homeschool, so when we’re in the car, we listen to books, books, and more books. My old adapter would get really staticky during the best part of the book, so the kids would yell and I would have to search all over to find another station, and sometimes I could and sometimes I couldn’t, and by then my little one would have forgotten what was going on in the book, and it was totally stressful for me. I wanted one that you could install in my minivan, but I didn’t want to pay for it and decided just to live with the junky one. But he found a great plug-in adapter. He apparently did lots of research to find the best one, and he did! It was the most thoughtful, unexpected stocking stuffer I ever got. Plus, now his wife won’t be careening around trying to change channels on multiple devices while driving his best beloveds around, so I’m pretty sure that means he double wins Christmas!

  • Glad you’re feeling better! And I love those pictures and would be part of your story posse, if required, to have them displayed in that order.

    In our home, Christmas was a draw. I wanted a way to play music in the kitchen, and the ToolMaster got me a tiny radio which provides AM/FM/iPod music. I cannot believe how much I’ve missed cooking to the Phantom of the Opera, etc.

    I got him one of those Air Swimmers, which is completely frivolous and atypical of our purchases, but he loves it. As it turned out, so did our Christmas guests – one so much so, that the ToolMaster gave this person his own gift. (!)

    Naturally I replaced it, but that was the third and fourth Christmas wins: that we could give another person so much spontaneous pleasure, and that I married that kind of man.

  • Maisie’s so TALL! How did that happen? Oh my. . .

    What great photos, and of course they go in that order. Duh. Seriously.

    Yes, Scott won and that picture is SO the heart of AGUKOP. Your words capture that photo, and that photo is the ideal talisman. They are interwoven. And perfect.

    Yay that you’re feeling better!

    Oh, and we had mutual win at Christmas. Lillian, Ryan and I all kicked in for a ginormous hi-def flat screen TV that has amazing graphics when Ryan plays Skyrim on it. We all won that one.

  • Linda J

    So glad to see your feeling better. Honestly? How else are those pics supposed to go? duh!

    I so won at Christmas as far as my soon to be 20 year old son goes. His old tv had a built in VCR! I got him a bigger flat screen tv, blu ray player and more than a few dvd’s. I won with him last year too, getting him a bed that he wanted but next year, what next???

  • Brigitte

    Hubby and I don’t exchange gifts, it’s all for the spoiled little girl.

    But I wanted to say that YES, the order of those two photos you framed DOES tell a story! That shop person mustn’t have one imaginative bone in her sad, sad self.

  • I love to give something that is meaningful. . .this year I created a calendar using photos my daughter had taken–she is also a budding photographer, and some of her images were truly spectacular. The grandparents/aunts/uncles/and close family friends all got a copy. They loved it.

    My “win” was that I found a retro ’50’s vacation hankerchief for Florida. My sister was the only one of us kids born there–at the military hospital in Homestead while Daddy was in the Air Force during Vietnam. Of all the handkerchiefs I saw, there was only ONE that had Homestead. I framed it and gave it to her. She (and my mother) loved it.

  • Heh. I’m pretty sure I LOST Christmas pretty spectacularly – my husband and I were planning to celebrate our (itty bitty) personal Christmas on the morning of Christmas Eve, before doing the big family Christmas stuff that evening and the next day.

    So, happy me, excitedly getting up in the morning, eager to WIN CHRISTMAS because I’d gotten a couple of fun things for my husband to open, rushing downstairs for OUR CHRISTMAS OH JOY…. and my present for my husband on “our Christmas” this year? Was slipping on the stairs, breaking my ankle in the fall, and then shaking and passing out for five minutes, splayed out on the stairs, while he desperately called 911, thinking I had had a seizure and was dying or something.

    I did sort of win Christmas a couple of days later when we finally got around to having our Christmas, but it did feel a little anticlimactic. I’m pretty serious about winning Christmas, too, and we were awfully proud of ourselves for the things we found for extended family members. But nothing overcomes the losing-ness of making your husband think you’re dying instead of giving him nice presents for Christmas. Am I right?

    There’s always next year, I guess. 🙂

  • Kacie

    Not only did hubby and I win Christmas, we totally annihilated it this year. We did last year too. Last Christmas we finally announced that we were getting married after 8 years of dating, so to top that we announced this year that we are expecting the families’ first grandchild. It was no contest really…

  • Jill Sturgeon

    I don’t know about Christmas, but you win for my birthday – b/c AGUKOP comes out on Jan. 25 – my birthday!!! Question – I will be at your signing at Ala Booksmith – do I have to buy the book there? that would be waiting a couple of weeks? I love Jake at Al Booksmith, so maybe I will get the book on the 25th, then bring it to the signing? will that be okay?

  • Jessica

    I totally love winning at Christmas (or any present. I am a surprise present kind of person, and I just love giving things to people). That said, I think my husband won Christmas AND my birthday (Dec. 30) this year. But his birthday is Jan. 19, so we’ll have to see about that. ;~)

    That said, I have a hard time waiting to win the present giving. I always try to get my husband to open Christmas presents starting on Dec. 1. I’ve been trying to get him to open his birthday present since then, too, which is a month and a half early. Poor guy. ;~) He doesn’t give in, though, which always irks me. Unless I end up winning. And then I just get all excited.

  • Laurie

    This has nothing to do with winning Christmas…I just wanted to say that IT CAME! “A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty” showed up on my doorstep the day before my birthday, since I pre-ordered it months ago! Does that mean I win at my own birthday? I can’t wait to start it!

  • Aimee

    I see it. Of COURSE the pictures go in that order, and they’re beautiful. I think you and Scott tied for Christmas.

    I neither won nor lost Christmas. My husband and I are on a seriously tight budget, so our budget for presents consisted of the jar of change we’d managed to save up over the year. He did get me a very cool little baby espresso maker, though, so maybe he won after all.

  • Your photos of Papa and Maisy were beautiful. I like how you placed them in the order of a story. Maisy is so precious twirling around.

    It is an interesting thought to think about winning Christmas. I think I lost one battle. My son is 18-months.

    I bought him a handsome Christmas outfit. Every person in my family laughed, and thought he looked like a little girl. My friends thought Charles looked precious. No one believed I found it in the boys’ section, it read “boys 18 months,” and that the sales person confirmed it was a boys’ jumper. It does not matter what the tag says in some cases.

    Thank you for sharing!

  • Re the photos of your dad and Maisie – I love that Maisie is dancing through the room, and your father doesn’t even take his eyes away from the book, like whirling Maisie’s are such a common thing in his world…