30 August 2004

A Glow on the Horizon

I had a joyful experience on Friday--walked into Barnes & Noble and found out that all the fall magazines were out, including Yankee magazine's Seasons, which I had considered ordering online. It's a lovely magazine, but it's not quite as spectacularly photographed as last year's; this year's photos seem more misty and dreamlike and subdued. Yankee's issue is only September, so there aren't many fall photos yet. But there was a welcome September feeling to it.

But Vermont Life--oh, the autumn issue of Vermont Life! Last year's was so disappointing, and this year's has so wonderfully made up for it. Several dozen gorgeous photos of blazing trees and white churches and green meadows interspersed with interesting stories, including one about a World War II training flight crash. But I wanted to fall--pun intended--into those glorious photos and go walking among the paths of shimmering color so badly...

17 August 2004

Christmas in August

As I previously posted, I ordered a few used Christmas books from Amazon.com Marketplace and Inventing Christmas had already come. In the past week I also got copies of The Reader's Digest Book of Christmas, Christmas at the New Yorker, and Flight of the Reindeer.

The Reader's Digest book was a real bargain: this is a beautiful, as new copy of an oversize , 303 page hardback volume full of color illustrations and stories. I bought it for several Yuletide short stories I didn't have, primarily Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory." It cost me only 52 cents, with the postage only $4. The Christmas story is illustrated with beautiful old paintings and the end of the book talks about Christmas customs in different lands. The illustrations throughout the stories are quite lovely.

I was a little disappointed by Christmas at the New Yorker. Since this is the New Yorker, I had no illusion that the stories were going to be fuzzy, warm little Christmas tales ala the "Christmas in My Heart" books, but most of the tales were so depressingly boring, populated with tediously spoiled rich kids and cheating husbands. I do love the cartoons, however, and enjoyed most of the poetry. I'm glad I didn't pay more than the $1.69 price tag, though.

And then there's Flight of the Reindeer, a whimsical book filled with enjoyable Jan Brett-like illustrations, proving the existence of Santa Claus and especially those flying reindeer. Again, something I'm happy to have, but glad I didn't pay full price, either.

09 August 2004

Too Early a Season

The first day of school is today.

After 20 years in the South, it still disorients me. For 13 years (sixteen if you count college), the routine was inviolable: school began in September, in public school’s case the Wednesday after Labor Day. First that week would be the holiday, then the first day of school, then the Fall Preview TV Guide. September was the universal school month, celebrated in magazines and books, linked inevitably with leaves starting to turn, the apples ripening in the orchards in the western part of the state, shorter days, and counting the days until Christmas.

My mom tells me they are starting school end of August now, too, but I can’t tell you how it astonished me when I first arrived down here and discovered school started in August. Maybe it’s because of the air conditioning in school. In Rhode Island August was still a raging inferno and you wouldn’t send a dog into those superheated airless classrooms. The first couple of weeks of September were bad enough.

Of course we didn’t get out of school until the third week of June, where the kids here are out by Memorial Day. Given the choice, I preferred school in June, which was noticeably cooler, than in terrible August. But it seems to me the date has "pushed up" in the past 20 years. I seem to recall the kids starting school the last week in August when I arrived here, now it's the second week of the month.

Of course they get more vacation time, or at least it seems, but it's probably a trade-off. We got only Thanksgiving and the day after back then; it seems now that they get the entire week. But here they don't get Columbus Day and Veteran's Day off, either. I can't imagine not having had Columbus Day off. This was the last hurrah, the final weekend the family could go to summer venues before it turned into winter-coat weather. We usually joined the thousands of "leaf-peepers" that weekend in enjoying the peak of fall glory up in southern New Hampshire and Vermont.

As much as I disliked summer heat and enjoyed most of school (except for math and PE and some of the science), I still used to stand in back of my door at bedtime before the first day of school and hum "Taps." ("Stop that," my mom would say with a roll of her eyes.) Well, I did at least until the summer I had to go to work. :-) Even algebra was better than work...

02 August 2004

First Christmas Book of 2004

Had found a few more expensive Christmas books online at remainder prices and snapped them up; I get most of my Christmas books that way, since half of them are so expensive.

Today's arrival was one of them, a mostly graphic volume by Jock Elliott called Inventing Christmas: How Our Holiday Came to Be. The narration is exuberant and the beautiful 19th century lithographs are worth the price of the book--as long as it's priced a bit lower. :-) Original price on this one was $24.95.

Elliott talks about the development of Christmas as a family holiday rather than an excuse for drinking and sex, Christmas cards, Christmas gifts (with illustrations of the original Christmas gift, the compilation "gift book"), Santa Claus, Christmas trees, Christmas carols and "the genuine article," Dickens' A Christmas Carol. But it's the illustrations of 19th century cards, gifts, and book illos that really make this volume shine.

(And when I put up the book, I get to walk into the library, which is decorated for fall all year...)