The Bucket Shrub

Sucking The Life Out Of The Holidays

My husband found four shrubs and a palm tree by the side of the road. Well, it’s not really a palm. It’s some kind of giant fern with a weird (PORN NAME ALERT!) hairy trunk. And it’s like four feet tall except now it’s dead. Or maybe it’s just resting, what do I know about plants?

We have some neighbors who have a lawn care business and generally leave the carcasses of shrubs and other assorted flora in the Designated Trash Spot which is the fence at the culvert. This is the best place in Memphis to find and leave Stuff. Chuck and his friend Alan hauled out our busted washing machine a few months ago and by the time they’d finished a beer to reward themselves for the manly job they’d done, the sucker was gone. I once saw this great end table and by the time I circled back around to pick it up, it was gone. I saw a middle aged woman in a Mercedes sedan try to pick up two club chairs and put them in her trunk. It’s like the FAO Schwarz of junk. On Black Friday.

I don’t know why these particular plants were put out to pasture. They were all healthy. The four shrubs have been sitting in their pots in front of Chuck’s garden forming a nice hedgerow. But it’s Christmas and I’m Southern. By law, I must decorate the house in some fashion. Usually, I just put a ribbon around a bottle of Jim Beam and call it a day. This morning I stuck a shrub in the ice cream freezer.

Part of Chuck’s dowry was a White Mountain ice cream freezer. You know the one. Wooden bucket, loud motor. He comes from a big ice cream-making clan, but that’s another post. Believe me. I really liked the bucket and being a gal on a budget, I stuck it at my front door and threw some greenery in it. It looked really cool. Then, of course, I let the greenery turn brown. You’ll know my house by the ice cream freezer full of sticks decorating the front porch. Oh, and spring before last a squirrel nested in it. So that was nifty.

But this morning I looked at the pumpkins (from his garden, thankyouverymuch) and frost-bitten croton and thought, damn. I should be embarrassed. I mean, I’m not. But I should be. So I grabbed a shrub, threw out the nest and the pumpkins, and now my porch is about a quarter of the way to being festive. I’m going to hang some glass balls on my bucket shrub. Maybe put a wreath on my door. OBVIOUSLY, I will be putting Fernando The Yard Flamingo in his Santa outfit. By that point I’ll be exhausted and need to recouperate by watching Love Actually for the 4,593th time. And I’ll probably require a cheeseburger.

Then I’ll wait with a finger or two of bourbon for a really pissed off squirrel to come banging on my door wanting to know how in the hell I thought I could evict him without proper legal notice.

As I Was Saying…

tweet yallYeah, so didn’t make it back quite in the time frame I imagined. I’m just not going to get into why because it’s really just not that interesting. I mean, I know I’m not generally interesting anyway, but this is like hearing someone else’s dream not interesting. It’s like listening to someone describe a dress not interesting. Have you ever noticed that when someone describes what she’s going to wear, it never looks like you think it will? There’s a lot of that going on in my world.

And yet here I am. IT’S ALL FOR YOU, INTERWEBZ!

I just want to say that I hate spring. I mean, I hate summer more. Especially August. But summer is at least honest. You know you’re going to be miserable in summer. You know you’ll spend three months peeling your thighs off hot car seats. You know you’re going to shower three times a day because walking out to get the mail makes you sweat through your caftan. And your mailbox isn’t even at the road. You know there are bugs as big as toddlers that are just waiting patiently to suck the life out of you by biting your ankles…just like toddlers with wings, in fact.

No, I hate spring because it’s too damned optimistic. Spring is all about promise, but it’s like the promise of that pub with the sign “Free Beer Tomorrow”. And now we’re into June and it’s going to be 95° this week with 876% humidity. You know what that means? There’s nowhere for the sweat to go. So you spend a little time outside and you turn into a Syracuse salt potato but without the creamy interior. Spring is crafty like a ninja. One day you’re sweating your bippy off and the next day you’re digging for wool socks. One day everything’s all green and fluffy and the next day it’s like Colonel Kilgore decided he wanted to smell victory so everything’s charred.

Also in Memphis, as in much of this part of the world, the hotter it gets, the more we all start sounding like Blanche DuBois. The heat turns our brains syrupy and ridiculous memories start oozing out our ears so then we’re like Blanche DuBois at the end of the play. And we start using the term “branch water” too much.

I’m going to be writing more regularly this summer, although I’ll just tell you up front I’ve got some obligations that might make that more difficult in the immediate future. BUT DO NOT CRY, GENTLE READER. For just like bangs and STDs, you’re pretty much stuck with me from here on out.

Sucking The Life Out Of The Holidays

You know how you think your family is crazy? You’re right. They are. You are the only sane one and you’re pushing the rock of sagacity uphill. Both ways. In the snow. Give in. Just give in.

There’s a yard sign I’ve seen around the internet that says something to the effect of how in The South we don’t hide our crazy. We put it out on the porch and give it a cocktail. There’s a reason for that, but it has less to do with embracing eccentricity and more the fact that there’s only so many people a house can hold. Not that the porch is really any better. Getting all your crazy kin out there with cocktails only ensures the porch will collapse and kill all your dogs.

My cousin Sharon says that while she wasn’t born in The South, she got here as soon as she could. I can only attribute this to a tendency towards stubbornness and a deeply held need to reassure herself she’s not so crazy after all. Having married into a family so eccentric Flannery O’Connor would run screaming headlong into a fainting couch, really all she has to do is show up to receive such reassurance. Her husband, my mother’s first cousin, and my mother like to look straight at my brother and me, and with all seriousness, frighten the snot out of us with the sober reminder, “WE’RE the sane ones.” Do they protest too much? No. No, unfortunately they are not, in this case, delusional.

Your family, normally a somewhat irritating yet benign protuberance on your butt becomes, around the second week of November, a festering boil which cannot be lanced until sometime around the last week of February when the image of your sister singing Patsy Cline’s greatest hits and wearing on her head the wreath you painstakingly created from months of collecting sweetgum balls finally fades. You TOLD her she’d had one too many Brandy Alexanders.

This time of year only serves to make friends of strangers and enemies of family. You’ll happily chat away to the woman in front of you in line who is asking if you understand a damn thing about these computer tablet pad internets she’s getting her grandchildren to play with, but you’ll lunge for Aunt Bunky’s throat if she tells you the story ONE MORE TIME about how they were so poor they had nothing to play with but pecan shells and how they never decorated with holly because they had to boil it into tea. This is the time of year that tries men’s souls. And patience. And livers.

And while I’m on a roll, whoever thought this was a good time of year for hunting season was obviously not just an only child, but an orphan. You haven’t lived until brothers, flasks empty, rifles loaded, come ass-over-elbow out of the woods arguing about why the other one is so undeserving of Mawmaw’s milk punch recipe. Grown-ass men. Armed. Milk punch.

This year I will put my shopping off longer than usual. I’ll pay out the wazoo to get everything shipped overnight if I have to. I’m hoping those Mayans were on to something.