Cranky Girls' Farm, Dec. 26, 2010. Photo by Cranky #1. Temp: 15 degrees F.
So now it's Dec. 21, and the Crankies' lack of holiday prep is beginning to show. Only a smattering of presents have been laid in. Exactly none of them are wrapped. And the C's haven't recollected where they put that wee fake-o tree that the contractor left for them a couple of holidays ago before he disappeared (apparently) into a witness-protection program. With four shopping days left until Christmas, the Crankies do not despair, because they can access two major shopping venues that would make urban shoppers weep if they could fathom their wonderfulness.
The real ace in the hole is a local farm equipment chain called Atwoods. The Crankies would like to vacation at Atwoods. They would admire the bunnies and the small multicolored chickens at their leisure. They would wear t-shirts with emblazoned with pictures of green tractors. They would ride green pedal tractors and relax on truck-a-saurus sized lawnmowers. But since they had serious work to do, they quickly found their favorites: Anti-Monkey Butt Powder for Uncle M. John Wayne movies from the Conservative Movie Department for Youngest Older Brother. And shirts without welding burns for Second Older Brother. It's so easy. And, because Atwoods also appeals to Red State chicks, some polka dot Wellies for the girls in our family.
|Loading bales of hay, Dec. 22. Note the insulated coveralls.|
|UM's calf, Dec. 5, 2010|
With all this good mojo going, MC shouldn't have been surprised to find Christmas Eve grace in this very same Walmart. Have we mentioned that you can do just about everything at Walmart except perhaps listen to a reading by Noam Chomsky? One can order X-mas-y pictures online for the delight and amusement of one's family members. Which MC did, thrilled at the prospect of driving only 18 miles to pick them up the next day.
In the Walmart parking lot on Christmas Eve, MC was met by throngs of other losers and sucky shoppers. No surprise there. What she hadn't taken into account, however, was that people living on other continents had stopped shopping and had gone on to other pursuits. Ten a.m. Cranky Time is 3 p.m. Western European Time, and the Kings' College Choir was getting ready hold forth on the NPR station that locals think of as Music for Socialists. In their urban habitat, the Crankies attend the Church of Extremely Ambitious Music, and they annually hear performances of a program called Lessons and Carols. What the local folks lack, however, are the acoustics of a 500-year-old chapel in Cambridge and a boy tenor who has made some deal with a higher power. Who knows what extravagant promises this limey kid made to the great "I AM"--celibacy, poverty, a vow to shun the Arctic Monkeys. But there in the Walmart parking lot rang an impossibly clear voice, the fulfillment of Walmart's call to "Spend Less. Live Better."
Even after boy singer ended his carol, Walmart continued to demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas. At the checkout line, MC met perhaps the only living Walmart employee conversant in the Four Noble Truths, specifically, #2: "suffering is caused by craving." The previous customer had somehow failed in his transaction, leaving unhappy karma in MC's particular line. This wise clerk, however, began her own kind of protective chanting to ward off harm: "No one should be here. We should all be at home. It would be better if we were asleep." MC expressed her most sincere hope that Buddhist Walmart Associate would be able to go home soon, and exited the epicenter of American capitalism.
|Cranky Girls' house, from the pasture. Cranky #1 photo.|
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made."Repetitious much? Indulgently, MC was willing to grant them their slightly pompous King James version in consideration of that righteous boy singer. Then the Brits said their goodbyes, mentioning in passing that King's College had performed this baroque program annually since 1918. For MC, that little factoid was more breath-taking than the spectacular tenor. Insert every horrific statistic you know about the slaughter of World War I here. Now imagine an Edwardian boy singer performing, a mere month after Armistice Day, to the decimated class of 1918 and assorted grieving sweethearts.
MC surveyed the Walmart parking lot and considered how very zen her Walmart holiday had become. The buying power of a multinational, union-busting mega retailer, juxtaposed with the achingly wistful carols of a bygone empire. Spend less. Live Better. God help us.