Thursday, December 25, 2014

Entirely for Pleasure

Sheila York

I hope you’ve had fun this holiday season. I mean, some real enjoyment, not just relief that it’s over.

I hope you weren’t too hard on yourself for not having done all the things no mortal man or woman could possibly get done in six weekends.

Holiday time is always tight for me. Not only do I have a second career, but my book generally has also reached the point where I’m starting to obsess that I won’t make my deadline. It got tighter this season. I was going to have to spend extra-long days at the office, training a new colleague, so I had to make a choice.

Pressure myself to get everything done that I never get done any other year anyway. Or carve out some fun in the time I had.

I opted for fun. 

I didn’t send cards. I enjoy getting them, but I don’t miss the ones I don’t get. Because I was working late at the office, it would have meant hours of weekend time.  Maybe I’ll send Happy Winter cards in January. Maybe I won’t.

I culled the gift list. I went to my favorite mall, the Short Hills Mall. It’s beautiful, wide sparkling aisles and plenty of assistance. I went, I shopped. I left before noon.

We got a tree at a lot where the Fraser firs are fragrant and full, and keep their needles. 

We decorated the house. Who would have figured I'd fall in love with gold-spangled garland?  

I wrapped the presents I bought. I like to wrap gifts. I like heavy foil paper that creases sharply, and wide, wired ribbon tied in enormous bows. Extra fun with a nice cup of hot buttered rum and a vintage holiday movie on the DVR.

I spent a few weekend hours in theaters with movies I wanted to see – The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything (yes, I heeded the call of the British biopic); Gone Girl; Whiplash; Birdman

At home, I watched Guardians of the Galaxy. Twice.

I went into New York City to see the WWOW Radio troupe, who perform old time radio mysteries as if they were being broadcast live. I got to see/hear 1940s holiday episodes of Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade.

One of my happy places at the holidays
when it's not loaded down with food and surrounded by friends

We invited a friend to a Thanksgiving sleepover, and two more came in mid-December for a quiet dinner party. Hours at the table. No cellphones. Plenty of conversation. None of it about work.

I went to a couple of bigger parties, too.

First, the Revels, the annual holiday party of the Mystery Writers of America’s New York chapter. Afterward, a rowdy bunch of us—what can I say? Writers & an open bar—went over to Annamaria’s and laughed ourselves silly (while being plied with platters of delicious cookies and more wine).

Then, my other career’s holiday party, the one I haven’t gone to in years because I always just had to finish up unfinished work before year-end. Bah, not this year! 

I was tapped to judge the Hideous Holiday Sweater contest. I wasn’t sure whether this was because they associated my ability to spot a dangling participle with discernment or they figured I was familiar with hideous clothing. 

I had one of my favorite editor moments of the year at that party, a story I will tell you in just a bit.

Last Sunday, we brunched at a neighbor’s house, and nobody left till dark.

Last night, we went across the street to friends. We brought the appetizers—a savory tart of apple, shallots and blue cheese + bacon-wrapped stuffed dates. The host's mother brought 3 desserts.

David and I splurged on gifts this year. For the last three years, the budget’s been tight while we paid off a jaw-droppingly expensive new roof. 

Our paid-for non-leaking roof

The roof has plenty of sharp slopes and angles, and none of the previous owners of my hundred-year-old house had bothered to strip off any earlier shingling. 

And there was the expense of the tree that landed in our backyard during Hurricane Irene and destroyed my garage. But that’s behind us now, and we got a bit naughty with the bank account.

Now, the story.

Background: In my other career, I’m a financial editor and I review research reports for compliance with certain rules. I can’t describe it much more than that. Not because it’s a secret but because whenever I try, people’s eyes glaze over. 

Editors are the sort of people who can sit around and discuss the proper use of possessive and accusative pronouns with gerunds and be happy as clams.

Some of the best people
to have a company party with; the guy in the center,
 over my right shoulder, is the one with the typo sweater 

At the research group’s holiday party, I was sitting at the bar with two of the better writers I work with (let’s call them Mike and Jim, because those are their names). 

Jim has just got engaged; Mike was particularly proud of having found a seasonal sweater with a typo on it, so he could quiz me (New Years Eve). 

Another guy strolled over, gestured to himself and the two other men. He said to me, "Between us, who’s got the worst grammar?”  

I said, “Well, first off, it’s ‘among’.” 

Mike and Jim laughed so hard, they almost fell off their chairs. To be fair, the other guy—let’s call him Calvin—thought it was pretty funny, too.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, I have lived this holiday season entirely for pleasure.

Sheila York


  1. A very Merry Christmas to you, Sheila , , and to all the other writers on this excellent blog - Crime Writer's Chronicle ... Kate, Annamaria, Bob, Stephanie, Mike - and all the wonderful guests who grace the pages of this blog all year! Thelma Jacqueline Straw

  2. Have a wonderful holiday! And an adventurous New Year!

  3. Your house is perfectly lovely. (Spellcheck tried to make me say "lowly.")