On December 23rd nineteen years ago, my soon-to-be-husband invited me to a local inn high on a local mountain to ask for my hand in marriage. He’d packed champagne and flutes in the trunk of his brother’s BMW 2002 (aka The Money Pit). He’d packed a boom box with a mixed tape. I was excited to go but somewhat baffled (and, I admit, irritated) by his oldest brother accompanying us. His mom was coming, too, but she was very ill at the time and so was trying to have time with her sons while she still literally had time. The evening was cold, windy and thick with pummeling Bay Area fog. His brother insisted on driving…miles up a curvy road while downshifting herky-jerky into first gear and singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Not sure why. Too annoyed to ask polite questions. Too car-sick to protest.
Upon arrival I exclaimed, “Wow! Looks like people have been murdered here!” The inn was (and still is) an historic lodge, accessible by foot (we were allowed car access because of his mom), rustic, romantic, and high on my list of Haunted Places With No Working Locks. Poor Mr. Halfstory. I said yes but we have never returned there, and although I remember all the songs on the tape, I think it might be stuffed under the mattress upon which I never fell asleep, being, of course, too scared of fog monsters.
Anyway, that’s my weird little holiday story for you, my 18 or so readers. But here is something else: to kick off this festive season (and to put myself in a less Grinchy mood) I will be choosing TWO of you to receive a surprise gift! Don’t worry, it will not be anything edible, perishable, or living. Or inappropriate. Just put a comment here, at the bottom of this post and on Friday, the 13th, I will choose two of your names at random and mail you something small for the holidays, just as an appreciation for following alicetownsend. I guess you will have to trust me and leave your email address so I can contact you for a mailing address. Rest assured: I am far too lazy to be a stalker.
Here are some (new) picture books I like for gift giving. They are ostensibly for children but, truthfully? I love them, too.
Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett
The Elephant in the Room by Lane Smith
Ribbit by Rodrigo Fulgeira and Poly Bernatene
The Dark, by Lemony Snicket
Any of the books about which I’ve blogged are gift-worthy. But here’s what I like to do: while haunting libraries I pick up gently used books from their “sale” shelf and package up stacks of books for those friends who love to read. Not expensive and they can pass them along as they choose. They also don’t have to like them or talk to you about them later because they know you didn’t spend $25 each on them.
Here are some charities worth looking into if you are giving away money:
YES Nature to Neighborhoods
Marine Mammal Center
Children’s Hospital of Oakland
Wounded Warrior Project