Ambivalent About Holidays

It occurred to me belatedly after Sunday’s post that it wouldn’t have killed me to slip a “Happy Mother’s Day” message at the end of the post.
“Ambivalent” is a $2 word for how I feel about holidays. (And pretty much everything else.) Of two minds. Especially those holidays that coincide with spring and summer, which includes those pater and mater familias holidays. (“I’m the pater familias! I’m bona fide, dammit!!” — O Brother, Where Art Thou?)


Pardon my bluntness, but most holidays do seem like calendar filler and crass gift-selling and tchotchke-accumulating opportunities. And the holidays honoring parents, though I sincerely share the fundamental sentiments, these two are full of pitfalls for those who’ve recently lost parents, or those who never wanted to be parents themselves, or those whose parents ran off and abandoned them at the tender age of 5, leaving them in charge of not only the family farm but also the care of their four younger siblings. (Channeling the Coen brothers a bit there.) Just unnecessarily complicated holidays. For example, the recent holiday, Mother’s Day, seems designed to cause someone, somewhere, gratuitous sadness. Also not in any holiday’s favor is the fact that preparing for and commemorating holidays, which seem to reach critical mass in our family in spring, usually takes up the better part of a precious weekend. (Next weekend, for example, a family holiday falls on the Huntington Botanical Garden’s plant sale, May 15, which is also the same day as the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days for Los Angeles. Fresh torment. This may just be the year I become a member so I can attend the members-only Saturday plant sale.)

I recently read that Freud felt, unlike me, that ambivalence was not a weakness, since the ambivalent mind necessarily had to hold more information than the resolutely dogmatic mind. This was a cheerful thought to a life-long ambivalent. Of course, now we’re ambivalent about Freud himself and his continuing relevance…and he didn’t have many nice things to say about mothers anyway, did he?

Ahem. Moving along to the very small point of this post. I do begrudgingly dash around to find obligatory holiday cards and gifts, which is absolutely No Fun At All.
(Except the part where I get to have dinner and cake and watch hockey with my wonderful mother. That part I love.)
And though I do technically fall into the mater familias category myself, no gifts for me, please, no store-bought cards, thank you very much.

But then late Sunday night I unwrapped this beauty, and all holiday irritation melted away. Felco No. 9.


I was told the transaction went something like this:

Pater Familias: I need to find a pair of pruners that aren’t made like crap.
Patient Shopkeeper, probably slightly taken aback at such frankness and sensing this customer was going to be a wild card: Hmmm
Pater Familias: She leaves them outside, and they rust and need sharpening all the time. And they are just junk and it’s a waste of money.

Patient Shopkeeper nods quietly and motions for the pater to leave the rack of cheap gardening implements and to follow him.
Patient Shopkeeper then disappears into a back office, closing the door behind him, reappearing a few minutes later with an object in his hand.

Patient Shopkeeper: This is what we use. I’ve had these for 15 years. But I’ll warn you, they are not cheap.
Pater Familias: Can she leave them outside?
Patient Shopkeeper: Only if she doesn’t care if they’re stolen.

Felco No. 9. just in time.

The Cotinus ‘Grace’ is in full smoke, her whippy branches dipping low and brushing heads.


Belated Happy Mother’s Day.

I hope you unwrapped presents like this (from the California Cactus Center.)


Edited 5/11/11: Pottery in the last photo by Mike Cone. California Cactus Center carries a good selection of his amazing pots.

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5 Responses to Ambivalent About Holidays

  1. So does that mean you also received the lovely succulents?

    I found myself fumbling for the right words to wish a neighbor a nice day on Sunday. She could certainly be of the mother/grandmother set but I’m not sure what her personal story is. I didn’t want to say anything that might bring sad memories. Awkward indeed.

    I’m now going to go find my “oh brother” soundtrack and give it a listen….

  2. Denise says:

    Loree, that’s an old photo from CCC. That is a good soundtrack. Think I’ll dig out the DVD for tonight.

  3. Kathy says:

    I’m with you my friend, my children are aware that nothing is required on ‘mothers day’ , an event no doubt contrived by the floral/greeting card industry to whip up some sales between Valentines day and Christmas. I’ve made my feelings very clear on the matter . However, there nothing wrong with getting a pair of Felcos out of the deal !

  4. Sharon says:

    I remember those pots from the California Cactus Center but can’t remember the artist. He’s from Arizona, right? Do you know?

  5. Denise says:

    Kathy, you too! Now I don’t feel like such a curmudgeon.

    Sharon, I’m pretty sure it’s Mike Cone. Here’s the LA Time’s piece on him:

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