Muffy and Buffy: A Thanksgiving Story

(Originally published on 12/12/11)

It was one of the last days of fall and I was sitting huddled with Muffy and Buffy by the fireplace on Muffy’s back patio. The pool had been emptied and covered a couple of months ago, although we had hardly used it at all that summer because Muffy was trying to stay with her program of energy conservation, and the water had never warmed above sixty-four degrees.

“We all have to make sacrifices,” Muffy reminded us, in a tone of voice that reminded me of that unfortunate period in our lives when we were Girl Scout leaders.

“But I’m already using those hideous new curly light bulbs and recycling every darn thing in the house,” said Buffy. “When I put the trash out at the curb last week, there wasn’t even enough to fill a tall kitchen bag.”

“Do you ever worry about all those Starbucks cups, though?” I asked. I try to be a better person, but often a vision of all the Starbucks cups I have used in my lifetime appears to me in a nightmarish scenario that involves deforestation and sick panda bears.

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The Family Ties That Bind Us at Holiday Time

(Originally published in The Philadelphia Inquirer on 11/24/05)

As we enter the time of year that we as a culture set aside for celebration and spiritual reflection, we also enter a vast uncharted terrain that can cause anxiety among even the most psychologically sound.  That terrain is our family life.

I’m not referring to immediate family members living under our own roof.  I’m referring to that network of “others,” related to us by blood or marriage, who we don’t see or, truthfully, even think about much except for during holidays.

The family members we live with are the fulcrum around which most of our celebrations occur.  Those other family members though – parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, children of second cousins, ex-wives of stepparents – those are the ones who mix up the pot.  They often provide the color, imbalance, and fragility of human spirit that collides for a day or two with our own accepted notions of how things are.

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