We waited in line too long at Pierre Hermes for the macarons and the apple fritter. I had been ogling the merchandise, and though I came exclusively for the pastries, I snatched a jar of strawberry and pistachio jam at the last moment for our 2011 Christmas feast, knowing how Chad loves pistachios.
He never got to try any; I ate the whole thing in ten hours, occasionally spreading a taste onto a torn piece of baguette like a civilized person, but mostly with a spoon inserted directly and messily from the jar into my mouth and back, like I was feeding myself baby food.
I haven’t bought jam or jelly or preserves since; when I’ve had the best of something, I would rather live without than attempt to pacify a craving with a lesser attempt.
Chad gave me two jars this year, one for Christmas, and one for my birthday. They were the second best presents I received.
The best present I received was instant karma.
My brother and I grew up with a father who appreciates the subtleties of music. He has a pretty decent record collection and an admirable sound setup. I used to come home from school and ogle the covers before placing The Supremes, almost always, on the turntable. Motown can make anything fun, as it did homework for me back then, as it does reconciliations and margin analyses now.
I started my own record collection with an ex-boyfriend, who dutifully divied up the wax when we broke up. He took the turntable with him, so I carted my records to the bar I tended three nights a week, DJing during my shifts. Customers loved it; more often than not, that one perfect record would carry all of us through a bad night. The Specials could turn up the energy when 4am rolled around and there were still glasses to wash. Studio One Soul comps can mellow out a rambunctious crowd. Jackie Wilson will make even the shyest soul shimmy.
Though I love the sound quality and visceral experience of playing a record, I don’t value it enough to purchase a decent turntable when there are so many cute dresses to buy. Instead, I bought a semi-decent turntable for my brother for Christmas, sort of; we give each other gifts whenever we see something the other may enjoy, regardless of arbitrary anniversaries. Amazon was having a sale in early December, so my brother got an early Christmas/late birthday/just because present.
While checking out, I thought for a moment that it is a strange thing to give a gift to someone that I would be happy to receive myself; why do I not deserve that same elation? Why not ship it to myself? He will be none the wiser. Nevertheless, I directed the turntable to San Francisco, and my brother can now play the two records that comprise his collection to his heart’s content.
We passed Christmas this year in Texas, where the air is arid and the food is meat. We remembered the Alamo and BOOB (brought our own booze) to the local barbecue restaurant. I ate food served out of trailers in Austin and walked the river in San Antonio. I drank Lone Star; one sip was enough.
My birthday, unenviably, falls on December 29; my mother chose this date for the tax purposes. Now you understand why I am an accountant.
I was served cake and champagne for breakfast on my birthday, before being invited to open my gifts. One larger box was particularly enticing, although I have been disappointed before by excessive packaging and bulky sweaters.
The very last thing I expected was a turntable, which is exactly what my boyfriend gave to me.
Bright red and portable, I felt that inimitable glee that a true surprise garners, that childlike ecstasy of getting exactly what you want even though you didn’t think you’d ever have it.
I smiled, wide and ugly, as I did when my baby teeth first fell out.
I was a kid again.