Christmas 2017, Dear Friends

Dear Family and Friends,

This year there will be no Christmas mustache. I do not refer to my face. I refer to our hearth, which Tizi has adorned the past few years with a horizontal wreath. In the off-season she collects holiday greenery and reddery. She’ll say, “Hey, let’s stop at English Gardens.” Definitely my idea of a good time. We come out of the store loaded with artificial poinsettia blossoms, faux holly branches laden with berries, assorted sprigs and stems, fronds and vines, shoots and peduncles. In prior years, bent over these decorative riches, she lashed together a long, narrow pastiche of holiday flora that, to my eye, looked like a festive Snidely Whiplash mustache. Same ingredients this year, except more; less linear, more rectangular arrangement. Suitable for framing.

Also this year, beneath the wreath that is not a mustache, there will be no sprawling nativity scene, arranged in and out of the fireplace. For reasons explained below she’s gone minimal. In place of her mock up of that corner of the ancient Middle Eastern world, we have just two figures. Well, two and a half figures, the main characters. Her, him, and HIM, situated in front of dried gourds. Gourds and God, don’t ask me the connection. Why should there be one?

No populous nativity scene because, well, we’ve had a nativity experience of our own this year. In October a new human came to visit, and stay, Silas Adrian Solomon. Since July, Danny, the boy’s dad, has been in Shanghai (where they are all four moving in two weeks, yes moving, for three years), Gabriel, the boy’s brother, is three, verbal, and kinetic. Add a new baby, and Lisa single momming it, Tizi and I have been called in as reinforcements, helping with daily child minding mornings, afternoons, and evenings. And weekends. Gabriel, big brother, nicknamed the baby Crabby while he (Silas) was still in utero. The name stuck, but it is definitely a misnomer. Crabby only if you discount the smiles. Crabby only if you discount his soft sighs and avid glugging when having some milk (his favorite food). While you pull off his diaper and launder his behind, he looks up at you with wide (blue) eyes that say, Hey, do I know you? Those eyes are still a little blurry, but I think he does. Maybe he’s just grateful for that timely swabbing. Anyway we know and love him. Crabby admires his brother, who is handsome, articulate, affectionate. And sophisticated. Among Gabriel’s favorite foods: Brussels sprouts, octopus, tagliatelle, and chocolate. And vitamins disguised as candy. Lisa calls him beauty boy. As she should. The other day, of the new guy, Tizi said, “This morning I think Silas looks like my dad.” The boy lay rocking in his mechanized basket, arms laid across his chest, his little fists clenched; a miniature pugilist at rest. I saw the resemblance to her dad: wide forehead, substantial cheeks. Thinning hair. Lisa’s theory is a baby’s head grows faster than his hair. Who knows? I know this: His stomach is growing faster than his head. It will be fun when he is ambulatory and articulate, forking his tagliatelle. In the meantime, how nice to hold a baby. He ain’t heavy, he’s our Crabby. That could be a song.


So our travel plans are veering away from Italy. We’ll be going to Shanghai this year, stopping in LA on the way both there and back. David and Dana moved from NYC to LA a year ago. Both in advertising, they are clever for a living. Along with working on Hulu projects in LA, David writes for Five Guys Burgers and Fries right now. To get to know the Guy-Burger-Fry culture, his team went to Philadelphia for a few days in October, working all the stations in the restaurant. He got a cool hat. And decided he needs a griddle (in the house they just bought) so he can burger like a Guy. Can’t wait to try one. Or two.

Today Tizi and I go looking for gobbi (rhymes with tubby). Say the word out loud, pronouncing both b’s. GOB-bi (rhymes with TUB-bee). When David was little, he called them “buggy” (BUG-ghee). Gobbi, meaning “hunchbacks,” is a slang term for cardone, a wild vegetable now domesticated that, like the artichoke, belongs to the thistle family. Picture a giant bunch of celery, celery on steroids, celery with leaves and thorns growing on the edges of each stalk, celery that could serve as a medieval weapon of war. That’s gobbi. What daft individual, you have to wonder, looked at an uninviting thorny thing growing by the side of the road and said, Hey, let’s eat that.  A daft and happy fool to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. The gobbi we eat in San Marino are grown a couple miles down the road. The ones we get in Detroit come from Castroville, California (one reason to be grateful for industrial food production). You trim the leaves and thorns, chop the stalks and boil the heck out of them, then stew the rest of the heck out of them in oil, garlic, and tomato. It wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

We are grateful for your love and friendship. Sitting on the very hard hardwood floor, feeling our old bones creak, we soak up love, marvel at our good fortune, and pray for comfort and joy for those in pain and sorrow and distress. We wish you an excellent 2018—

Love, the Canducci-Bailey


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