Teri Orr: A resolution in the new year — giving life a reset every now and then
This year had the makings to end in a complete implosion.
One thing piled atop another — the “best” Christmas decorations were missing — my favorite ornaments, the elegant, handcrafted, velvet-wearing Santa that stands on the mantle, the good LED lights, decades-old trinkets. Those have yet to reappear. I meant to shop for gifts in a thoughtful, all-year-long fashion, so I would not have any last-minute “just buy something” moments. The success of that goal was evident — this year’s gifts included movie theater gift cards and sweatshirts from Whole Foods for the teenage Grands … purchased on Dec. 24.
Ten days ago my youngest grandson, age 15, pointed out the obvious when he was spending the weekend — “You know,” he said with that deepening voice to match his growing 6-foot-plus frame — “Christmas is about 10 days away. And you have no tree.”
It was a rather epic Oma fail.
I have so many Christmas decorations because decades ago when I lived at Lake Tahoe and I had a children’s clothing store — right next door there was a “Christmas all year long” shop. It was owned by this much older couple — in their 50s — and they had just moved to Tahoe from Jersey. They were involved in some other business venture in Tahoe. It was about six months before I learned their “other business” was Alpine Meadows Ski Area. The locals’ favorite — great for families and much less snotty than Squaw Valley. The family decided in 1976 to buy another ski area — a locals’ favorite in another state — Park City Mountain Resort. That was how I first met the Badami family — at Tahoe … as business neighbors.
Nick ran the ski resorts and his wife, Avis, ran the Christmas store. Except on Sundays — Nick ran the store. So we would talk when there were no customers and in those days — at all resorts in the West — there were few customers shopping on a Sunday. They were headed (in our case) back to the Bay Area. I learned about Nick’s former life in the garment business — BVD underwear, Maidenform bras, Botany 500 and National Shirt Shops — the Rapid American Corporation. We’d talk and I’d find some little Santa felt mouse and he’d throw in another one and I started to grow a collection of Christmas decorations. In time, there would be Swiss music boxes, crystal bells and so much more. When I left Tahoe in ’79 — running away from my life there — I managed to pack all the Christmas stuff and escape with my kids to come here.
Decorating the house for the holidays since I moved to Park City was always about more than the holidays. It is about memories of those people who became the parents I never had and who believed in me all those days I doubted my ability to single parent. Or edit a newspaper.
I love pulling out the decorated felt mice and the Swiss hand-carved music box. But about a week ago I declared a personal defeat. I’d have a tree up with whatever decorations presented themselves by Christmas Eve. Even though (former Parkite) Debbi Fields — the cookie magnate — used to say … “good enough never is” … I decided this year it would be.
All that was going “good enough “ and work suddenly needed attention. It needed attention that I hadn’t planned on during the holidays. So I dropped the cedar berries and switched gears. By the time I refocused it was Christmas Eve and all the things that were not done — were not happening.
As it turned out — it turned out just fine. There are no small children with great expectations in my world right now. I knew the teenagers would be good if I had enough food. And we had a pretty glorious afternoon of breaking off icicles and building a fire and laughing. We somehow used every dish I own. They filled the dishwasher with the first quarter of those dishes and then drove off into the snowy night. The next day I tried to continue the dishwashing and the damn thing wouldn’t work. I tried the simple tricks I knew. The appliance is a Bosch — known to be the workhorse of dishwashers. This horse was stuck in the gate.
I broke down and called the hotline listed on the dishwasher door. I admitted I had opened the device — mid-cycle — more than once and now its electronic brain was stuck. He finally said it sounded terminal and he could send a service representative out … on Jan. 15.
I looked at the piles of dishes stacked around the kitchen. One more hour was too long. Then I called a local repair place — explained my problem — as I understood it. She said they were kinda busy — but someone could come on Jan 5. I don’t think I cried out loud. I did come unglued. Was there any chance of anything sooner? “No, so sorry,” she said with a genuine sympathetic tone, ”but I have an idea — did you turn the breaker on and off? Sometimes the control panel needs a reset but that can’t happen until the breaker goes all the way off and the machine can reset itself.”
So I went into the control panel and flipped all the switches — on and off — the washer and dryer, the fridge — the lights on the tree. I finally found the right button and the dishwasher sprung to life! It had been that simple. Reset. It wasn’t broken at all — it just needed a reset. And in the same way I considered a few other problems in my life — a reset had probably been in order all along.
So I sat down to write by the light of Christmas tree with the fire roaring and the tiny felt mice dancing all over the room. I wound the music box and it played “Silent Night” with Swiss precision. I thought about what had made me go from desperate to temperate. It was the whole concept of reset. Walking away from the drama of the drama of things — or thinking things were stuck. Reset. That’s what I needed to start the New Year coming — the Chinese Year of the Rat. I’m not sure what all this means except … The next time I feel a meltdown coming on I‘m gonna try to remember to first turn off the emotional breakers. Give life (and appliances) a reset …
Which seems resolution enough for this Sunday in the Park …
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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Columnist Teri Orr writes that on a trip to Boulder, Utah, she met a shooting star — Kael Weston, a congressional candidate in the state’s 2nd District.