fierce attachments

a mother-daughter blog about the fierce attachments in our lives… title inspired by Vivian Gornick's wonderful memoir

Category: holidays

thanksgiving in jail

by caitlin meredith

razor wire fenceIn September I started teaching a journalism class at the county jail here in Austin. The homework assignment I left the students with before Thanksgiving was to write a review of something they experienced either in jail or in their past: a TV show, a movie, a concert. I gave them five minutes of class time to get started.

One woman started hers about a fancy hotel she’d stayed at in Dallas called Hotel Zaza. She talked about the lobby, the decorations and the high thread count beds. The woman sitting next to her also evaluated beds, but her review was of the psychiatric unit of the County Jail. That promised to be a much more interesting subject but unfortunately class time ran out before she could read beyond her first paragraph.

When I came back this Wednesday I got to hear their final drafts. They were great. The woman who had written about the psych unit had been transferred to a rehab program so I didn’t get to hear hers, but the others entertained with sharp commentary on cooking and singing reality shows. The real standout, however, was a review one student wrote about spending Thanksgiving in jail. With her permission, but without her name, I’m sharing it here. Read the rest of this entry »


the end of gift giving (as we once knew it)

by nikki meredith

Juleaften The Royal Library, Denmark

According to the New York Times, the recipients of gifts are no longer content with leaving it up to you to decide, they want what they want and they want you to get it for them. We the givers, writes Penelope Green, are being treated like “catalogs or department stores, brandishing lengthy wish lists, demanding gift cards or boldly asking for cash.” Social scientists who study this phenomenon have various explanations (according to one theory: what matters is having the exact right stuff — the clothes we wear, the object d’art we display, the lamps we light — because of what our stuff says about our style and identity) but Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, calls it is “blatant greed” and, in the article, labels it our number one etiquette problem.

You’d think I’d welcome this specificity. On November 20, 2011 I wrote about how difficult it is for me and my husband to get the gift-giving thing right, even after 36 years of marriage. But the mercenary approach horrifies me. I first noticed it when a relative got married a few years ago and along with the invitation came a request that guests contribute to the car she and her future spouse wanted to buy. I figured this was just my crazy family but then the daughter of a friend got married a year later and this kid wanted us to contribute to the purchase of a condominium. Read the rest of this entry »

how to beat the holiday blues: be nimble

by nikki meredith

via Terry Vine/CORBIS

There is a saying in Italian: Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con qui vuoi . Which means: Christmas with your family, but Easter with whomever you want! My parents weren’t Italian but they subscribed to this notion. The one and only time I dared to spend Christmas away from them was my honeymoon and they never quite forgave me for it. As a result, I vowed that, with my kids, I would never make spending any holiday with me compulsory.  In the beginning it was because I didn’t want to burden them. Later it was because I didn’t want to be so wedded to one way of celebrating the holidays that I’d be crushed if it didn’t work out. I do have a tradition, however, and it’s to be forever nimble on holidays. And I think it’s a tradition that might work for others.

I have a friend who was depressed for most of the weeks leading up to Christmas last year because her adult son and his wife decided to take their kids and join some friends of theirs in Hawaii for Christmas. Taking Grandma and Grandpa apparently wasn’t an option – either because they wanted a break from the old folks or because no one could afford the extra plane tickets. My friend and her husband are on a fixed income; their son’s wife is currently unemployed so the only way they could manage the trip was to cobble together a package of frequent flier miles and to trade their home in Marin County for a condo in Oahu.   “Christmas has always been at our house,” my friend said, “that’s our family tradition.” I felt sad for her but that always is a problem. There is no always in this life. People move, they divorce, they die, they decide they prefer palm trees to redwood trees on Christmas. Read the rest of this entry »

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