One woman, lots of paint and hundreds of tiles. If you're here because you found a painted tile, it's yours to keep.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Lydia Dares to Dream

Baby Gingerbread creatures are born into this world with fresh slates -- no buttons, no eyes and no baggage. But no sooner do the little ones pop out of the oven, arms stretched wide, than they find themselves facing grave consequences that no Gingerbread newborn should have to face.

After all the tender and loving care they receive, they’ll more than likely be lifted, chewed and then forced down a long, dark tunnel into a sea of eggnog, melted chocolate, turkey, stuffing and little sticky candy canes bits. Naturally, they’re scared. Their only comfort is in telling each other that it’s a special place because all the good Gingerbread eventually go there … that being specially selected for this based on their attributes … whether it’s fancy buttons, little green gloves, or a special look on their face …. is what allows them to reunite with the others who’ve gone before them. The Gingerbread men and ladies believe that once they go through these trials they’ll be made whole again in this place … and that maybe they will find True Love there. But only if they’re very specially selected.

Not all Gingerbread wind up there. Some very fortunate ones live in Gingerbread houses, and have long, happy lives, at least in terms of Gingerbread years. A few lucky ones are preserved as ornaments and hang on brightly lit trees each holiday season. But most are just slid onto a platter and eventually go through a selection process which is not unlike being picked for Dodgeball teams. Yeah, everybody gets picked eventually …. But clearly some are more desired that others, and really, is there value to a Gingerbread knowing that someone selected them because that fancier Gingerbread, the one they really, really wanted and had their little heart set on, was unavailable.

That’s the question Lydia kept asking herself as she lay in the bottom of that cheery red holiday bowl feeling bewildered. All the others were gone now, and she knew the little orange-haired boy was eventually going to pick her. But she also knew she wasn’t his first choice. He wanted Jane, the Gingerbread girl with the purple hair, red heart and polka dot gloves who was riding a skateboard … but the boy with the yellow hair snatched Jane right up, and he didn’t even care about Jane’s skateboard or her heart. She could have been any gingerbread. He was just hungry.

The orange-haired boy, however, cared deeply about Jane. He cared so much that he wasn’t sure he wanted another Gingerbread and waited some time before contemplating whether to settle for the pink-haired girl with the matching buttons. Lydia senses that he was contemplating her and her pink buttons now, but she also knew he was still dreaming of Jane, and feeling deeply infatuated with her fancier Gingerbread ways … But Jane was deeply buried in the gooey holiday mess now, and the orange-haired boy was alone, and hungry for gingerbread. So he thought that maybe in a jam, the pink-haired Gingerbread girl with the matching buttons would suffice. Maybe he could learn to love her instead. If he tried really, really hard, maybe he could even feel the same way about her as he did the purple-haired Gingerbread girl that left him so smitten.

Lydia, meanwhile, was feeling uncomfortably vulnerable in the bottom of that cheery red dish. It had been 22 hours since she popped out of the oven … and in Gingerbread years, that’s a very long time. She’d had much time to think and analyze, and was on the cusp of her own decision …. She told herself that the only one thing that could stop her from running off permanently to the fruitcakes that lived in the kitchen cabinet was the kind of True Love that typically only freshly baked Gingerbread creatures experience, and it was a little late for that.

Lydia knew she wasn’t perfect, and that after 22 hours, she was probably a little stale … She might even crumble soon. She wasn’t hideous looking or anything. She matched OK and all that, but her facial features were off, especially the eyebrows, and her buttons weren’t very big or fancy. Also, she had five buttons whereas most of the other Gingerbread had only three. Her maker told her she was lucky to have extra buttons, and she did feel lucky at first, but now she just felt freaky. It wasn’t enough to make her want to run off and join a Gingerbread circus or anything but it was yet another thing that set her apart from other holiday treats, Lydia frequently felt like an outcast.

She did, however, feel at home with the fruitcakes she had come to consider close friends. They had their own special attributes. As such, they stayed in their little tins and kept to themselves but led comfortably uncomplicated lives on the Top Shelf. Their tins were soundproof so they never had to hear some of the unkind things people said about them, and as a result led relatively long and painless lives. Their armor made them seem unapproachable, further contributing to their preservation. Lydia sometimes felt bad for them, and wondered if they got lonely, but she knew they still dreamed and that they did not sell out and try to become something else, and she respected them for this.

The Fruitcakes’ “special” features are well-documented, and Lydia noticed how people, aka the Gingerbread Eaters, sometimes compared their fellow people to the tinned loners. They’d say things like “Oh yeah, that guys a fruitcake,” when what they really mean is that he’s different and keeps to himself and lives in his own little world, without regard to what others think about him. What they’re also implying, of course, is that he’s some kind of freak or reject. There are certain assumptions people make about Fruitcakes just because they look less decorated than say, a cupcake, and taste different. No wonder Fruitcakes wear armor.

People make assumptions about Gingerbread too …. but in the opposite way. They think, because of those little permanently outstretched arms, that they’re loveable and so hungry for love that they’d be happy to be selected, even by someone who doesn’t love them the way the orange-haired boy loved the purple-haired girl. But Lydia sometimes thinks life is too short to live with someone who just wished they loved her. She's not so sure she wants to be rescued from the bottom of that red dish by a little orange-haired boy who doesn’t dream about her. Maybe she’d rather live out the Gingerbread season alone with her dreams, or with Fruitcake friends who effortlessly love and appreciate her – weird eyebrows, extra buttons and all.

Sometimes, Lydia isn’t even sure she’s cut out for being a Gingerbread. She thinks she might be a mixed breed. She knows her mom was a Gingerbread, but never knew her father and suspects that he may have been a Fruitcake, the kind in a tin. But she looks like a Gingerbread Girl, so people expect her to be cute and fancy and loveable, which she clearly is not.

She knows Gingerbread creatures are by their very nature, supposed to be special because they are only born during the Christmas holiday season, but Lydia thinks that’s just rigid. Yet she does understand how diversification can ruin a treat.

Look at Peeps. Peeps started as brightly colored standard marshmallow treats that had just as much right to populate an Easter basket as chocolate bunnies… But the ones showing up in October shaped like little orange pumpkins and white ghosts are clearly not as special and don’t seem to have as much right to Halloween traditions as, say, Candy Corn. Ditto for the pink heart-shaped Peeps that surface around Valentine’s Day, which is typically reserved for chocolates in heart-shaped boxes. And those red-white-and-blue star Peeps born on the 4th of July are downright ridiculous. As for those Peeps that have begun imitating Gingerbread Men during the holiday season, we won’t even speak of those wannabes.

Lydia knows there are plenty of Peeps who would kill to be Gingerbread men or ladies, but they don’t understand how it feels to be laying at the bottom of a red dish like last year’s foil-covered chocolate egg that got trapped below the Easter grass. It’s a very fragile space in which to live.

Lydia doesn’t like feeling so damned vulnerable and out in the open like that. She’s planning to leave that empty red dish on her own accord before it’s too late and to relocate to that safe place on the Top Shelf she calls Land of the Forgotten Fruitcakes. She knows it’s a tight squeeze up there …. But she’s pretty sure it’s where she belongs. She’s grown to love those Fruitcakes, and has come to think of those shiny tins on the Top Shelf as the little houses in her new neighborhood.

She knows she’ll fit right in there because Lydia has a mind of her own, and in this prefab, façade of a manufactured world, this makes her a fruitcake … and even though Fruitcakes don’t have little outstretched arms that make them look like they need hugs, they need friends too, and they need to be loved, but only by someone who really means it. Not someone who says, “Oh, thank you, I love fruitcakes” and then sticks them on the Top Shelf. Lydia doesn’t feel that way about the fruitcakes. She loves them and she really means it.

She figures once she settles into the Land of the Forgotten Fruitcakes, she can lighten things up a bit on the Top Shelf. She can almost imagine all of them sitting up there with the Jameson Irish Whiskey that only leaves the Top Shelf on Paddy’s Day and having a good laugh and maybe some loving chatter with the abandoned box of Conversation Hearts in the corner. They’ll joke about how things could be far, far worse than what they’ve got going on up there. “We may not have been born as Whitman chocolates in a heart-shaped box,” she’d tell them laughing. “But hey, at least we’re not red-white-and blue Peeps … born on the 4th of July. And more importantly, we're not Circus Peanuts.”

The Gingerbread, Peeps, Fruitcakes and Conversation Hearts who contributed to this report wish to remain anonymous. Some have valid reasons for keeping their identities a Top Shelf secret. Others are just ridiculously paranoid. They talked, with the promise of anonymity, for one reason. They want the world to know that the holiday season can be very difficult and that creative strategies for surviving the season are crucial. Several wanted to relay to the general public that Fruitcakes have feelings too.

The Peeps, however, admit that their reputation for being superficial and way too accommodating is well-deserved, but they point out that they don't resort to living in tins because they don't care what people say about them. You can't hurt them, they insist, because they are indestructible. If you don't believe that, click here.

The Peeps are celebrating 10 years of indestructibility in 2008 and have recently revealed that, despite rumors, they're not affiliated with Circus Peanuts, but that they do think fondly of them and think Lydia was harsh in her generalizations about them. When confronted with this accusation, Lydia said she did not recall that statement about the Circus Peanuts and that she thinks it may have been the Jameson's talking. When asked about this, Jameson said that Lydia was an honorable woman and the Peeps were cheap, sleazy and all about the money now and that if they tried to invade his holiday by turning themselves into shamrocks next year, he would "kick their little marshmallow asses."

Lydia is on a little hiatus from the Top Shelf and is in the desk drawer in the ladies room at Total Wine on Cordova Road in Fort Lauderdale (That's right, the Gingerbread is in a secret drawer in the ladies room).


At 8:49 PM, Blogger Restaurant Gal said...

Lydia definitely sounds like my kind of gal. Great post.

At 10:20 AM, Blogger Mary Tiler More said...

Thanks RG! If you care to meet Lydia, I bet she's still hiding out at Total Wine (take the BIG pocketbook to get her). ... The neighborhood with the shiny tin houses started getting out of control. Mostly it was Jameson stirring things up as always, so Lydia's hanging out at TW for awhile. She made a new friend, Blue Nun, who has been looking out for her, like a big sister.

Blue Nun apparently once taught Jameson back in grade school. She said if he doesn't straighten out and stop hating Peeps and Circus Peanuts so much, she's gonna head down to Fruitcake Land and whack him across the knuckles with a ruler, just like old times.

Blue Nun had much praise for the fruitcakes though she said they really do need to learn to stand up for themselves and to be brave enough to speak their heart because that whole thing about the meek inheriting the earth is just a myth perpetuated by fruitcakes who don't want to emerge from their tins.

But she understands about armor ... She still recalls the day she found herself described on Wine-pages.com as "a totem of the kitsch and the tasteless." Needless to say, she and Lydia have much to talk about.

If you rescue Lydia at TW, be sure to say hello to her friend Blue Nun, who isn't kitsch OR tasteless.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home