Chris Arbutina | Cherish simple joys of holiday season

This Christmas, I have a pretty good idea what Santa is bringing me.


A bar of soap.

Auto body parts.

I think we may need to make some room underneath the tree for those last ones.

I try to be good, I really truly do. But I think my name is stamped on the big guy’s naughty list in permanent marker.

The underwear is a souvenir from my travels in Croatia in October. When my neighbors hang their laundry out on the line to dry on warm, sunny days, I have no interest at all in snapping a photo or two (or 20) oftheir undergarments flapping in the wind.

But drop me onto the streets of a place like Dubrovnik, and I marvel at the ropes hitched to pulleys high above the alleys, the lines crisscrossing the narrow streets in a haphazard web of the most intimate ofthreads.

This was my third visit to Dubrovnik, and each time I have taken the opportunity to do laundry in the bathroom sink of our 600-year-old guesthouse. Afterward, I fling open the shutters of my second-floor bedroom window and clip my underwear onto the line before flitting out to explore.

This trip was no different. When I walked the city’s fortress walls, I took dozens of pictures of rooftops and alleyways, including the steep lane where we stayed, my wash drooping, forgotten in the late afternoon shadows.

It had been a beautiful day, the sun bleaching the oldtown’s marble and tumbling sequins of light onto the waters of the Adriatic lapping against the city walls.

But well before nightfall the sky turned black, and a storm swept into the city, upending dozens of outdoor tables and tossing huge café umbrellas skyward. Later, we read that the storm had been labeled a freak tornado. Damages included ripped store awnings and shattered tableware from those outdoor cafés.

The news reports failed to mention that the fierce wind also carried aloft most of my underwear.

That night, when we returned to our house, as we stopped to unlock the door I noticed a soggy white tissue draped over the corner of the stoop.

It took me a minute or two to realize I was looking atunderwear. It took me even longer to realize it was mine.

It’s one thing to have your drawers fluttering overhead looking all Old World quaint. It’s another to have them gritty and wet, balled up on the street.

The next morning, I headed out on a scavenger hunt, retrieving underwear from flowerpots and planters, up and down the alley.

The lesson I learned is that if you’re going to strew your undies around town you better make sure they’re in good enough shape that you can hold your head high as you root around in the bougainvillea to claim your belongings.

As for the soap, it’s for the expletive I uttered in a movie theater before the start of the PG-rated “Wreck-It Ralph.”

It was on Black Friday, and we decided to skip the mall madness and take the oldest nephew to a matinee. We shelled out nearly $40 for three tickets, one ridiculously oversized bag of popcorn and two enormous sodas.

My husband and nephew scaled the theater’s Everest-sloped side aisle. I followed, clutching both the super-sized popcorn and what had to be two liters of soda floating in one flimsy cup.

Just as I turned into a row in the upper stratosphere, six dollars worth of soda slipped out of my hand and all 72 ounces landed on myjeans and the not-too-clean-to-begin-with floor.

With one hand holding the popcorn and the other gripping a now-empty cup, I had nothing to clap over my mouth to keep from blurting out a word that rhymes with, um, “sit.”

Swearing? At a Disney movie? I was beside myself. I apologized over and over – and over to everyone within earshot.

People were very nice about it. On the other hand, my nephew gleefully recounted the incident at least twice before they ran the openingcredits.

I could use a little Ivory soap to remind me to think before I speak, to mind my manners and to never, ever get too old for the kiddie matinee.

Finally, there’s the matter about managing to hit both of our cars recently as I was pulling one out of the driveway while the other was parked on the street.

It’s pretty amazing, actually, how much damage you can do when you’re going all of one mile per hour, your foot is one the brake, and the other car isn’t even moving.

Which is why a new rear bumper and a passenger side door are at the top of my Christmas list.

This holiday season, with celebrations tinged with great sorrow for so many, I thank heaven and earth that my mishaps in life are laughable and easily remedied.

Cars can be repaired, apologies accepted, dirty laundry made clean.

For those simple gifts and many, many more, I can join with the angels and sing: Joy to the world.

For, in spite of everything, it is good.