We had a wonderful holiday. It snowed on December 23, which made skies gloomy — the above is a color photo! — and the roads slick, but all the skiers happy. Then, like magic, the clouds rolled away and a million frosty stars shone overhead as we went to Alison and Tom’s for their annual Christmas Eve potluck. It was a cozy, happy gathering of friends and we were home by 8 PM — a perfect party.
Our fireplace has no mantel, so as usual, DH hung the Christmas stockings with his climbing gear. DH has few domestic skills but he’s unbeatable with ropes, slings, and carabiners.
Then of course there was some last-minute scurrying, hammering, sewing, and wrapping.
By the time we settled down to our ritual reading aloud of Christmas stories, we were all sleepy. I’m wearing my apron over pajamas. Moments before, Jon had been dozing on my shoulder. The photos are courtesy of Lucy, who was soon snuggled under my other arm. DH in his chair donned his Christmas hat.
Jon as usual chose to read The Night Before Christmas. Over the years we have received a number of beautifully illustrated versions of this but Jon believes the Only Real Version is the Golden Book he knew as a toddler. It is always suspenseful to see how he will read “And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof, the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.” Rewf and hewf? or rouef and hoof?
Our celebrations in the morning were early and full of merriment. We all know each other so well. Lots of used books on hand!
Jon gave me a history of New York City during the Revolution. Lucy gave me a three-pound mini-maul, just like Gary’s “Thor” hammer that was so useful during building last summer. DH bought me several books, a dog cover for the backseat of the truck, and a 50-foot set of drop lights for the barn.
Here is DH opening the towel rack Lucy made for him for his sauna. She also knitted a wool hat for Jon. It turned out slightly too big so we plan to wash it in hot water and let it dry on his head. (Fashion often requires a little suffering.)
And here is Lucy opening her present from Jon, who, after realizing that at 12 she was listening to the soundtrack of Mary Poppins, decided it was time to take his little sister’s musical education in hand. He had spent a long time researching online and chosen two CDs he thought would be appropriate. However, in his card he instructed her firmly that she must tell him if she didn’t like them. “Mom and Dad are raising you to be polite,” he wrote, “but I am raising you to be honest.”
Then it was 7:30 and time for barn chores. The kids rode on the truck tailgate to the school barn, where they and DH helped muck the fifteen horse stalls and feed the pigs, while I drove down to our farm, milked, and turned our animals out.
I had been up before dawn making lists and planning the big holiday dinner like a military campaign. I am so scatterbrained that I must write down every detail or I will forget something crucial. Last year it was the gravy.
Long before the family was awake I had skimmed cream and made Ben & Jerry’s French Vanilla ice cream. Whole wheat buttermilk dinner rolls (from Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book) were rising. The twenty-pound turkey had been washed and spiced. Now, after a shower, I swung into high gear.
Meanwhile this year Lucy has decided that her favorite Christmas carol is the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. It of course sounds best and most triumphant if it’s very loud. So you must picture the apartment rattling to trumpets and voices singing, “King of Kings! Forever! and ever!” I associate this hymn with my father and being very small — so small that in my mind’s eye, I’m level with Dad’s grey suit pant’s leg — and we’re standing in the pew in the big church I grew up in, and the voices of the robed choir are soaring, and I am utterly happy and secure, and any minute Dad will look down at me, squeeze my shoulder, and smile.
So these were all warm memories to be wrapped in as I measured and sifted, poured and chopped, preparing the Christmas feast.
The turkey went into the oven. I fixed the stuffing, using broth from boiling the giblets. (I gave the giblets to the dogs. Toby was so excited by the kidneys he sprang up on the sofa where Lucy was reading and, wagging happily, placed them in her lap.) I rolled out crusts and made a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie. I boiled and peeled and mashed the sweet potatoes before baking them with — I know, I know — a topping of marshmallows. Jon loves sweet potatoes with marshmallows, which is only fitting as due to his auburn hair, my mother called him her little Yam-head. Mint peas. Boiled onions. Gravy.
I rolled on through the list. Setting the dinner table with the red tablecloth, Mom’s candlesticks, and my grandmother’s white crocheted placemats. Laying out the pre-World War I painted china that was passed down from my father’s unpleasant Aunt Edith. (All I know about Great-Aunt Edith is that she was unpleasant. I reflect on her every holiday and hope my own epitaph is happier.) Setting the places with my grandmother’s silver, which always reminds me of my little sister, who has the other half set. Polishing my great-great-grandfather’s serving spoons; whenever I have the polish out I think of Essie, and so many long conversations in my childhood while silver-polishing. Then I look at the monogram and wonder if my big brother or big sister know what our great-great-grandfather’s middle name was.
I’m all alone in the kitchen but I’m crowded by thoughts of people I love. “Forever! and ever!”
While I am cooking DH always takes the kids cross-country skiing. This year he and Lucy skied the sugaring trails.
Jon was deep in reading all the new books, magazines, and Christmas letters.
Our friend Mike arrived at 1:30. Mike has no living family and spends every holiday with us.
It was a wonderful feast. It was a wonderful day. Hallelujah!