Tuesday, December 27, 2005
I’m at work now with 1.5 other people. We are in “show up” mode, which means we are next in line for a Congressional Medal of Honor. BECAUSE if you show up at work the week between Christmas and New Years, you are made of the finest stock of human flesh in the world. Or “whirled,” as Ian would say. “I’ve come to save the whirled!” He also likes wishing everyone a “Very Christmas.”
Christmas Eve was nice at our house—all muted lights and warmth, a fire in the fireplace and babes squealing and scampering hither and yon. Marie, our neighbor, came over and so we were able to share our odd tradition of caviar, champagne and French fries with someone new. I upped the ante and also got ENORMOUS frozen shrimp (that I thawed). That day I made the scalloped potatoes and a caviar pie (again??) for Christmas dinner the next day.
Marie seemed to like the French fries, even though I burned the first batch which I NEVER do. ARGH. Oh well, the second batch came out swell. Then we had a zany Russian cake with hardened meringue-type swirls on top that looked like the domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. They blinded the architects of that building because they never wanted it to be recreated. If that doesn’t put you in a holiday mood, I don’t know what will!
Oh, the holidays are packed with enough emotional dynamite for a building demolition, aren’t they? And I never really recognized that before because I had kind of a swell childhood and my parents were very festive, fun people and so they were excellent during a festive, merry season.
Our house was always bright and nicely decorated—nothing psycho mind you—just the Christmas cards hung on a ribbon across the mantle, a humongous Christmas tree in the living room decorated with all of my mother’s carefully chosen, unique ornaments—nothing “predictable!” That’s the dirtiest word in her vocabulary: “predictable.”
My mother would put an antique kimono obi as a runner down the table—it would come down, wrapped in dry cleaner’s cellophane from the linen closet, and she would put the silver candlesticks with three red candle each. Red was as zany as we ever got. We’d use the good silver and for Christmas Eve—we were avowed evening openers—she would make roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and green beans. Santa came on Christmas morning—just for me because I was the only kid in the house. My brother and sister are older and so they were the ones actually setting out the goods. My stocking would be full of oranges, walnuts and small toys.
Now my sister has taken the mantle and she does Christmas just like we used to have it with lots and lots of presents and mayhem, champagne, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. It was lovely. And it was a little bit sad. Just because everyone can’t stay as young as they ever were. I think my mother thrived in the role of hostess—in every sense of the word—the planner, the presenter, the provocateur, the ringleader, the grand dame. And now she is a guest. It is a diminished role, one that she is not familiar with.
OK, but we don’t want to be sad right now.
Christmas really and truly is about the kiddies. I love buying presents for the wee ones and then setting up the charade in the living room for them to come down to Christmas morning. Daisy and Ian were especially into it, Nick was too, but he is on the precipice of not believing. Nick was the first one down the stairs. He got an Mp3 player and a remote control car but seemed WAY more excited about the Silly Putty in his stocking. Hmmm. I like playing Johnny Mathis’s Christmas CD over and over again. I get really emotional on “WHAT CHILD IS THIS” Pass the hankies!! I don’t know why either.
We have cards on the mantle and poinsettias and a big fat tree decorated with all my mother’s unpredictable ornaments starting with the little gossamer angels holding little faux candles she got when she was first married, through the weirdness of the ‘70’s Holly Hobby angel people, to the White House Christmas ornaments, to the red velvet embroidered ones from India, to the pipe cleaner circles my brother made on the plane to Australia when he was four. Nick made a paper angel in school to top the tree. MZA gave me my perfume, aptly named EXTRAVAGANCE! And some lovely tea rose Roget et Gallet soap.
The shutter is closing, in a concentric flash, buffered with softness, broken toys, hand-me-down embellishments, cold fluffy champagne, red paraffin, and stains on gilt fabric that may or may not have once encircled the waist of a geisha. |
Cynicism is another word for reality