Because it’s all about the kids when it comes down to it, right? One of my favorite covers of a Christmas classic.
Because it’s all about the kids when it comes down to it, right? One of my favorite covers of a Christmas classic.
Every year, when the Christmas music is stowed away, I look forward to catching up with Steve & Edye’s holiday album, “That Holiday Feeling.” Until next season, guys….
Another year, another Christmas, another opportunity to thank those of you who make time in their days to see what kind of drivel I’ve posted this time, and also to those of you–and I know that in many cases you are both of these–who put forth the effort to share with the rest of us, to entertain us, educate, titillate, agitate, and inspire us with your work, your examples, and the small truths of your lives within which we see reflections of our own. Thank you for it all, and regardless of how–or even if–you celebrate the holiday, I hope it is a good one.
We threw down the annual Christmas Party last night, enjoyed a great crowd of some of our very favorite people, and hopefully sent everyone home stuffed and just a little tipsy. I cooked all day and was satisfied with the results– big
dishes of Amartriciana, Pesto Mafalda, and Penne Arrabiata to go with my traditional lasagne, the full pan (steam tray size) weighed in at a fulsome 39 pounds.
A guy can’t help but be proud of a 39 pound lasagne, and impressed by all the fantastic sides, dishes, deserts, treats and–best of all–some pretty delightful intoxicants. Chief among these was the caramel cinnamon flavored moonshine that rode up from Kentucky in the back of a pickup truck. When I think of a drink, the word “caramel” doesn’t generally come to mind, but man was this stuff good. That first 6-ounce portion at 110 proof really set the tenor for the evening, and caused no conflict with the beers which followed.
Folks really outdid themselves this time-I made entirely too much food, of course, and the generosity, culinary magic and–let’s be honest–competitive spirits of our friends ensured a bounty of excesses. This morning we face an abundance of magnificent left-overs. No moonshine, but plenty of grub. Probably enough to last us, and some of our friends and neighbors, through the week.
This party is the highlight of our year, in many regards, and it always goes too fast–even when it goes for 6 hours. Invariably, I feel like I didn’t speak long enough with many of our friends–but that’s a good thing, I guess. Always leave ’em wanting more. I woke this morning thinking: we need to find ways to spend more time with folks, more parties and more small gatherings, but mostly I thought: this is Christmas, love and laughter, friendship and–yes–gluttony, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ve long been fixated on the idea of ending up in a coffee can somewhere–if I don’t succumb to dementia, in which case I’ve instructed some reliable folks just which corner of the Grand Staircase I’d like to be left in, to dry up and fade away. Ashes, or dessicated skin cured dark and stretched over bone, or sustenance for beasts, all seem like good enough finishes– but I have to admit, this might be just be tempting enough to the silly romantic inside of me to consider an as earthy alternative….
Photo nabbed from Pinterest, via twitter, via a couple of other pages but it seems to it’s a shot from a cemetery in Nong Khai in Northeast Thailand, orginated by Peter Kelly Studios.
I’m back, after a pleasant holiday hiatus disguised somewhat by the magic of scheduled posts. It’s time to write again, and it’s time to catch up reading on A LOT of blogs (yours probably among them, if you’re reading this) that I’ve ignored during the busy season. (I feel really bad about that, and I miss you–I really do) But hey, what a season.
The great joy of the season for me is love–love for friends, and family, and occasionally even strangers on the street. We hosted one party, ultimately staying up until 4am with a some folks we’ve just recently come to know better and enjoy, and attended half a dozen others through the season. Ate a lot. Drank a lot. Told a lot of tales, shared a lot of hugs–and there it is: I bet I’ve squeezed king hell out of a hundred different people in the past month and only a few of them froze awkwardly and board-like in my embrace. Do I now have a head cold with a sore throat? Sure, I do, but I’ve often said that we should care for people year-round like we do in December, but that’s an inaccurate observation: it seems to me that it’s not the love that is lacking, just the willingness to express it. Thinking of that old song.
It’s not the glow you feel
When snow appears
It’s not the Christmas card
You’ve sent for years…
…So may I suggest, the secret of Christmas
It’s not the things you do
At Christmas time but the Christmas things you do
All year through the year.
I disagree a little about the Christmas Cards. I suppose a lot of folks sit down and burn through them as a chore–my wife of 19 years has a cousin who every season sends us a card that grossly misspells my last name–no, that’s not even it, she’s made up an entirely different name, with just the same first consonant, and assigned it to me– and, what’s more, she thinks my first name is Christopher. It’s Charles–(hence the “Chuck” in Junk Chuck). Of course, each year we send her a card as well, with the correct names on it, which she clearly isn’t reading. It’s become a bit of a joke–I look at the card, see the misspelling, mutter “Fuck you, Andre” and sit it with the others. At least she’s trying. I’ve met the woman once–but there’s the thing: at Christmas we make the time to service our connections, however tenuous, however ineptly or half-assedly.
We don’t go all out. We don’t have photograph sessions in matching outfits, and we don’t write letters detailing our somewhat banal lives over the previous 365 days–our cards are pretty much bargain-bought boxes purchased each January at deep discount and squirreled away over the intervening 11 months. We’re not out to impress you with our creativity–a noble enterprise when you pretty much lack artistic sensibilities–we just want to wish folks well.
I try to add Christmas cards to my address book every year–new friends and old friends whose physical addresses have disappeared from my address book over the years due to moves and the preponderance of electronic communication. I still find this odd–I can reach out to people I love across the country, across the world even, with a few taps on a keyboard, but if I was in their neighborhood I couldn’t knock on their door. I send cards in opposition to the waning nature of this tradition because they’re tangible expressions of affection. My wife and I wrote them this year while watching a football game on TV, and that was nice too. Sort of like a date, but with a plate of cookies at my elbow while wearing slippers and a pair of bright red fleece pajama pants with black moose on them and a 16-year old cotton sweater that is so ratty, so stretched out of it’s original shape, that it barely qualifies as a sweater–more like a blanket with sleeves. It’s not a barn burner, as dates go, but I’ve had worse. We’re even talking about sending cards next year to the people we see regularly in our lives. Why not?
We’ve had some good Christmas Eve celebrations over the past two decades or so, since my wife and I started celebrating together. Each year we gather at my in-laws home with however many relatives and friends are available–sometimes as few as nine of us, sometimes closer to 29–and spend the afternoon talking and laughing, catching up, calling out, the usual–with the occasional decimation of a shrimp cocktail and a cheese & crackers plate thrown in, but the main attraction is my mother-in-law’s meal, a combination of her Polish and Italian traditions that suits my tastes even more than a Thanksgiving Dinner.
S he cooks a marinara sauce that is not only the best I’ve ever eaten, but which has a unique character unlike any I’ve tasted before, rich and simple, flavored with smoky cooked parmesan–and she only makes it at Christmas. This is served over spaghetti, along with pierogies, fresh baked rolls, and a multitude of delicious sides for a meatless meal that makes both carb-counters and I cry, but for diametrically opposed reasons. If you don’t get my implication: I’m the one crying for joy.
After dinner, there’s a bit more hanging around, but eventually the pious among us (which is pretty much everyone who doesn’t live at my house) takes turns slipping off to get dressed up for midnight mass. When the time is right, then, we take our leave amidst Christmas wishes, but not to head home. For the next 90 minutes or so we idle around town and the adjoining sprawl and take in the Christmas lights, carols singing from the car stereo. There’s a lot of small talk and a lot of consideration as we evaluate the displays, but we’re not harsh judges. If you’ve made the effort to celebrate by decorating your home/yard/pets you’ve got my appreciation.
For many years we did the light tour on the pretense of taking my wife’s great aunt Julie home, turning the 7-mile, 14 minute trip into a few hours of crawling through residential streets, but Julie’s up around 90 now and her vision has failed, so she’s no longer game. I’ll always smile and think of her on the tour–I’d walk her to her back door, and she would “slip” a crumpled five dollar bill into my hand “for the ride.” I tried to not to accept it the first time, and she pinched me on the wrist and chastised me. The pinch hurt, and I remembered someone once telling me, “it’s good to be generous, but it’s important to know how to accept generosity graciously.” So, hey: five bucks for me.
When we finally get home, it’s straight to “work.” We hang stockings while more Christmas music plays, put out a plate of cookies and a cup of milk for Santa–one year we opted not to put out the milk, in fear that it would get warm for Santa, and left the cup and an invitation to serve himself from the refrigerator, but Santa hit the eggnog instead. Hard.
Next up, from my wife’s childhood, the opening of a single Christmas present–a tradition I indulge–reluctantly, at first– because, well, I’m not in charge, even though it makes me nervous. My mom was a Christmas despot–we weren’t allowed even a sniff of presents until everyone was awake in the morning. Opening that present at night seems dangerous.
After that, it’s off to bed, where we all pile in for the reading of our favorite Christmas books, the ones saved after a month of reading to each other. It used to me me reading all the stories, but now that the kids are mostly grown we take turns, although there are still calls for me to read “Marty The Christmas Moose” using goofy voices for all the characters. They may be indulging me, but what the heck.
Then it’s off to bed. I used to wait to wrap all my presents on Christmas Eve, alone after everyone else turns in, right there in front of the tree, but I need my sleep more these days. Oh, I still stay up a few minutes after everyone else, but I’m content to take a few laps around the house and look at the decorations and let what memories that may come venture into my mind.
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