holiday cheer

Well, Merry Xmas to you. I was planning on sleeping in this morning, but I woke up at 7:19 a.m. I actually woke up a lot earlier than that, somewhere around 6, but managed to convince myself that it would be a crummy idea to get up that early.

Last night, Xmas eve, was filled with quite a few things. Mom was playing the flute at a Catholic church in the early evening, so Dad and I were in charge of making much of the food. This only involved quesadillas, oyster stew and devilled eggs, so it wasn’t too taxing.

This isn’t our Traditional oyster stew-devilled egg-quesadilla fare, mind you. We’ve never had a huge amount of traditions in my family, and holiday meals have frequently been less traditional than most peoples’. When I was a kid, things were especially non-traditional; one Thanksgiving we had fish for dinner, and another time, Mexican food.

Lately we’ve been doing the turkey/roast beef sort of thing, and I think oyster stew is typically thought of as a standard holiday dish. Dad made it, and it was the best ever. I happened upon some fine tortillas and exceptional Mexican cheese at the grocery store, so the quesadillas were also top notch. Oh, and we also had shrimp. Today we’re planning on fondue (two kinds), plus various snacks and sweets, including a fruitcake that I made a week ago.

The fruitcake was a somewhat troubling endeavor. The recipe called for baking it for 3 ½ hours, which I did. But it overflowed over the top of the pan and dripped onto the floor of MB’s newly-cleaned over. It smelled burned, and I couldn’t tell if the burn was from the globs of fruitcake sticking to the oven, or to the actual cake itself.

I took it out after the 3 ½ hours and the burning had clearly happened to the cake. It smelled burnt, and the top had a thick, hard crust. I attempted to saw at it, to remove the burned portions, but all I managed to do was spill huge quantities of crumbs on the floor (Mollie the dog was very appreciative of this), plus, and, the worst thing, the cake started SPLITTING in various places. So, after the huge amount of dried fruits/nuts added to the cake, the time and trouble, I was left with a burnt and broken spectacle.

Fortunately, a key part of the fruitcake is alcohol. I heated up a cup of wine and rum and poured it over the cake. I added a little more alcohol, hoping it would magically disguise the burns as well as heal the cracks and fissures.

I had to leave for a while, and instructed MB to hug the fruitcake as much as he could, in order to help the healing process and squish it all together. When I got back he assured me he’d done plenty of hugging, and we wrapped the cake in wine-soaked linen.

So here’s my Christmas miracle – we unearthed the cake last night, and it was moist and delicious. Lesson learned: alcohol fixes anything.

After more food than was really necessary, last night we headed to the First Methodist Church for a candlelight service. We hurried inside, grateful to be out of the bitter cold, and rushed to the seats that my friend Randy had saved for us down in front. We were in the second row, a perfect vantage point for seeing Mom play the flute with the Eddy Flute Choir. They were quite good, and I was impressed with the beauty of the church. I can’t tell you the last time I was in a church, and I thought if it was decorated for Xmas all year round, it would be worth going to. Perhaps.

The service lasted an hour, and my favorite part was the singing. The choir actually sang kind of softly, but I liked it when we all joined in. The Minister did his sermon (I know it’s not “did,” but what is it? Pontificated? Orated? Performed? Held? No, no, no), and it was pretty neat. He talked about the point of Xmas. The message, in a nutshell, is that we should all be like Joseph, that is, we should be loving and kind, and accepting of others. A fine message, indeed.

Here’s the only part of the service that creeps me out a little – it’s the chanting in unison. I realize this is a standard thing in church services, but I haven’t been around it enough for it to seem normal to me. At the cue from the minister, everybody launches in, with that dull drone, chanting the words, and it makes me feel that I’ve accidentally happened upon a cult. It makes me want to sneak out, as fast as possible, in order to not get sucked into the cult’s clutches. I know, I know, this is crazy, but I can’t help it. I’ve never actually run screaming from the place, so at least I manage to have a little restraint. So far.

OK, one more thing – it was a candlelight service, and I guess I knew it was going to be a candlelight service, but I assumed they were talking about the candles decorating the church. But near the end of the service, Randy waved his candle at me. I was slightly horrified; had he stolen it? Stealing would definitely be frowned upon. “It’s a candlelight service, Grace!” he whispered at me. “Your part of the row is going to be all dark.” Because, somehow, none of us in the family had managed to get candles. We were supposed to receive them when we first came in, but all anybody offered me was cocoa and cookies, and I rushed past those because I’d vowed to never eat again after our holiday meal.

We were instructed on the proper method of candle-lighting; don’t pour wax on your neighbor when you light their candle. We sang, the candles were slowly lit, and it did look beautiful. I pretended we were all allergic to candles, or that they forgot to give us any, or they ran out.

After the service, Amy and (her new husband) Jim and I went to Walgreen’s. Also not an Xmas tradition, except if Amy couldn’t buy some eye drops and a humidifier RIGHT THEN, she would surely wither away and die. I sat in the car with their dog, Shadow, while they shopped. The car next to me was a beat-up looking little thing, and there were two guys inside, one wearing a Santa hat, and I’m pretty sure some kind of drug interaction was going on. I tried not to look over at them, focusing instead on petting Shadow, a little dog who was happy to sit on my lap and be petted.

Quite a few people were walking around, even though it was only 13 degrees outside, and I wondered where they were going. Perhaps they, too, had Walgreens emergencies.

After about all of eternity, I prayed that Amy and Jim would come back soon. I thought of driving off, but since it was their car, and plus it was Xmas Eve, I figured that wouldn’t go over so well. It definitely wouldn’t be a Joseph-like maneuver. He never would have driven off and left Mary at Walgreen’s, even if she was in there for about a year.

Finally they returned, overflowing with stuff Amy couldn’t live without, including heated slippers that you put in the microwave. We went to Mom and Dad’s and ate some more and my brother David watched one of the neverending Bond movies on TV and a good time was had by all.

I’ve been sitting here for a while now, admiring the packages under the tree and spread around the room. Xmas sometimes feels anti-climactic to me; it’s all over so fast, and frequently the wrapped packages look more enticing than the stuff inside them. But this year I’m eager for people to see some pretty cool things I bought for them. Plus, MB comes back from his parents’ house tomorrow, so we’ll have even more present-opening and food then. Not to mention Christmas Karaoke, which IS a Smith Tradition, and I’ll have to let you know all about that.

Ok then, once again, Merry, Merry Xmas,