It will be a quiet Christmas here.
We’re okay with that. We don’t dream of white Christmases, but of family Christmases past. . . the formal Christmas Eve dinner. . . piling into cars for the candlelight Christmas Eve service. . . the Christmas jigsaw puzzle set up on the game table. . . waking up excited on Christmas morning to, as the kids called it, bask in togetherness. Grandsons shaking gifts for clues. . . our family’s three unwise men (only as far as their singing, of course!) serenading us with O Holy Night in Peter Sellers/Inspector Clouseau voices. . . a big Christmas breakfast with Christmas cookies for dessert..
We alternated opening gifts one at a time, so that everyone could see. For a time, a dreaded ticking time bomb waited under the tree each year. . . anyone would have preferred coal or switches over getting stuck with that horrifyingly realistic “toy” white cat. It had arrived originally as a gift from the aunt who shopped on QVC, although we suspected she shopped for herself and the rejects became Christmas presents. The cat could have been white rabbit fur, but its disconcertingly realistic green eyes made Pogo, the original recipient, certain it was an actual stuffed kitten. I can’t swear she was wrong about that.
The kids grew up and jobs in other cities and spouses and in-laws and school vacation schedules and airline fares and Santa’s visits to juggle, made family Christmases more difficult, then finally impossible. Any year the cast of characters did manage to assemble, Dearly Beloved would whisper, “We need to cherish this. It could be the last time we have them all together.”
Oddly, even with his admonition, I had a hard time accepting that he was right. But he was.
The ghastly white cat re-gifting stopped, out of consideration for the young psyches of impressionable young grandchildren. One year, perhaps the last one we had toda la familia, everyone flew to Minneapolis for a white Christmas. Mother Nature didn’t get the memo and forgot to send fresh snow along with the cold. A photograph from that year shows a small, grey snowman, goose poop splotching it like a rash, its creators smiling gamely around the pitiful specimen . My favorite memory of that holiday was our first grandson toddling over to grab my legs as he shouted, “May-wy, May-wy, HEP! HEP!” when his mama announced his bedtime. Alas, I didn’t have the clout to intervene.
My friends with children living in other areas face the same logistical maze. Sometimes it is easier for the Mountains to go to Mohammad; whatever gets them all together. Only one has her entire family making the trek home this year. Even so, she knows the clock ticks. . . cherish this.
Dearly Beloved and I will have our Christmas Eve dinner, the once-a year standing rib roast and the horseradish sauce which has been our favorite for the years I’ve been able find the recipe. The chocolate yule log will be left off the menu. Better have it by the wayside than the waist. And a quiet Christmas is not a sad one. A day by the fireside with the man I love. . . knitting, reading, watching to see how long he can stay awake during the North-South game. In our timeline of life, with most of our Christmases now Christmases past, I take nothing for granted and don’t need to remind myself . . . cherish this.
This is a year I have the horseradish recipe at hand, so here it is:
The Best Horseradish Sauce
1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. flour mixed into a roux in a small saucepan
1/4 c. grated horseradish
3/4 c. sour cream
3 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
Add ingredients in order to the roux and heat. Serve warm or cold.