One night mid-December dinner was meatballs and spaghetti a la Otto’s. My noodle man Lee had been looking for meatballs to satisfy my craving at our favorite grocers. I can’t remember where the craving came from. We have been watching a lot of Fellini. Does Marcello’s father eat spaghetti and meatballs in La Dolce Vita? Lee’s noodles are so good that I often tell him he should open Lo Fan’s Noodle House and finally bring a great Chinese restaurant to the Hudson Valley. But “meatballs and spaghetti” is not really his thing. He was also a little turned off because he had just read an article on the unsanitary – disgusting is a better word — conditions surrounding our meatballs on their way to the grocer’s meat counter – any grocer’s meat counter, not Otto’s in particular. We still ate the meatballs but he has given up his search for tasty ones. Maybe the craving will come back and I’ll start trying to concoct that meatball of my dreams.
My office is so crammed with stuff we piled into it because of the construction going on at our house, that I moved gift wrapping downstairs to the living room. After dinner I picked up where I had left off the evening before.
Lee was at the piano and he sounded good. He was playing Maria – and I realized he had discovered how to separate his two hands and play a single note in the right and accompaniment in the left – something he has been trying to accomplish for a while. Lee is a self-taught piano player – he needs to reinvent piano theory on his own in order to understand it. It takes time, but he does it. While at first it frustrated me, I now admire him for his persistence and success.
The boys and I were celebrating Christmas/Chanukah on the ninth night of Chanukah. The date is never as important to us as is the occasion.
But it was Christmas that was on my mind as I wrapped presents. Our Ch/Ch (pronounced chichi) gathering, was also the negative tenth day of Christmas. Usually wrapping presents brings on conflict of a sort. I enjoy wrapping presents, although, as my father used to say, not too much: it goes on too long, or there’s not enough scotch tape, or I worry if I’ve overdone, favored one son, or . . .
This year though something was different. I was having fun wrapping; there was a little scenario unfolding. I always use posters saved from our children’s bookstore for wrapping paper. It is getting harder and hard to cut up these posters as I am getting further and further into the collection and pretty soon only my very, very favorites and the signed ones will be left. I selected the posters so that each package had a full picture on the front – that was something new.
The leftover gift-wrap paper from the store which reads “the most important twenty minutes of your day” is always my choice for wrapping books. We read together every morning from when my children were babies until they went to school, and then every evening before going to bed. This year I actually stretched and chose books and other gifts for them on my own, not from their wish list. This made me feel good about myself as I must be feeling more confident. I think they liked them, although they are much too kind to their mother to ever say “What were you ever thinking, mom?” They always choose books for me in return.
I used red rosin paper left over from laying the floors in the addition. The paper folds so beautifully. It was a delight to work with, so my pleasure was not only emotional and intellectual, it was also physical
All the gifts to girls had angel tags, and all those to the boys had stars. (Oh my goodness. Did I really say girls and boys and not women and men?!) The tags were also left over from the “Giving Tree” that we used to have in the store. In the past I chose my tags according to color, or if the presents were from Santa, or Mrs. Claus (she always gave the clothes — a tradition carried on from Nanny), or from Mom and Dad, or just one of us, or by how many words I could fit on them, or – you really don’t want to hear any more. But I’d love to tell you the story about the snowman bags.
I had already been wrapping presents for three nights. No rushing, everything was well paced.
Being at ease in the living room was a new sensation. The room had never worked for me. At Thanksgiving Morgan and I repositioned some of the furniture and that helped. The fireplace always smelled, and above the fireplace is an empty cabinet built for a large flat-screen TV. That’s another story, which I will spare you, at least for now. It’s no matter because once television became hi-tech and the news became gossip, TV failed to interest me any more. And TV is something I always watched in bed, not with guests in the living room.
The fireplace is gas and an ugly one at that. It was necessary to turn the gas and the fans on full blast to avoid the stench, which meant that it was only on during power outages. The man where we bought our little gas stove for the tower suggested I take the whole fireplace apart and clean it well. That helped too. He also wanted me to remove the firebox completely and get the dust out from behind, but enough is enough.
The living room is starting to be a good space.
Our Ch/Ch gathering was very warm and we didn’t leave until much too late. Alex and Morgan’s new girlfriends were there and I hoped we did not overwhelm them, or even worse, frighten them away. When Morgan wrote and told me that he thought “the Ch/Ch that Alex and Sam hosted was wonderful,” I decided we had all done good.
Lee and I went out to a romantic early dinner at Ship to Shore in Kingston two nights before Christmas. When the food is good (it doesn’t have to even be great) and I can use my fingers to eat, the restaurant is quiet, it has a bit of elegance without pomp, the waiters are polished, personal and yet keep their distance, and we are happy, I consider the dinner romantic. The waiter asked us if we were all done with our Christmas shopping. (Perhaps we looked as relaxed as we were.) There are gifts that the elves didn’t finish on time and there are two in the freezer that I forgot when loading up our sleigh to Brooklyn. But we were not only done with our shopping, we were done with Christmas and all I had were happy memories.
Perhaps I had none of my usual Christmas angst because there are now so many people speaking out: we are not a Christian country; there should be real separation between church and state; God does not belong in school, on the dollar bill, or in party platforms. It was such a breath of fresh air to learn that the Democrats left God out, and such a disappointment to see God put in. There is even a growing movement ridiculing the so-called War On Christmas.
Last night, Christmas Eve, I worried a little. Were Morgan and Alex enjoying Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? Did they and I over-react to my last year’s rant by hardly mentioning the word? I hope they are enjoying themselves with friends and that we can look forward to many more Merry Christmases together in the future.