The dust settles. Yesterday evening, while I watched CNN’s “Obama’s Legacy,” I took the ornaments off the tree, and soon it will come down. Xmas is over.
It was the best we’ve ever had. After a mere 35 Christmasses en famille, I know, finally, how to do this. First, make the stuffing in advance. Then, make almost everything else in advance. When Anna and gang arrived midday, the turkey was in the oven, the veggies were cooked, the table was set. All that remained to do was to peel, cook and mash the potatoes, which is Sam’s job, and the sweet potatoes, which is Anna’s, and mine – get the turkey out on time and make gravy. Piece of cake. (That too, only later.)
At lunch, we ate bagels with my brother’s La Boucanerie de Chelsea superb, soft as butter smoked salmon, and then unwrapped gifts, Eli in a frenzy, not looking at what he’d received until everything was opened, and Ben happily smacking paper. And then – the great treat – Eli and his mother had a nap on the sofa while the rest of us looked after Ben, who was busy marching about. Eli, exhausted with a cold, slept for HOURS. Which gave us an afternoon of extraordinary, blessed tranquillity.
Wayson and Holly arrived and we had a divine dinner with laughter and good feelings. The turkey was perfect. There was not a single moment of tension the entire day. A first! I read aloud notes I’d written and left in our decorations box after various past Xmasses, and in 1986, Uncle Edgar had said to me, “One day you’ll think back and say to yourself, who was that silly girl getting so upset over nothing?” That was me at Xmas, the frantic mother of two young children in a decrepit house, desperately wanting everything to be perfect. Oddly, it was not.
But this year, I didn’t desperately want anything, and it was. There’s a lesson there.
Here’s the note my socialist, feminist daughter left for Santa in 1992; she was 11.
Dear Santa. Hope you like Coke and Oreo’s and bananas. The clementines and apples are for your reindeer, the extra one is for your wife. I hope that as you make presents for the chrildren you don’t forget your wife and elves. If you don’t have anything, you can give my present to her. Do you feel as I do that Christmas is becoming more and more commercialized, even your self.
Love from Anna. P.S. I still belive in you. A.D.
And here was the reply from Santa, strangely in Anna’s father’s handwriting. We were newly divorced; it was our second Christmas in separate homes. What torture that was.
Dearest Anna Elizabeth:
Thank you so much for the coke and cookies. My doctor wants me to drink Diet Coke so I didn’t drink it all and left one cookie. Thank you too for thinking of my dear reindeer. They had some oats on the roof, but did not eat the oranges as fruit does not agree with their tummies. Gives them gas, which is not pleasant for me sitting behind them in the sleigh. Don’t worry about Mrs. Claus. We always go on a long holiday right after Christmas.
Christmas is never too commercialized with wonderful caring people in the world like you. Merry Merry Christmas. Love Santa.
A moist eye or two.
After the others left, Sam opened another bottle of wine and began to talk, and we had an amazingly frank and revelatory discussion. He told me truths about his childhood and adolescence I wish I’d known decades ago. But now I know. Some of it hurts to know. I am deeply grateful for his openness, for the trust between us. At 11.30, I went up to bed, and he went out to play pool with an old girlfriend who’d just texted that she was home for the holidays.
Boxing Day, gloomy and wet, was recovery, leftovers, immersion in the sauna at the Y, and catching up with the newspaper – and that was enough. Another blessing.
From my house to yours – it’s over. Up next – New Year’s Eve. And then we can just get on with it.