Picture this. The ten o-clock Friday morning sun is streaming through my kitchen window. I’m drinking tea, listening to CBC radio, and sitting in my favourite antique press back rocking chair which Hubby bought for me one Christmas. I hunted for just the right antique rocking chair for ages. I’m nothing if not slow in choosing these kinds of things. Partly because once the choosing is done the hunting is over. And the hunting is so satisfying. Most weekends, my friend Mary and I made the rounds of our favourite antique stores, and markets, and in the summer, the country antique fairs. We’d forage for treasures, chat with the vendors, and with each other, and then we’d have tea somewhere. Sigh. Antique hunting followed by tea and scones… is there a better way to spend a Saturday?
Anyway, back to Friday morning. You might ask, why am I sitting sipping tea at ten o’clock on this beautiful day so close to Christmas? Is my tree up? Nope. House decorated? Nope. Baking all finished? Nope. Nada. Not done. And I’m not stressing about it. We’re not stressing about Christmas at all this year.
This year, Hubby and I are having a very, very low key holiday. For various reasons we won’t be hosting our usual Christmas Eve family dinner, and we’re not travelling to my sister’s for Christmas Day. And we jettisoned the frenzied gift buying for extended family a few years ago. And we haven’t made the eleven hour drive home to New Brunswick, with my little car packed to the roof with gifts and skis, worrying if we’ll encounter freezing rain along the St. Lawrence at Quebec City since 2012. And we won’t this year.
Of course, we’ll still have a tree. It’s out in the garden shed waiting for me; Hubby has already attached the tree-stand. I heard the chain-saw this morning, so I think there were some slight alterations needed to make it fit. We’ll still have a big turkey dinner on Christmas Day. And I’ll still make my usual Christmas Eve tourtière. But this year, I’ll be experimenting with different vegetable dishes, salads, and desserts that are more heart healthy. Since it’s just for Hubby and me, I’m excited to try new things instead of worrying that they’ll be an utter culinary failure.
We’re still doing the Christmas Party thing. Hubby and I have a couple to attend together. And I have one ladies-only party. Planned by two women from the school where I taught, who were fed up with the non-Christmas-party action at work, and with husbands who groaned that they didn’t want to get dressed up, it’s to be a dress-up cocktail and canapés affair. Ladies only. With a tongue-in-cheek dress code. All my old buddies from work will be there. I’m still planing my outfit. I may wear one of my vintage hats. I’m excited. So’s Hubby. He gets to stay home and watch the hockey game.
I really love Christmas, but it’s often so stressful, isn’t it? All that shopping, cooking, decorating, partying. And we always want everything to be perfect. But when I think about past Christmases, the non-perfect, near-disaster ones are the most memorable.
Like the time when I was a kid and our tree froze sitting out in the barn, and when my stepdad brought it into the house the ends of the branches had all curled up. Or the year we had a freezing rain storm late one Christmas Eve in the 80’s, and most of Ottawa lost power. Hubby’s mum, who was hosting, and his cousin and aunt, who had power, played pass the turkey on Christmas morning… one drove it to the other’s house, who cooked it, who brought it to the third house which ended up hosting.
Or the time in my early twenties when I shared an old house in Ottawa’s Glebe area with two friends. Neither my housemate, Elizabeth, nor I could afford to fly home for Christmas, and, both single, we decided to make our own old-fashioned Christmas. I remember we carried our Christmas tree home, for blocks and blocks down busy Bank Street, looking for all the world like we were taking it for a walk. And in our romantic Christmas idealism, we decided we would make all our own trimmings. That night we watched It’s a Wonderful Life on TV, while attempting to string popcorn for garlands. Who knew that would be such a colossal pain in the you know what! Half an hour later we added butter and salt to the bowl, snapped open a couple of beer and decided to buy our garland… we were missing too much of the movie.
But my favourite near-disaster Christmas story is the time, when I was about fourteen, that my sisters’ boyfriends came visiting together late on a very snowy Christmas Eve. When they tried to drive home their car ended up in the ditch and they had to walk the four or five miles back to our house at two in the morning, wet and cold. When Mum arose early to tend to the turkey, my stepfather murmured sleepily, “Don’t trip over the two boys under the tree.” We had a houseful of people, the living room sofa for one and the floor for the other were the only free spots. I think my stepdad took the tractor to pull their car out of the ditch after breakfast.
But, back to Friday morning.
So… I’m sitting in my rocking chair, sipping my second cup of tea and listening to a really smart and engaging writer talking about her latest book on CBC radio. Then the interview ends and Joni Mitchell’s song “The River” comes on. And I sit, rocking in the sunlight, listening. Through my window, I can see our own river sliding by and hear the geese that are landing in front of our house. It’s been so warm, with no hope of snow, or of the river freezing, for a while yet.
I smile. And sip my tea. Hubby’s at physio this morning; he’s making really good progress with his shoulder rehab. I found a couple of interesting recipes yesterday for Christmas desserts that I’ll try out later today, and a new hummus recipe that I’ll make to take to our potluck dinner party on Sunday. Hubby and I went Christmas shopping earlier this week. We made a list of things we wanted for the house, and then bought them together. From us to us. My mum’s gift has been wrapped, boxed and mailed. I’ll get to the tree and the house decorating next week. I look at the two books that I’ve just picked up at the library, Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins, and Anne de Courcy’s biography of Diana Mitford. Joni Mitchell finishes her song, I pour myself another cup of tea, and take my cup and Kate Atkinson’s book into the sun room.
And I think… in this moment… life is pretty darned good.
Now if only it would get cold. And snow. And maybe we could skate on the river come Christmas morning.
Are you stressing about the upcoming holidays? Any disastrously memorable holidays in your past? Do tell.