Thursday, November 22, 2007

Holidays Past And Present ...

I just read Kris's holiday post and was transported back to my childhood. She writes of hearing her mother laugh "into the single digits of the morning."

I, too, remember parties at my childhood home, when the adults were downstairs in the den, sitting around the bar, drinking and laughing. I'd stand at the top of the stairs, listening, wondering why I had to go to bed so early.

Our bar, which was L-shaped, had a padded, leather edge. On the bar sat the most enormous (and in retrospect, ugly) ashtray known to man. The wall behind the bar sported mirror tiles pieced together to form an image of the Cutty Sark ship. There were shelves of glasses and bar accoutrement. Under the bar was a small sink and a small refrigerator, and my dad hung those big Christmas lights – all red, his favorite color – so a glow emanated from underneath.

The stereo was in the closet, the receiver on one shelf, the turntable on another. Dad always had the spindle stacked with plenty of albums to keep the music going.

Not all parties were solely for the grown-ups. Every Christmas Eve, we had a huge family party. I wrote about it last year.

But the gist of Kris's post is that times change. The celebrations of the '70s are not the celebrations of today.

This year, Christmas Eve will be small, as it has been for several years. Just me and Mom and Dad and my brother Brian and his wife Sue and the kids. The kids are still anxious to open presents, but they've ceased to be the little balls of energy that they were years ago when they would dive under the tree to look at all the to-and-from'ers. We eat before we open gifts. Then, they could barely contain themselves. Now, we all nosh rather leisurely before retiring to the living room and watching them tear into their loot. And then we exchange a few gifts between us, the grown-ups, and then we break out the desserts.

The next morning, it will just be me and my parents. Sometimes my cousins Patty and Barry come in from New York, but this year they'll be celebrating in Los Angeles. Brian and Sue and the kids open their gifts at their house in the morning, and then spend the latter part of Christmas Day with Sue's parents and other family, where the kids open gifts again.

As they say, they have three Christmases.

When I was younger, we weren't always home for Thanksgiving. Sometimes we were, but sometimes we were at my Aunt Chick and Uncle Bud's house (Patty and Barry's mom and dad, neither of whom were actually named Chick nor Bud). We might have gone to my mother's sister's house occasionally, too.

Now, Thanksgiving is always at my brother's house. Understandably. As it is, they have to divvy up their time at Christmas. Instead of having to do the same for Thanksgiving, everyone goes there. Everyone brings something. The kids are still relegated to the table in the kitchen, but these days, there are more young children than chairs at the table. The dining room table is extended, but it doesn't seat everyone, so a second table is set up in the foyer, adjacent to the dining room. I always opt for that table. It's like the grown-up kids table.

My annual contribution is bread. I make four loaves, even though two would be more than enough. I learned how to make this bread when I was 8. I just turned 38. I've been making this bread for 30 years. I like having such a signature. (I've written about it on my other blog.)

Two loaves are out of the oven, cooling on a rack on the counter. The other two loaves are resting on top of the warm stove, rising. The house smells amazing. There is nothing like the smell of baking bread. Why can't we put that in a candle?

Before dinner today, we'll all gather around the dining room table and hold hands while Sue's brother-in-law says grace. Some years, we go around the circle and say what we're thankful for.

I always have much to be thankful for, but this year's reason is a slam dunk: I'm grateful for everyone's health.

Health and happiness to you all. I hope your Thanksgiving is the stuffingest.


Blogger Mercurie said...

Happy Thanksgiving!

4:51 PM  

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