We need(ed) a little Christmas...
I missed Maine, but at The Girls' party Xmas eve, when I saw the box of ornaments, I froze for an instant. I thought, oh my God, we're going to have to put up all of them, for that is how we do things in Familyland North, one tradition I'm not enamored of.
But no. The Girls didn't care if the tree got decorated, or if they did it the next day. Their party was at their late mother Cicely's house, and, even though she is in a box on a bookshelf, it was a happy time. We reminisced; we looked at 20 year old pictures of ourselves; we danced. A good time was had by all.
This was the first time in 20+ years that my mom, my brother, and I celebrated together. The last time I can remember, my dad was still alive. Seems like many lifetimes ago.
It didn't start out auspiciously: Brother was in town to have spinal surgery, and he is staying with The Mother until his doctor gives him a thumbs-up to go home. While Brother may live happily in Tiny Town, Slow Southern State, he was not about to let any M.D. there get close to him with a scalpel.
Thankyou, no, it was time for The Mother to pull strings and get him in to the best doctor in the country, one who operates at the hospital where she volunteers. In my family, when it comes to the Big Stuff, we don't fuck around.
Admittedly the month has had its strains: The longest year of my life was the December I spent in New York, Brother says. Well, a month of immediate family togetherness, after 30+ years of our not sharing much, has had Alice bolting for her Xanax, and both Brother and The Mother drinking a tad more than their share.
But Christmas -- come hell or high water, I decided we were going to have a genuinely festive day. We did. I made some rules about presents: we were to spend $50, max, even if we wrapped up toothpaste and shampoo to stick under the tree. So long as we had gifts to unwrap, it didn't much matter what they were.
So we got creative: we swiped things from one another's closets. The Mother got her monkey sandals back from Brother; he got a pair of clean socks she had just washed, along with some unmentionables.
Brother and I did the Costco run and wrapped up 36 roles of toilet paper for The Mother. The tag read, to F-----. from: Mr. Whipple's friends. (That would, apparently, be the late Mr. Whipple, as those Charmin commercials were from another century, and he is long since gone. Who knew?)
Brother gave me a photo of Kay, my niece, that looked as if she were the picture that had come with the frame. Kay is Goldilocks come to life. If times weren't so tight, Kay and her mom, my sister-in-law, would have been to Wonderland for the holidays. Alas, not this season.
The Mother gave me a sweater I loved, but had forgotten I'd given to her. She re-gifted me a decorative collection of boxes of tea, and the chocolate-peppermint candy Brother had given her and she hadn't liked.
My bonus gift? A vial of pills marked, "Alice. MEDS from Mom."
Then dinner. My menu, executed mostly by The Brother. He is, after all, the one in the restaurant business. He cooks without thinking, never consults a book. Filet mignon, roast potatoes, timed just right. My applies-heat-to-food contribution? The asparagus with hollandaise, a sauce I make from scratch, just the way my father taught me. No restaurant can make it better.
For dessert, a chocolate souffle. Again, my specialty, but one I asked Brother to prepare, as I'd missed a blue pill and temporarily gone haywire. After dinner? Irish coffee. (This was the one night I encouraged The Mother to drink. Dewars, of course, then red wine, then the Jamisons. Will she remember the evening? Do I care?)
So: we did little to enhance the economy, but we entertained ourselves big time. Maybe that's what the holiday should be about.