Tuesday, December 30, 2003

As a cradle Catholic, Christmas Masses don't individually stand out in my mind. They all kind of blur together in a kaleidoscope of memories: incense, candles, poinsettias, carols, the Nativity set up. Yeah, I know. But those are the same every year, which can be both boring and reassuring at the same time. Usually I opt for reassuring.
Of the two years in my living memory that I missed Mass for Christmas, one was last year, when confusion about the Mass schedule in Dale's home town left us high and dry. The other was in 1996 when I went with Dale to the Methodist service in the aforementioned home town.
That year, the pastor had somehow managed to get use of a barn. They even had a dog there; to represent the animals, I think. I found it less distracting than Liturgical Movement, personally.
Was I thinking about the Christ child, His parents, their long journey, animals, or anything to do with 2000 years ago? The miracle of the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, shepherds, or Bethlehem? In a word, no. It is commonly accepted that Jesus was not born in December but probably in the spring, when shepherds really would have been out in the fields (it's too cold, even in ancient Israel, in winter). I knew that so the snow drifting in the large hole near the roof of the barn where I was didn't seem relevant to what the pastor was talking about.
I was thinking about people right at that moment who had nowhere to go on this most holy night. At the end of this service, I was going to leave my shivering behind. I was to go to my now in-laws' house where a mountain (seriously, the sucker was three feet high) of presents was waiting. Where on the morrow a mountain of food was to be prepared and enjoyed, and laughter and merriment were the order of the day. Where there was heat, for God's sake!
I was thinking of those who, like my father in his day, hope for the Goodfellows to bring Christmas. For those who don't have heat. Or companionship. Or a meal.
We went back to the house and I changed into the pajamas his mom had gotten for me the year before. I went out to the living room, where his brother was sprawled in sleep on the couch, and I studied the pile of presents by the lights on the tree. And I almost wept.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Dale: Decapitated chickens don't run around as much as we have the past four days. No, eventually, the future entree flops down and gets a rest. Heather and I hope to later this evening.

If the kids let us.

I now have a deep appreciation for the work my parents put into Christmas, given that we assumed the role of hosts for the family Christmas this year.

I was the designated last minute shopper this time around, a task made easier by the fact that the office closed early pretty much the entire week. This year had the added complication of mailing gifts to my brother and his family in Tacoma. Memo to self--mail it earlier next year. UPS isn't cheap on December 22. But it is guaranteed, as we found out yesterday afternoon--mission accomplished, the gifts there on time.

Finding Heather's main gift was "wandering in the wilderness" fun. I hate shopping in malls if I can at all avoid it. Far from the Christmas spirit, it instills in me a Darwinian urge to prevail over competitors in everything from parking spaces to getting in line to check out. Lakeside Mall here is the worst this time of year. "Throne Hall of Satan" doesn't quite convey my attitude toward the edifice.

Therefore, it was a blessing that the gift list I had prepared could be filled without going to a megamall. Topping Heather's list was an all-in-one: printer, scanner, copier--for our computer. Our printer is an ancient (in computer years) HP inkjet that cranks out a page every ice age or so, if it's feeling spunky. I finally got one--after hearing the dread phrase "out of stock" more times than I can remember--on Christmas Eve. From OfficeMax. Much quieter than a mall.

I'll install it later. Much later. Should be a nice one.

Last night involved the final essential preparations--getting the turkey in oven ready condition, and baking the monster cookies. Oh, and wrapping about a couple dozen gifts. Before all of that, I had to make sure that we had every possible item we needed not purchaseable from a 7-11. Check. I still got milk for Madeleine anyway.

The turkey cleaned out and stuffed quite nicely--it was a 14 pound bird that had a pop-up timer. I didn't know that when I bought it, but it earned me brownie points, so what the hey! The stuffing was extra-oniony, which was a good thing. Not overwhelmingly oniony. Good oniony.

Excluding this sentence, that will be the last use of the word "oniony" in this blog.

The turkey was the last item we addressed before going to bed at 1am. Sleep came and went quickly, with the lad up a little before seven. He just started crawling this week, propelling his 26 pound bulk around with success, if not exactly fluid grace. Heather generously let Maddie and I sleep a little longer, till about 7:30. Then we got up and opened the gifts. Maddie's favorite is a Belle (Beauty and the Beast) doll. Dale's a little harder to gauge, although I hope he learns to like the race track I got him.


The turkey went into the oven at 9 am, and started smelling good around 9:08. Mom and Dad arrived a little before 10 am, slightly hampered by the fact we did have a white Christmas this year. Heather's mom got here a couple minutes later. As of this writing, almost 2 inches have fallen. In Mom and Dad's neck of the woods, they got around 5 by this morning, with more expected today. We invited them along for Mass, which they agreed to attend. My mother in law attended Midnight Mass, so she decided to watch the fort while we were gone. It was good to have Dad and Mom along, and not just for the extra pairs of hands to hold the kids. My dad held Dale a lot of the time, and Heather noticed something I wish I would have seen: Dad whispering the words of the "Our Father" into his grandson's ear.

After Mass, we hurtled home to execute Phase 5 (or 8, or whatever) of the Christmas Plan. We opened the gifts my parents brought, and Dad surprised me with my official 2003 Successful Hunt patch, and two nice hunting knives. He insists I hit the deer from 75 yards out, not 40, but that could just be the dad talking. Heather was pleased by a Nao sculpture of a little girl with her mother, entitled "A Moment With Mommy."

After bagging up the flammables, we marched into the kitchen for the final preparation of everything from candied yams to green bean casserole to getting the brown and serve rolls done. The dinner bell rang at 2:15.

Christmas dinner was just about perfect. The only blemish was discovered just about a minute ago: we forget to get out the candied cranberry roll. Tomorrow.

Right after I gobble down a bushel of fiber. The veggie tray I prepared helped, and should help tomorrow.

Madeleine should be going through a post-sugar binge hangover all day tomorrow. Every time I turned around, she was either reaching for another cookie or walking away with one. "Wired for sound" pretty well describes it. Things wound down nicely, with our 20th viewing of "The Grinch" and "Horton Hears a Who!" since we purchased the DVD on December 11th. It's very popular with the toddler set. Mom and Dad left around six, their gifts in tow.

But perhaps the best gift of the weekend came via providential news from Doug--his appointment in Baghdad has been cancelled. No, he's still going to Iraq, but it will likely be somewhere in the south. This blessing has us all walking a little lighter these days. Nothing you can wrap compares to that gift to us.

I hope you and yours had a blessed Christmas, and the blessings continue into the new year.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?