First of all, I am thankful for the many blessings we enjoy simply by virtue of living in one of the most affluent countries in the world. We’re not wanting for a roof over our heads, food on the table, clothes on our backs, boots on our feet. (Well, actually, yes we are wanting those boots at the moment, because HRH’s pair wore through last winter and have not yet been replaced, and mine developed a hole that lets in all the cold icy slush two years ago and I discovered that the right heel on my backup older pair had crumbled away to absolutely nothing when I put them on in lieu of the holed ones, but I digress. We have money to buy new ones thanks to Christmas generosity.) We also live in a country where socialised medicine keeps us healthy, even if people grumble about waiting lists. We have our immediate family alive and well and able to be with us on a special day.
We are, I know, lucky in comparison to something like 97% of the world.
Also, I have a stand mixer. Which probably 99.8% of the world does not. So you see how I am extra-blessed.
I learned a valuable lesson this year. Just because Santa cuts down on the amount of presents under the tree (and he did, he really did, for which I am also thankful), that does not mean that the total amount of money invested in gifting others decreases proportionately. Because I have not even dared to total up the value of the gift cards that were hung on the tree or tucked in to the Santa sack that has replaced individual stockings. Let us just say that since I talked HRH down from a 42″ flat-screen TV to a much more practical 36″ screen, the gift cards from Best Buy that each set of parents gave to HRH pretty much covers the purchase price. (I think they didn’t want HRH to feel left out because I got a stand mixer. Did I mention that Santa gave me a KitchenAid stand mixer? In brushed chrome?)
New soft flannel jammies, a hat/scarf/gloves set, gift cards to HMV and Indigo and Tim Hortons, new sheets and tea towels and oven mitts… it was a lovely gifting all round. Curiously, we did not receive books or DVDs or CDs, but we did get the gift cards so we can make our own choices there. I don’t think there has ever been a Christmas when I did not receive a tangible, physical book as a gift. I am in an odd sort of withdrawal and rapidly granted the boy’s request to go to the bookstore on Boxing Day. (I’ve already finished the book Aurora gave me at Yule. I am twitchy, although my mother brought a handful of ones I haven’t read down for me to read and I read half of one last night.) I suspect the boy has more than a few of my book-obsession genes, because he asked me several times yesterday if the bookstore was open yet. Of course, in his part of the bookstore there are shelves of Thomas trains and accessories, and I suspect that his gift certificate will go towards expanding his collection. Still, there are books in the same place, and it’s nice that we share enthusiasm for a common destination. I have also noted that people seem to have Gotten Wise to the whole HRH-passes-his-chocolate-along-to-me thing because there is Less Chocolate this year. I will cope. Mostly because my Yule stocking was sponsored by Saxon Chocolates. Also, my mother brought down her almond bark and double chocolate cookies.
The boy had a wonderful day despite being ill. He had a quiet morning watching WALL*E until the grandparents came over, and then did a great job handing presents out although he was quiet and increasingly less enthusiastic in general. He drooped a bit more and more as time passed and started feeling warm to the touch, until he was curled up in HRH’s lap, murmuring to me, “May I open another one, please?” He remembered his pleases and thank-yous despite feeling awful, though, and once all his gifts were open he found my hand and drifted off to his bedroom to curl up under his comforter with BunBun. He slept for an hour while we finished opening our gifts and when he woke up he played with some of his new toys (Santa brought him Mavis and Emily, two engines for which he has pined for about six months — thank you, eBay) and ended up drifting back to his room to lie on his bed and listen to a storybook or work on a puzzle or curl up under the comforter again, shivering. His cheeks were a brilliant red, he was clingy (but only Mama or Dada would do) and when I eventually took his temperature it was hovering just under 101 F. We let him direct his activities and kept an eye on him. He (sensibly) refused all food except a raw carrot (inspired by me peeling them for dinner) and some juice, and stated repeatedly when anyone said the word “turkey” that he didn’t want any, despite assurances every time that he didn’t have to eat if he didn’t feel like it.
Dinner was fabulous, as usual (why pretend modesty here? although I cannot take all the credit because my mother in law made her most excellent mashed potato dish and this year made a mashed sweet potato side that was drowned in cherry brandy!). The only failure this year were the rolls made with the organic six-grain stone-milled flour rolls, which over-rose on their second rise and fell back in on themselves. I baked them anyway and we had sort of bread wedges with a heavy crumb, and they weren’t awful but they weren’t the lighter rolls I’d wanted. The perfect turkey and gravy more than made up for it, though. The boy watched me make gravy while HRH carved the turkey (white slices that dripped with juices! heaven!), and when flopped over HRH’s shoulder said that he didn’t want any turkey scraps from the carving board but his little mouth was opening every time he watched HRH nibble on one, so HRH just popped a piece into the boy’s mouth next time it happened. The boy’s eyes went round as he chewed and he decided that the turkey was pretty darn okay. He ate the equivalent of a whole slice while in HRH’s arms, had some bread and water when we all sat down to dinner, then asked to be excused to play while the adults ate their meal. He came back when we were done, his cheeks a much more normal colour, and asked for dessert. His fever had broken, and he only spilled a spoonful or two of chocolate ice cream on the older-than-me linen tablecloth. He also ate a home-made shortbread cookie, so was evidently feeling much, much better (he hadn’t asked for a single sweet all day, you see). Then he discovered the box that the stand mixer had come in and proceeded to shriek with glee as he was pushed or pulled around the house in it while others cleaned up, so the grandparents got to play with him in regular Liam mode for the final hour or so. And the clean up went quickly too, when I’d decided that I only use my Royal Doulton china and good silver one time per a year and putting them in a dishwasher once every 365 days wouldn’t ruin them, so there was just the pots and pans and serving dishes to wash. (We saved the god-gods-that-many sea of stemmed crystal glasses to wash by hand after everyone had gone.)
Even the turkey stock smelled fabulous. It was a really very excellent turkey year. (We scraped the last spoonfuls of the brandied sweet potatoes into the stock pot, too. Waste not, want not!)
I cried a bit when my parents left, like I do every Christmas. We see them so rarely, and my mum and I are so close, that brief visits like this, however lucky we are to have them, just aren’t enough.
When everyone had gone the boy found the guitar that we had given him as the last Christmas present that morning. At the time he had pushed it away and said he didn’t want it (this was just before he took my hand and went to curl up in bed of his own accord, so we knew he didn’t mean that he didn’t want it, really, he meant that he didn’t want to play with it right then), but now he was thrilled with it and dragged it into the living room to play it. He kept trying to rest it on his shoulder like a cello. So as a lovely end to the day HRH and I were treated to a Christmas concert. Next week we will have to make a trip to Jimi’s music store to get a new set of strings for the guitar, since they’re the original strings and I broke the high E when trying to tune it before wrapping it on Christmas Eve.
This morning the boy ate two bowls of cereal and had two glasses of milk at breakfast, so he seems to be back to normal. He has already reminded me that I promised to take him to the bookstore. It’s a lazy day; everyone’s still in pyjamas. I will now go through my book wish lists and note down the titles I really want to pick up today (Apart from All the Windwracked Stars and Red Seas Under Red Skies, that is!). And I won’t use the entire gift certificate; I’ll save some for a rainy day.
I hope you all had or are having as wonderful a celebration of whatever kind you hold with family and friends.