It was good, but I may never do it again!

Christmas is over.  We have celebrated the new year at 3 different parties.  For one of the best, check out .  My poor plants are again being watered, and the birds are getting regular replenishment of seed and suet.  I am tapping sentences into the computer.  Life is back to normal.

When I started to write this my family was discussing the making of a “chocolate log”.  This is a thing found in British grocery stores at Christmas time that some of my British family (mostly the children) prefer to the traditional Christmas pudding.  They were trying to come up with an acceptable imitation using Betty Crocker cake mix.  My American granddaughter, Bridget, who is something of a gourmet cook, was going to bake it.  Disputes arose over the inclusion of jam or whipped cream.  There was a general outcry against jam, and one strong objection to whipped cream:  a British granddaughter followed me to my studio where I went looking for a chess set: “She’s going to put whipped cream in it.  I HATE whipped cream.”

Three British and 2 American grandchildren were here.  The rest of my 12 grandchildren celebrated Christmas in other parts of the world.  Daughter 1, Lawyer Daughter, Lawyer Daughter’s husband and Jerry’s son were here as well.  The rest of my children and children-in-law celebrated Christmas in other parts of the world.  I kept counting how many would sit down to Christmas dinner.  I thought 9.  But it might be perhaps 10 or 11.

The rush to Christmas began with the arrival of the British grandchildren.  My actor grandson (British) was not feeling well when he arrived.  As time went by he felt worse.  He had a sore throat.  Then a fever.  And a headache.  And then he became nauseated.  It was a classic case of swine flu.  We postponed a visit from his older brother (who lives in Seattle) with wife and 3 month old baby.  Daughter 1 spent the night putting cold compresses on her son’s brow and dosing him with fever reducers; then she 1 drove down to Mt. Vernon to pick up her 2 daughters who had been staying with their aunt, Lawyer Daughter.

Just as Daughter 1 was leaving Jerry popped his head in the door and said: “All the toilets (there are 5 of them, including duplex and studio) are stopped up.”  This meant a stoppage in the main drain or lower.  “Don’t run any water or use any drain,” he said. He spent most of the day crawling around under the house while I wrapped presents above.  I felt calm and confident.  The day we were married he had said to me: “You’ll never have to call a plumber again.”  After a while I noticed that he was digging up the patio pavers over the opening to the septic tank.

I went out and watched as he lifted the cover from the opening to the septic tank.

“Yuck,” I said, “Is it supposed to look like that?”

“Just about,” he replied, and then pointed to the input pipe.  There was a cylindrical thing that looked a lot like a roll of dirty toilet paper.  He poked it with a hoe to dislodge it, and the pipe spurted into the tank.

“Go inside and flush the toilet in the new bathroom,” he commanded.  Then he told me to flush the other toilets at intervals.  I did, and went back out.  “It’s okay,” he said, “here come a lot of turds.”

A short time later Daughter 1 arrived with the 2 granddaughters.

The elder was a red-head the last time I saw her and the younger was blond.  Now the red-head is blond and the blond is a dark brunette. Both are gorgeous, hair color notwithstanding.

Actor grandson continued feverish, but at least we could flush.

The next day Jerry and I took the ferry and went to town to shop for Christmas dinner and a few last-minute presents.  Jerry hates to shop, so I suggested that he drop me at Macy’s while he went to Home Depot.

I said, “Pick me up at this door in 45 minutes.”

Macy’s was almost deserted and I quickly bought 4 daughter presents and made it to the door on time.  Fifteen minutes later I heard a lot of police and ambulance sirens in the distance and Jerry was nowhere in sight.  He had forgotten his cell phone but it isn’t much use anyhow, since he can’t hear it ring.  After a while I called Daughter 1 at home with her feverish son.  “Have you heard anything from Jerry?” I asked.  No was the answer.  Another 15 minutes passed.   I began to imagine a heart attack, or perhaps an automobile accident.  I felt deserted and helpless.  I called Daughter 1 again and asked her what I should do.  She said, “Wait a bit longer, and if he doesn’t come I’ll come in to get you.”

It took another half hour for him to realize that he had been waiting for me at the wrong door.

Next we went to Costco to pick up prescriptions and stock up on food.  There was a long wait at the pharmacy.  The store was packed with people.  I chatted with an island neighbor, Dave Harmony, who was also waiting for pills.  I commented that there were no crowds at Macy’s.  He said he had been in Target and it was mobbed.  We agreed that people were shopping the discount stores.

Later I told my family that there were good buys to be had in Macy’s.

Jerry frowned, “It has too many doors,” he said.

Actor son recovered and his brother came from Seattle with wife and baby son on the 23rd.  We had a pre-Christmas dinner with them.  Something in the unusual bustle scared the normally peaceful baby, and he set to screaming in a way that scared his parents.  When that crisis passed we had a fine meal of roast lamb.  We were 9 at the table that night.

On Christmas eve everyone, except Jerry, Jerry’s son and me, went to church in Bellingham.  Most of those who went are not believers, but Lawyer daughter is a devout Catholic and she was the mover of the expedition.  The others enjoy the excitement and pageantry of the Christmas service.  In order for all 7 of them to go in one car they put the seats in our van.  Jerry supervised the installation of the seats, despite the fact that he had enjoyed quite a lot of wine.  He got a bit muddled and thought they were all going home.  After they drove off he said to me, “Why did they go in the van and leave all these cars here?  Won’t they need their cars?”

On Christmas morning the presents of 3 families were under the tree.  They made a sort of mountain.  It took about 4 hours to get them all opened, one by one.

We ended up with 13 for Christmas dinner.  There were 11 family and 2 guests.  I got stressed with the preparations; dinner was an hour late on the table.  But it was good.  Roast beef is our family tradition.  I made Yorkshire pudding, as I had done for the roast lamb dinner.  My vegetarian granddaughter loves Yorkshire pudding, so we make 2 versions, one with meat drippings, and one with olive oil.  Both are good.

I realized that our vegetarian was disappointed not to have the nut roast I had promised to make.  I had assembled the ingredients but ran out of time.  Actor grandson, with the help of his mother, pitched in and put together the nut roast for his sister.  It turned out to be really good.

The next day, Boxing Day to the Brits, Daughter 1 made pizza entirely from scratch, for everyone’s special taste.

The final feast of the holidays came on the 2 nd of January.  The Seattle group came; this time with baby’s other grandfather, a pleasant, friendly man from Argentina who spoke no English.  Lawyer Daughter’s 18 year old son was with us for the first time, since he had spent Christmas with his father in Los Angeles.  The baby was the center of attention.  He smiled and played and never cried.

We were 4 generations.  We were all together with love and stress.  There were little vexations.  There were some hurt feelings and some tears.  There was a lot to laugh about and a lot to admire.  I was tired, tired, tired by the time the new year came and went.

Jerry and I had the perspective of age.  We could comprehend the stages of life we were watching, because once we had been there.  There a the baby and young parents; mothers of middle years, soon to have empty nests; young adults – fledglings leaving the nests and, yes, teen-agers from 12 to 18.  Would I like to be young again?  Yes, if I had the vigor and possibilities of youth.  But I wish, as well, to have the smidgen of wisdom that I have acquired over the years.

“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

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21 Responses to It was good, but I may never do it again!

  1. Annie says:

    Sounds like a great/exhausting family gathering! I expect it will take another several weeks to recover, LOL. Good thing Jerry fixed your septic system just in time! How handy of him! Happy new year to you, wish you the best.

    I’m in Vancouver BC right now and would have loved to have connected with you, but Christmas is hardly a good time for that. Maybe another time…


  2. Jan says:

    Good grief, Anne! I got tired just reading this.

    I had to laugh at Jerry waiting for you at the wrong door at Macy’s – that so sounds like something I would do.

    I’m glad you had a lovely, if exhausting, holiday!

  3. Marja-Leena says:

    Oh my, how exciting and how exhausting! I thought it tiring having numbers varying between seven and 12 over the holidays, but just thinking of your gang confirms for me that I may not be home for Christmas some time not too far into the future!
    Happy New Year to you and Jerry!

  4. annie says:

    Wow! What a bustling busy holiday season. I just have the two kids and my uncle, I sort of wish there were a bigger crowd. But I am sure that if I did I would be beyond stressed by the end of the week! It all sounded lovely though. Happy New Year. I v’e missed you and glad you are back to blogging 🙂

  5. Hattie says:

    I laughed out loud several times as I read this. The way you write about all the carryings on is so droll.
    We had a fun and social holiday right here at home in Hawaii with several parties but no kids, or at least not our kids. We think flying is just too hectic this time of year, and our kids are on the Mainland. We’re going to see everyone in a couple of weeks instead in Seattle. And then they are coming out here in February. One set of kids was involved in a huge family gathering in Washington, D.C. and they had a good time, but they are young and can take it.
    I really enjoyed your narrative!

  6. hhb says:

    I think you may now require another holiday:)

  7. Tessa says:

    I was tired unto the grave after Christmas with my small family; I can’t begin to fathom how you made it through your Christmas with a cast of thousands, relatively intact and still married! I hope you and Jerry continued health and happiness in 2010, Anne.

  8. rosie says:

    great to see the family at christmas isnt it, although you can have too much of a good thing. I’m happy when they’re here, and happy when they go and life returns to what we think is normal…
    We also have strong opinions about chocolate logs, being british. My daughter makes a roll of choccie sponge with cream and home made raspberry jam in it…which is why I weigh 2 kilos more than I should!
    happy new year!!

  9. Darlene says:

    Your post brought back so many memories. The clogged toilets reminded me of the time our septic system backed up into the bath tub just before daughter #1’s wedding reception was to be held at our house. My husband was not a plumber and the stench was unbelievable.

    Jerry’s fiasco reminded me of the time I waited on the wrong corner for my daughter and this created a panic when she had the security guys hunting for me. It also made us late getting back to the house so her husband could attend the parties his company expected him to go to. I didn’t win any popularity contests that night.

  10. Mage B says:

    Yes, yes, and we have officially done the last big family thing. From now on, we visit. This year, we ran away from home. That worked well….except for the cold I caught. I used to love gatherings like this, but not any more.

  11. Taina says:

    our sewar backed up from tree roots about a month ago. if i’ve a minute, i’d write it up but thank god it got fixed. turds on the shower stall floor are not a pretty sight.

  12. Friko says:

    A wonderful, old-fashioned family occasion, with all that implies. You mention little stresses en passant and make a lot of the laughter.

    45 minutes for Christmas shopping? what are you on, and can I have some?

  13. wisewebwoman says:

    I don’t know how you did it, my dear, all that family and their ‘baggage’ (in more ways than one) and dietary requirements and toilet rolls in the loo.
    Put your feet up and go to your happy place. right now!

  14. Sounds like a rip roaring time! Having free-flushing toilets sounds like a must with so many in the house; glad Jerry was able to get things moving again.

  15. Mage B says:

    Thanks so much for the note. Yes, linkages to life in high acid. I’m having fun with my ancient Elements getting rid of scratches and dust.

  16. Pat says:

    This is an amazing account… how you could even keep straight all that was going on–let alone recount it– astounds me. You did forget to mention the hundreds of origami boxes you all folded and put on the fairy lights around the living room…lovely! Ah, there is a reason for boring old January.

  17. Good lord, Anne. Haven’t you heard? Holidays are supposed to be relaxing. But then … they wouldn’t be nearly as funny and interesting as this. Best of new years to you and yours.

  18. Vivian says:

    Wwith five additional people staying at our home we also had toilet problems. I blamed two for dropping cosmetic tissues, a no-no here. We didn’t have the fun you did with grandchildren from two continents…but is seems you took all in stride. Happy New Year.

  19. Amen to the plumber! My husband is an engineer who is very handy. My dad could fix things, too. We never have to call a repairman. I feel sorry for women who are married to men who can’t fix things.

    One of the most romantic things my husband has ever done was surprise me while we were dating by flying from Chicago to Memphis to repair my washing machine. This was after I had told him I wanted a one-month break from seeing each other. He came anyhow.

  20. Katy says:


    What a lovely post! I adored my Christmases on Lummi and I miss them. I hope, for my sake, that you most certainly will do it again!

    This post had a great sense of humor to it, I pictured everything perfectly. I miss you and love you all!

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