Christmas is over. We have celebrated the new year at 3 different parties. For one of the best, check out www.artisanwineclub.com/ . 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.”