Preparation for our “Walton Family Christmas” demanded more of me than shopping. It required putting into action “it’s the thought that counts”. To this end, I did several photo shoots of the kids to give as gifts to most of the people in my life. The project was so rife with problems I thought we’d never pull it off. The first weekend the girls came over we didn’t get snow. Then there was the Quinn problem. At twelve years of age, she is very self-conscious and silly. I must have taken two hundred photographs and Quinn ruined one hundred ninety-nine of them. She was too cold – primarily because she only wore a tank top under her turtleneck. Why anyone would do this when they knew they were going to lie in the snow remains a deep-seated middle school mystery. She felt weird smiling because of her braces; she hunched her shoulders because she felt too tall; her hair poofed up behind her head because she wiggled nervously; she leaned the wrong way; etc. I finally got the shot, but when Costco™ printed it they cut off Quinn’s face, so I had to reprint it. I then uploaded it again and re-ordered. I drove back to Costco™ - still only half of Quinn. So I repeated the process again and yet again until, at last, on Christmas Eve the photo came out right.
(Scarves on sale at Ross. Shot to hang this way at the Donaldsons' - upside down at Tom's - and Quinn at the top for the grandparents)
Henry is getting one real gift from Tom and me, an orange iPod™ Nano™. I thought that, given our finances, it was too big a gift, but try telling that to a father who only sees his son once a month or so. Tom got a real deal on it through work and ordered it engraved before I had a thing to say about it. It is the one thing Henry has been pining for. One present for each of us makes a pretty barren presentation beneath the tree and, so it wouldn’t look so sparse, I dove into a box of hand-me-down games my friend Kathy gave me. Her grandkids had never played with these games and I don’t know if Henry will either, but they were free and when wrapped up they would be something to rip open on Christmas morning.
Christmas Eve we trekked down to Burlington to get the pictures and made another trip to Michaels™ for one more clearance frame. Then on to Mass and dinner at the Donaldsons for Tom’s favorite, Lisa's beef stew. We stayed way too late laughing and chatting, considering the wrapping I had ahead of me. And we all showered before we left since we were going on day 10 without water due to the still-frozen pipes.
(very merry with fondue)
(Henry and Phoebe messing around - with the lemon?)
When we got home, Tom looked bleary-eyed. He tried staying awake to help me, but his endless hours of driving to make it by Christmas Eve had caught up with him and he checked out. I dialed up Mike about 1:30 AM, knowing he’s almost always up for a late night chat and, wearing my hands-free headset, I wrapped pictures, cleaned the house and wrote the clues for Henry’s annual Christmas Treasure Hunt while we discussed everything from soup to nuts.
One clue is wrapped up or hidden on the tree. Once it is found, there are about five or six more clues leading to the big gift. Clue Number 1: "Let's face it, it's time to look for your present".
("You're almost there, you're steaming hot." leading to the tea kettle)
Mike and I finally said good-bye and I went to bed around 6:00 AM, only to get back up and make my special occasion Chai French toast and bacon around 9:00 AM. After the stockings, the hunt and the trash pick-up we began preparing for our big waterless Christmas Dinner.
Tom spent all day in the kitchen. He boiled at least thirty-two pitchers of snow as he washed days of dishes, while I tidied, made centerpieces, mopped and placed candles around the house. Henry did his share by changing the litter boxes, cleaning his room and vacuuming. Wayne gathered enough pond water so we could flush with abandon when the guests arrived
(my Target™ 40%-off runner, $ 2.00 hurricane lamps, logs from the woodpile, glitter from my teacher art box and pine cones from the yard)
The actual dinner was a snap, really. I bought paper plates, cups, bowls and napkins. I even sprang for the fancy, shmancy plastic chrome-colored silverware. Annie bought the turkey ahead of time, washing and salting it before giving it to me. I made stuffing and popped the turkey in the oven. The salad came in a bag. The green beans were from Trader Joes™ as were the five boxes of frozen scalloped potatoes I put in a lasagna pan. The hors d’oeuvres and dessert were from Costco™. Not my culinary achievement, but delicious, nonetheless. We sat down in candlelight, thankful for all our blessings, our friends and our family. Yet the toasts ran to indoor plumbing, running water and flushing toilets. Cleanup was as easy as 1-2-3, at least until the sink unexpectedly separated from the counter top.
How that was possible after less than a year’s worth of use stunned me, but I’d have to think about it tomorrow. We poured more sparkling cider, eggnog, rum, and wine, and played games by the funky Christmas tree. Little-bit-of-a-snippet, Phoebe, triumphed over all of us, but we gave her a run for her money.
It wasn’t a grand Christmas, but I’ll wager it was one we’ll all cherish. Good Night and Merry Christmas, John-Boy.
(Exhausted from the Christmas festivities - Irish, Bruno and Luther settle in for a long winter's nap)