Tay’s family joined us for our first Christmas in our new home and in prepartion of their arrival, I took advantage of an extra week’s vacation I had remaining from the year and took the time off to finish my Christmas shopping, do my wrapping, bake some shortbread and clean the house. I also scheduled in some down time and made it to the gym for Body Pump every other day, went for a very indulgent massage that was an hour and a half and spent a morning at the salon getting even more blond chunky hilights, leaving 2 and a half hours later with some sections of my hair such a blinding, brilliant blond-almost-white that even my stylist was surprised. On Friday, Tay and I headed downtown to shop at Ikea for some last minute items, grabbed the early showing of Juno, had a quick but enjoyable dinner at Milestones then headed over to Massey Hall for Big Band Christmas with Colin James – stopping along the way to Ooooh at the window displays at the Bay and Aaaaah at the Swarovski Christmas tree at the Eaton Centre. We drank hot chocolate on the way back to where we parked the car and gazed up at the festively lit CN Tower while I tried to take photos of it’s red and green glow.
Tay’s family arrived on the afternoon of the 24th and the two and a half days that followed were filled with merry mayhem as we ate and drank and ate some more. Later that night I giggled on the phone with my parents and confessed to my father that I had ignored the egg nog in the fridge and instead discovered the divineness of warm apple cider mixed with butterscotch ripple schnapps. Christmas day blurred by with gifts being opened and wrapping paper crumpled but the ribbon carefully folded to be used again next year and people came and went – Jackie and Dave joined us for breakfast in the late morning that lasted until close to three as we sat around the table and talked; Renu and her kids arrived around then to open more presents and eat the stuffed mushrooms that I had made after Renu had told me that all Jayant wanted for Christmas was an endless supply.
Christmas dinner was a pre-stuffed 15 lb turkey that took 7 hours to cook (with gravy), accompanied by fresh cranberry sauce that I had made the day before, both roast potatoes and mashed, baby carrotts, corn and green beans made with mushrooms and walnuts. And even though we were stuffed and sated and more than just a little full, dessert was warm chocolate molten cake with a raspberry liquer sauce and fresh raspberries, accompanied by raspberry and chocolate port. Having tasted both, I’m not sure which was finer.
The next morning, after wolfing down cold turkey sandwhiches we passed the day pleasantly in a blur of shopping in the Smart Centre in our neighborhood (where I bought a beautiful embroidered fall jacket at Danier ($29) and a pair of lovely pale olive leather gloves ($18.50) to match and a Joe peacoat that was 50% off and a silk black blouse with little white polka dots that ties at the neck). Lunch when we returned was leftovers piled on the counter in a haphazard manner (bacon wrapped scallops, stuffed mushrooms, home made crackers with aged cheddar, vegetables and dip and potato chips). Tay’s aunt made prime rib for dinner while I curled on the couch wrapped in a blanket with my book and her dog Cleo at my side. After dinner we laughed and shouted through a game of Pictionary (during which Tay’s father, enthralled with the drawing that his sister did of a moose, repeatedly praised her for to our amusement) and then a game of Outburst, which ended with the female team taking a very strong, very boisterous lead when I rattled off all ten Simpson characters listed and then followed with 8 of the 10 famous bunnies/rabbits (how could I forget that Trix are for kids?).
This morning I returned to work, slipping out while it was still dark and the house slept, and all around me as I walked from the train station to my office was the still quietness of the city that you only feel in the early hours of the weekends or in the days that follow the chaos of the holidays. In the still hereafter of it all I finally have time again to catch my breath and sit quietly.
I received a number of wonderful gifts this Christmas – in the form of presents under the tree and in the love that I received from friends and family – but the gifts I am most grateful for are the things that I recognized throughout the holidays – how those quiet days with my husband leading up to Christmas where we danced by the Christmas tree or fell asleep next to the fireplace or ate bowls of candy cane ice cream and watched Christmas movies are just as magical as the days of Christmas themselves.
Recognizing how I don’t have to do everything myself, and learning when to ask for help (especially when the thought of gravy and mashed potatoes was stressing me out unneccessarily on Christmas day).
Realizing that having a house full of guests means that everyone will be leaving reading glasses and cameras and wineglasses and crumbs everywhere they go and that the house will no longer be clean and tidy and glowing after that first hour when everyone arrives, because a clean and tidy house that glows while it’s filled with family means that your guests don’t feel at home in your house and that so wasn’t the case with our house during the holidays.
And finally, even though being surrounded by someone else’s family was bittersweet in that it made me miss my own family with an absolute fierceness that I hadn’t felt in a long time, made me miss the holidays of my childhood – going to mass with my Mom and sisters on Christmas Eve, the snacks my dad would prepare for us when we returned, the glow of the lights in my bedroom as I laid awake waiting for Santa to come while listening to my sisters sleep – the intensity of those emotions reminded me just how much I love my family, so completely and utterly.