Well this was the first Christmas that was NOT held at my house. Ok, not the first ever to anyone else, but in my little world, it is the first.
My daughter, T, has her own apartment, and it is her first Christmas there. It is a lovely little place, and she is rightfully proud of it, and she asked if we could have Christmas there. The whole shebang. Morning presents, big dinner, the whole thing. Of course I agreed because this was important to her.
We three, my kids and I, are all very close. My goal in raising them as I have always told them is for them to be independent, self sufficient adults who are good members of their community.
They’re getting there.
When T got this apartment, I could tell she wanted to be in her own place, but still have the security of her familiar neighborhood and close to Mom. The place she chose is half a mile from home. That umbilical cord has a lot of stretch to it …
So, we’re planning Christmas and I said I would still buy the meat; we like prime rib for Christmas so that’s a little pricey for a grad student! And we set out a plan for the meal. She only had a few kitchen items, already borrowed from Mom’s Kitchen, so we went over what else would be needed.
That would be pretty much everything. Right down to a potato peeler, and roasting pan.
I had taken the whole weekend to Wednesday (Boxing Day) off, and thank goodness. Sunday I brought several bags of saucepans, peeler, serving dishes etc over to her place. And she lives on the top floor (she thought there would be less chance of bugs if she was up high. Never mind that there are really no bugs around here to start with, she was not going to take any chances.) So I trudged up once, and gave her the keys to go get the rest in the car. She’s in her mid 20’s – this was no problem!
And, I gave her a Santa Key. As I explained to her, we have a fireplace and that’s how Santa gets in to deliver the presents. If there is no fireplace, parents have to leave him a key so he can get in another way. This pewter key has a Santa face on it and only works with Santa’s magic. She smiled and took the key.
Christmas Eve Day felt very weird not to have any running around with last minute things to do. No food to prep, no hustle in the house to get ready for a big crowd, and no fire in the fireplace. I had still decorated like crazy but that was many days ago. I was already done shopping and wrapping.
Midnight came, and there was no need for Santa to put things under the tree just for us to pack it all up and into the car in the morning. The cats didn’t know anything of course, but they have always been so funny and playful as the presents get arranged under the tree. They would seem to sense the excitement, and they would jump over presents, dash under the tree branches, sit on top of boxes and nibble on the bows. It was a time of just Santa and feisty kitties, and it was fun.
So Christmas morning arrived, and, well – we are all sleepy heads in the mornings. So I eventually got up and ready, as did my son J. The morning felt off because it wasn’t our tradition. We got everything packed up in our sleigh and headed around the corner to T’s apartment. And again, I let the kids carry everything upstairs.
It was lovely! T had Christmas music on, her tree was pretty and already had presents underneath it. She told me she had put the Santa key out the night before, and sure enough he had delivered some presents for us there! She had already made me some tea (I’m a big tea drinker) and some for her brother too. She was very excited to have us there and to start on the day. The spirit was warm, loving, and festive!
I got the prime rib prepared and popped in the oven, then we sat around her tree and shared presents. It was wonderful and just like we’d always done at home. There were laughs and delight at funny or perfect presents, stories shared of how that present was found or chosen, and many many pictures. The grand finale was J opening a cook book, kicking back and reading it (he loves to cook) and T opening a big box: a set of pots and pans in her color for her new place. Everyone was happy.
We had phone calls to the rest of our family, then the kids got busy with preparing the rest of the meal, while I put my feet up on the couch and had the first of several glasses of wine. J made his famous stuffing – it is amazing. And T got everything else going. There were a few more moments when we realized we didn’t have all we needed, like there was only one big knife, but we managed still. One funny moment, T realized she picked up the wrong green beans for the casserole she loves. Sure, cut green beans will work, but that’s not the tradition she loves. So she popped back to our house and got the French cut green beans from my freezer, and brought them back and proceeded.
From my perch on the couch, with wine glass in hand, I answered their many questions: “How long do you cook potatoes? Is it ok if I use a green bell pepper instead of red? You’re still making the gravy aren’t you Mom?” It was terrific. They had cooked before, as I said J loves to cook. But they both go exactly by the book, so if the recipe calls for sweet onion and you have a yellow onion they are quite unsure about how that will turn out.
Timing is a talent that takes experience to figure out. We planned on eating at 2pm. The roast was ready at 2pm. But it was about 4 before we got everything cooked and on the table. That’s okay, it will come together with practice I told them. We sat; we had Christmas Crackers which is another tradition of ours. My heritage is British, and this is a “Brit. Thing.” And then we had our big dinner. It was delicious! Everything came out so good, and the kids were delighted as well. We ate, and of course had more than enough. T was so excited that Christmas at her home had all come together so nicely!
Then the kids had me head back to the living room while they cleaned up. I told them that NOW I was sold on this new tradition!! In my own kitchen I am in charge, and sure they would help out, but you know how it is when it’s your own house, you do most of the work. Thank god for youthful energy!
Back on my perch, watching them joke together and hustle around putting away leftovers, and cleaning up dishes, I got to thinking of how proud I am of them both. It was heartwarming to see them pick up the values that are important to me, the traditions that are meaningful to them, and the real love for family that they and I share.
It may be snowy and cold outside, but it’s been warm and wonderful wrapped up in family inside.
Merry Christmas Everyone!