Sunday, December 25, 2011

a christmas miracle (m)

After all the stress, this turned out to be the best Christmas in a long time.

It starts on Christmas Eve with two parties.  One at Cousin Patty's and one at my brother Phillip's.

Patty's house is packed with friends and relatives.  It's a small house and yet she seems to have enough seating and table space for all 30 of us.  Food is everywhere, all home-made by her.  The buffet is bursting with a hodge-podge of selections, all steaming above the sterno: chicken pot pie, macaroni and cheese, stuffed peppers, sausage and peppers, meatballs, eggplant, lasagna.  There are salads and a large tray of cut up cheese, crackers, grapes and pepperoni. 

I bring a square of eggplant (my once per year treat) to the dining room table.  Sam and Harrison bring their chicken pot pie.  T settles for a cup of her special barley soup.  I am seated across from her sister-in-law Kathy who used to scare me when we were kids.  Kathy (the sister-in-law) hung out at Swan Street Park in a leather jacket, smoking cigarettes and calling people names.  I had to cross the park to get to my friend Susan's house.  I believe her nickname for me was "egghead" because of my large bookbag.

I'm still afraid of Kathy and wonder if the dish of Poppycock between us is enough of a defense.  There is candy everywhere.  There's even a display of 1960's era candy.  Patty got it off the internet (You can get candy from the 60's, 70's, 80''s amazing! she tells me as if anyone else would use candy for their holiday decor).

Sam and Harrison look out of place with the crowd here.  It's good for them, I think.  This is where I come from.  They are real people.  After a few bites of the chicken pot pie, they start to relax and join in the conversation.  Patty's nieces come by and sit with the boys.  They start talking, united by food.  The oreo truffles are a huge hit.  These are the ones Lyn screwed up when she tried to make them.  Trust me...they are fabulous.

For dessert, Patty made 7-layer bars which are better than the ones I buyt at Whole Foods, a banana chocolate chip loaf, cookies and pies.  We don't get to sample everything as we are going to dinner at my brother Phil's.

We reluctantly leave Patty's.

Sam observes that Uncle Phillip's house is the polar opposite of Patty's.  It is elegantly decorated and quite formal.  Harrison is afraid to sit anywhere because the antiques are so precious.  We are greeted by the ever-demented Charlie and sit down for a buffet dinner of beef burgundy, ham and assorted vegetables.  I eat one bite of the squash.  The eggplant is sitting in my stomach like one of those grenades they find in Normandy Beach, 60+ years after the Battle of the Bulge. 

The candy dish is a silver 4-tiered tray and is draped with gold tinsel.  It's like separating a grass skirt to get to a piece of candy.  I lift the veil of tinsel and hunt for a little box of Torrone, a nougat candy, wrapped in tin foil inside the box.  It is my favorite and an Italian tradition, especially at Christmas.  As a kid, I remember searching for the orange-flavored ones and peeling off the wafer coating and putting it on my tongue, pretending it was the Communion host.  Now, I just pop the whole piece in my mouth. Still tastes good to me.

Around 11 p.m., we head home.  Sam got a white dinner jacket from Uncle Phillip's family as his Christmas gift.  This is to wear to our niece's wedding in Newport next summer.  Harrison got a blue cashmere sweater.  Even the gifts from my brother are elegant.  I got a large vase with sterling silver trim. Like a Minnie Pearl hat, he left the price tag on, $750....which he did not pay.  Phil knows how to shop.  I think he got it for 80% OFF.

The four of us head home and go to sleep, visions of Oreo truffles on our brains.

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