Today I bought a 2013 diary for my practice, and I heard at least three times from different people today: “I cannot believe that it is this time of the year again”. I may even have thought that myself, browsing the stationary store for exactly this kind of diary: the one where a whole week lies open, spread over the two facing pages. Years ago I realised that it saves an enormous amount of turning pages, seeing that I make a series of weekly appointments, usually 6 at a time, for my patients. 2013 is a couple of weeks away. And before that, another Christmas. And how different this year’s Christmas lunch will be to last year’s!
Last year my brother and his wife hosted the lunch. I was not married yet, and neither of my sons had girlfriends to bring along. So it was myself, my now husband, his son and my two sons, my brother and his wife and their little daughter(my godchild) and my sister and her two sons who sat around a beautifully set table, drinking sparkling wine, eating and making merry really: much as I remember the christmas day lunches of my childhood. It was also the first christmas after my father’s death, so there was sadness that he was no longer with us, but for me also a very sobering reminder that we, us adult siblings were now orphans, and next in line generationally to leave this earth. Now you would say that this is rather a serious and stark image to write about in a food related blog, and so it is. But the older I get, the more I see how important it is to recognise the reality of our own eventual deaths, in order to deeply appreciate life. I am not religious, so christmas has long since my childhood lost that particular meaning for me. But I find myself, despite that, year after year, swept away by the general excitement and anticipation of this one day of getting together with loved ones for a big celebration, with food and wine and gift-giving: marking another year gone by.
This year I will host the christmas lunch. Both my sons will be here, one with his new wife and her two 8-year-old twin girls (I became an instant grandmother when he married her three months ago), and the other with his girlfriend of almost a year. My stepson will not be here: yes, of course I am now also a stepmom of a young adult since getting married a month ago; he will be spending the season with his mother and her family. I don’t know yet if my sister and her sons will be here, or any of my other siblings: it seems that they all have separate plans and places to be.
I plan to make another turducken. Last year I bought one, ready-made and frozen and it was utterly awful, so I will, like three years ago, buy a turkey, a duck and a chicken, and spend most of Xmas eve deboning three birds, making stuffing, no doubt sipping champagne along the way. This year I will have the help of one daughter-in-law and her two little daughters who will want to help chop or peel or mix something: I had them here for dinner a while ago and they both ended up standing side by side at my kitchen counter on chairs to help them reach properly, peeling and chopping carrots. I had a sudden realisation that I could if I choose to, accept a new role: as an older grandmother-like woman to two little children, and as a mother-like woman to their mother. It’s rather difficult, since I in myself do not feel old enough to be that. I do not feel 51, or maybe my notion of what 51 should feel like. For previous generations 51 was old, and the women in my family(both my grandmothers and my mother) had started settling into old age.
I may also have my future daughter in law here to help: not that there are any firm wedding plans in sight, but I have a strong sense that this is the woman my older son will be with for a significant period of time.
I cannot help wondering how it was for my mother in her mother-in-law’s kitchen all those many times as we grew up. It was the practice then as it still seems to be for many people, to spend alternative xmases with parents. I am sure that my mother would have been much more relaxed and at ease in her own mother’s kitchen as they stood in that small kitchen, aprons on, no wine or even sherry consumed but cups of tea in between, preparing the food. I remember those days not so much for the preparation the day before, but for the actual wonderfulness of gifts which appeared under the tree hung with familiar objects: the same baubles and tinsel year after year. And then of course, the food. The lunch table would be set beautifully, the sideboard laden with special festive food: three or four kinds of meat, potato salad, rice salad, tomato salad, my grandmother’s own sweet mustard sauce, the recipe which I found recently in my mom’s old recipe book; and a steamed christmas pudding with a coin in it somewhere. And my father’s favourite: a marie biscuit pudding, or a trifle. We would all wear the paper hats from the xmas crackers, and read out loud the jokes printed on slips of paper scattering as the cracker cracked open…and eat and eat. And after lunch go and have a lie-down, treasuring a modest and sometimes rather motley collection of gifts, and for me, sometimes, the prize ring in the cracker, which made my hand look very grown up and evoked a secret, immature wish..
I will do all of that this year again. So maybe this christmas will not be so different after all. A new combination of people, some changed dynamics and roles for me: a new wife, an old mother, a new mother-in-law and grandmother, but yet still a daughter of a mother, a granddaughter of two grandmothers, a sister to a twin, a woman in my own kitchen, all my wishes come true, loving this time of year.