I spent 6 consecutive hours cooking and playing the part of scullery matron during a pre-Christmas soirée. Stress turned to anxiety, which prefaced possible tears when too much sherry spilled into the sauce I was making. My mother came immediately to mind. She always hoped for dining perfection with holidays spun from loveliness when I was a kid. I remember helping her, “Don’t worry Mum, it will be fine we’ll just….” One year, I must have been in my mid twenties, we had a very well done turkey but we didn’t care because we just… had more wine or another drink and laughed about it through subsequent holidays. As I stood listening to boorish conversation, hoping the sauce would be edible, very close to tears, I remembered Mum, understanding intimately how she felt when holiday disaster loomed.
We spent Christmas at my maternal grandparents’ house when we were little kids. They lived in an old cape (circa 1750) with an ell and attached barn. We had footed pajamas, then later long pink or blue flannel nighties. Our beds had flannel sheets covered by itchy wool blankets and heavy cotton coverlets. There was an old cast iron cookstove where my grandfather made dozens of pancakes for us at breakfast. I can’t recall holidays without snow. We stayed for the whole week that school was out.
It made me sad to see Gram and Gramp standing at the kitchen window waving goodbye to us through the cold winter night as we drove down the hill on our way home with Mum. Today I waved goodbye to my niece as she drove down Hippy Hill after spending 5 days with us. Tears slipped down my cheeks as I watched her go. She’s twenty-five. I was younger than she is now when she was born.