I should write more about the fiscal cliff because if I don’t call attention to it every day I am superstitious enough to believe it will negatively affect the outcome. I should write something about killing and mayhem because it has struck again in Rochester, NY, but I missed Christmas. I was sick with bronchitis and not presentable so I spent the day dozing on my sofa, which did get me out of doing the dishes, but it also left a little hole in my year.
I come from a very large family and Christmas is always a wonderful time for us. Unlike some families, if you can believe the movies, our family is not too dysfunctional. We mostly love each other dearly and get along pretty well too. So of course I missed all of the family interactions of Christmas – all the litany of a traditional Christmas dinner (turkey and ham, dressing, sweet potatoes, lots of gravy). I missed the chaos in the small family kitchen where certain appointed family members put the finishing touches on the meal. It is someone’s responsibility to mash the potatoes. My brother-in-law always cuts all the meat into perfect slices. Another sister is the oven jockey, changing out the turkey for other dishes that require warming and, finally, browning the rolls. I can cook but I don’t have a cooking role on Christmas. My role is setting out the cookie trays, clearing them before dinner and setting up the buffet, because we can’t all fit at the table. It is my job to make sure there is a giant spoon for each dish that requires one. Christmas is crowded and may appear messy, but it is really like a well-oiled machine.
After dinner when all hunger is banished we gather around the tree. We ignore the children who are whiney and tired because they don’t want us anywhere near them. We choose one lucky child to play Santa and to pass out all of the presents, slowly, so we can savor this second ritual.
Then there is often a game played at the cleared family dining table where pie is served and cookies once again come into focus. Not everyone plays the game. Some snooze, some visit, some deal with the children who, now that the gifts are opened, just usually want to go home.
I can’t write about the serious topics of the day because what actually is occupying my mind today (I must be feeling better) is the cookies. There are certain cookies we only have at Christmas. I helped bake them. I helped frost them. Some of our favorites are pressed cookies (also called tea dainties) and those sugary vanilla cut outs that look like Christmas trees and Santas. We usually have some banana bread and date nut bread with cream cheese to spread, not really cookies but part of the pre- dinner dining table spread. Sometimes we have those mini pecan pie cookies, yum, so delicious or the tiny cupcake-shaped cheesecakes with cherries on top. I do like pie, but on Christmas it is the cookies that tempt me most. I try to spread my intake out over the day, but sometimes they just call out to me with their siren call. My sister and my mom say they are saving some for me. We shall see, because we are definitely a family of cookie monsters. So I will feast on some pictures of cookies I have known and loved since I had to miss the real thing.