It is our first Christmas in the new house and so far, it has been a lot of fun to figure out how exactly we will do things differently this year. Where is the best place for the Christmas tree? Where will everyone sleep when they come? Which bathroom gets the holiday towels, or should we put them in the kitchen?
Some things don’t change, like the girls putting on Santa hats and Christmas music while they decorate the tree together, Bubba and I popping in to stuff something yummy into one mouth or another and hang a favorite ornament. Others had to change; we have no lights on the outside of the house this year because this 100-year old gem doesn’t have an electrical outlet outside. We mixed a few things up by going to the Nutcracker for the first time in years to see four of Eve’s classmates dance and by getting our shopping done early so we could have time to prepare for the arrival of Bubba’s entire family this year.
But what won’t ever change is the odd little things that make us who we are. You know, those unexpected events that you just can’t plan for or that make you laugh when you realize how others must see them.
Every year around Halloween, Eve and Lola begin deciding what they’ll make for everyone for Christmas. I started this tradition when they were toddlers with salt dough ornaments that they painted and gave to grandparents and aunts and uncles. As they aged, the girls had fun exchanging homemade gifts with their cousins, too, and every year we work to come up with something that will be fun and meaningful without being useless. Just in case any relatives happen to read this before December 25, I won’t reveal what Lola chose to make for everyone, but Eve, well, since we had to come up with Plan B, I can say that she wanted to make dark chocolate almond biscotti for her gifts this year. We amassed all of the ingredients and spent hours on Sunday making our own gluten-free flour blend, toasting almonds, and mixing the dough. I have never made biscotti before and didn’t realize it is a two-step process, where you bake the loaves of dough once, cool them, slice them and then bake them again until they are crisp and crunchy. The house smelled divine.
We finally finished late Sunday evening and couldn’t package the treats until they were cool, so we set them aside until morning. Monday morning was a mad dash to get to school on time and I nearly came home and tucked each biscotti into its own gift bag but decided Eve would probably really enjoy doing that herself, decorating each one with ribbons and labeling them appropriately. I ran around the house, cleaning up and making lists and when I left to get the girls from school the biscotti still sat in neat rows on the cookie sheet near the stove. When I came home the pan was overturned, the kitchen floor was coated in a fine dust of crumbs and the dog lay under the kitchen table moaning, his whiskers sprinkled with evidence. He had eaten them all. Off of the kitchen counter. In the 20 minutes I was gone.
Predictably, Eve was furious at the loss of hours of hard work and panicky that we wouldn’t have time, between basketball practice and homework this week, to make more. I was disgusted with the dog and myself for not packing them all up safely, and more than a little worried that the dog had ingested a lot of chocolate. Beyond being incredibly thirsty all night, he didn’t seem to show any outward signs of illness, and I figured we would be lucky if he just ended up with a serious case of constipation.
Tuesday morning I took him for a walk after dropping the kids at school and was rewarded with, well, chocolate biscotti. Not only was he not constipated, but he filled three bags with poop that was dark, dark brown and studded with almonds. Slightly different shape, same look. If I hadn’t known better….
So this morning I headed out to the UPS store to mail the goodies the girls made to family members we won’t see this year. I had everything divided in to three groups that just needed boxes and packaging. As the clerk began typing in the addresses one by one, he remarked that each of the destinations was within a short distance of the others with two being in the same town.
“Too bad these people aren’t all getting together for the holidays, and you could just send it all in one box and save yourself some money.”
“Nope,” was my reply. “They all know each other, but…” my voice trailed off as I realized the irony.
As the groups of gifts were lined up, they were going to
a. my dad’s first wife (my mom),
b. my dad’s second wife,
c. my dad’s third wife.
With a line of people behind me, I pointed that out to the clerk who laughed and admitted he’d never heard that before.
Oh, well. We’re quirky like that.