29 December, 2007

holiday fervor


That's about all I can say: whew! Can it be only a week since we arrived for our Christmas holiday, and we leave again tomorrow? It's a matter of airline availability, as unromantic as that seems. We just couldn't get out any later. And anyway, there will be the return jet lag to contend with, and the beginning of school. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Our arrival, followed by a desperate bedtime, was followed then by a cloudy, semi-snowy Connecticut morning in which Rollie stopped by quite early just to say hello. "We were just about to come see you," I said, "to pick up our tree." I had, of course, written ahead in one of the few relationships in my life that involves putting pen to paper, exchanging views on local weather, wildlife, familial relations, etc. No phone, no email, a real letter. "Ayuh, but haven't you looked in the big barn?" Rollie asked, in glee. "They're all THERE."

Sure enough, the perfect tree, dimensions to fit the hallway perfectly, plus four luscious green wreaths for the front windows, complete with bows made by Rollie's wife Judy. Perfect. He grinned with pleasure to see our happiness. And the aroma! I swear the tree never dropped a needle in the week (far too short) that we had him.

Avery and I hunted down all the ornaments in the white painted cupboard I have set aside for Christmas: lights, the ancient wax figures of bird on leaf, Father Christmas with sack of presents, open Bible, that have graced a million Christmases since we found them at ABC in Union Square a million years ago, as newlyweds. And the ornaments from my baby mobile, and the one celluloid gingerbread house from my mother's childhood, and the 18 (!) silver bells that John's mother gives us, one each year, engraved with the sentiment of the year. "Another opening, another show," from my gallery-owning days, "3 11 1996" for Avery's birth. "Undeniable New Yorkers," for 2001, which brought its customary tears to my eyes. "Moscow London," and "514 Broadway," from our old SoHo days. Avery this year was, for the first time, really interested in what each bell said.

We finished the tree and made our massive grocery shop, and Avery sledded down the modest hills in the lawn, and I attached the VIctorian candle holders to the hydrangea tree, ready for their candle-lit splendour to come. The photographs will not disappoint, I promise!

Oyster stew on the stove, my family all came to visit. The usual, cosy and familiar arrangement: my mother in the kitchen rocking chair, my father wandering around looking at bookshelves and phone books and laundry room, and generally investigating his surroundings, my brother tasting some of everything that emerged from my knives, cutting boards and stockpots. They all watched sports on the minuscule kitchen television that is all our house can boast, we listened to Jane and Avery chattering away. We made Christmas cookies (Jane mostly ate the colored sugar, why not), we ate my new favorite turkey salad.

Shredded Long-Roasted Turkey Salad
(serves 8)

1 turkey breast
1 handful cilantro
1 handful mint leaves
1 cup chopped roasted peanuts
2 cups bean sprouts
2 bunches salad onions (scallions), sliced thin white and green parts
dressing: 1 part soy sauce, 1 part lime juice, 3 parts sesame oil

Roast the turkey breast SUPER slow and SUPER long: 6 hours at 125 degrees fahrenheit will be about right. Remove skin and slice, then slice thin, the best of the breast. Save the rest for soup.

Toss it all together: DONE. Lovely.


A fabulous evening then, with Anne, David and Alice, oyster stew and oyster crackers with the reindeer statues and candles on the dining room table (Avery falling asleep from her cold), and ghost stories about the Green Room and Red Room across the road! Just to relax with good friends and soup and candlelight and a little girl asleep upstairs... only what was that enormous thump? She hadn't fallen out of bed as we thought: the ghost stories came back to haunt us!

And on Christmas Even we went to collect John's parents from the Hartford airport (hilarious young local television reporter there, so proud to cover the board of delayed arrivals, tons of makeup and "holiday pay," she reported). Home to a FULL MOON and the most remarkable shadows, as you see, on the snowy fern bed outside our bedroom window. Gorgeous, magical, peaceful and serene.

All right, I'm falling asleep. It's our last night here, we have my sister and her family, plus Anne and David across the road, to come and eat bagels with all the trimmings tomorrow, plus taking down Rollie's perfect tree and all its ornaments to put away for next year.

Plus we just said goodbye on the phone to my family last night, and in person to John's family, this afternoon. John's dad's been feeling poorly and so the goodbye was all the more wrenching. Everyone tired out tonight, so I'll say goodnight: especially to Lynette, my dear high school friend who commented on the blog, and to our adored Amy who did so as well (love to you both!), and to the anonymous reader who reported that London is thriving in our absence but looks forward to our return. Our sentiments exactly...

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