Christmas Aftermath

We had a fairly large snow fall on Christmas day, so we talked with the Crankee Yankee’s daughter and unilaterally decided to visit them on another day as they live two hours away in the wilds of Maine. In the background we heard the grandgirls squealing and ripping open packages, so this way they’ll get a second Christmas.

We never even got out of our pajamas; just lay around the house eating Christmas cookies and drinking endless cups of coffee, snoozing and watching TV (lucky me; there was a Doctor Who marathon on ALL day!), and generally being a pair of slugs.

The cats lay around with us, snoring and sleeping after chasing their new toys. Among all the naughty things we ate were these:

  • “Sweet braids,” a doughnut-like confection made by our wonderful South African neighbors (we gave them a pan of homemade apple crisp)
  • Toasted macaroons
  • My wonderful sister-in-law’s (and best friend) butter brickle cookies
  • A delicious *fruitcake
  • a bowl full each of the traditional **Christmas chowder we make every Christmas
  • various appetizer-y things like crackers and pub cheese, mixed olives and feta cheese and other tasty bits

We contently watched the snow fall, and enjoyed the sight of cats lying contently around the house. Later on when the snow lightened up, the Crankee Yankee put on his snowshoes, and went out back to make “cat trails” for the strays and various indoor/outdoor neighbor cats. There were paths to the feeding station he built; a three-tier structure, plexi-glassed in on three sides.

The top shelf has a good-sized tray of birdseed and a bowl of water for the birds and squirrels. The middle shelf has two trays of cat kibble and one pan of water. The “ground floor” has a pan each of kibble and water, plus a cozy wooden box filled with warm fleece. This accommodation is for those who are too shy to sleep under our porch.

Under our porch, we keep four wooden cat beds, filled with fleece. On top of each one is a special self-heating “cat mat;” when the cat sits on it, the heat from its body is radiated back up to them from the special insert inside the mat; no wires needed!

This space is walled in so that any visitors are sheltered from wind and weather, and the door is always braced open a few inches so that our “guests” can come and go as they please. We keep food and water under there as well, so we call it the “Fraser Bed & Breakfast.” (And yes, we ARE idiots for those shy but worthy free-loaders!)

So, one more magical Christmas has passed, and we enjoyed it thoroughly. This morning Christmas music is still playing, and it’s a nice counter-point to a beautiful winter day. So, as Tiny Tim (from Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol”) was wont to say, “God bless us, every one!”

*We are some of the few people on earth who love fruitcake, fruitcakes that we are.

**This is a tradition that my grandmother started; it’s a lovely creamy seafood chowder made with clams, oysters, shrimp, scallops, and crab meat.

(Of course, it’s a caloric nightmare; bacon, whole milk and cream, and lots of butter, but since it’s only once a year, what’s the harm?)

When my grandmother died, my mom took over and made it each Christmas Eve. When she no longer wanted to mess with it, I took up the flag. Now it is a tradition and call it  “Christmas Eve Chowder.”


Christmas Time Again

Remember when we were kids and Christmas took FOREVER to arrive? Back then the days moved glacially, and the months even more slowly. You never heard Christmas music until the Thanksgiving leftovers were put away. Kids painstakingly wrote their Christmas lists to mail to Santa, and at every recess that’s all we could talk about.

Everyone I knew had an Advent Calendar to help mark off the days until the BIG day arrived. Mine looked a lot like this one:

Some advent calendars had little treats behind each day’s door, which made it even more exciting.

Our family’s tradition was to drive up to my grandparents’ house, one town over, on Christmas Eve. My grandmother, or “Ba” as we called her, made a wonderful seafood chowder for that night, along with her homemade watermelon pickles and my mother’s homemade Parker House rolls. Dessert was different each year, and Ba never disappointed.

After dinner, the adults sat around the table talking and drinking coffee. I would always excuse myself and go sit in the parlor where a beautiful freshly cut tree sat on the bay window, glowing with colored lights. Ba had ornaments on every twig, and enticing presents lay under the branches. I liked to lie down under the tree and look up at all the lights and wonder what Christmas morning would bring.

My parents would drive back home, and I would stay overnight at my grandparents’ house. It was a tradition I loved: when it was time for me to go to bed, Ba had a plate of cookies for me and a glass of milk (brushing my teeth always went by the wayside on Christmas Eve) to take upstairs with me.

I would settle in what we always called the “pink room;” Ba loved pink, and the walls, ceiling and all the bedding was pink. I piled up pillows behind me, opened my book and read and ate cookies until I got sleepy. The window was open just a crack so that I could smell the pine-scented air.

When I turned off the light and began to doze, I could swear that I heard the faint jingle of sleigh bells in the air. I would fall asleep, cookies crumbs on my face, dreaming of Christmas morning, safe and warm.

Before the sun came up, I went down the stairs to pick up my Christmas stocking hung on the fireplace mantle. I always looked at the ashes; there were always two big boot prints in there, courtesy of my grandfather. As quietly as I could (as my grandparents were still asleep), I ran back up the stairs and dumped out the contents of my stocking.

Always there was a Life Savers “book” filled with rolls of candy. There would be little toys, a book or two, chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil, and a tangerine in the toe of the stocking. I would feel rich with all those wonderful things around me. As I ate some of the chocolate coins, I read my book, and usually fell asleep again.

The sound of the creaking kitchen floor always woke me up along with the scent of fresh coffee and frying bacon. Christmas had come at long last.