Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nearly Silent Night

I woke up in the dark, sometime between bedtime and dawn. I didn’t want to look at the clock. I counted the snores. Hubby, 1; dog, 1; cat, 0. Tony doesn’t make much noise when he sleeps so I wasn’t too concerned; Alice is a completely different story but she was out in the living room. Tony chirped and hopped up on the bed beside me to snuggle into my hand. Some critter in the back yard rustled some leaves, just enough to make Tony turn an ear towards the window but not enough to get up and investigate. We were all warm and safe.
Tea Tarot
(c) Copyright 2011 Marcia McCord

We had had a peaceful Christmastime. Other than my gift of a cold from the outside world, all was calm and at that hour, we all had excuses for not being too bright. I sniffled softly, trying to keep the rest of the house asleep.

This year was the closest thing to an old-fashioned Christmas I have had in a while. It started out the first weekend of December with the Global Holiday Fair, an annual charity event. I usually take a shift in the kitchen filling orders for chili, no chili dog, no make that 2 chili dogs and could we have the spicy vegetarian chili, not the mild, medium or hot beef chili, and banana fritters and turkey vegetable soup and sodas and few other local delicacies and could I have the chili on the side? After a couple hours of that and my holiday spirit really sets in. I’m glad I don’t work in a restaurant. Those people are made of stronger stuff than I am.

Over the years volunteering for kitchen duty, I’ve learned that “zone defense” seems to work the best. The kitchen aisles are not that wide and the kitchen workers for the most part, ahem, are that wide so that we seem to do better “bucket brigade” style than trying to run a hundred yards for a touchdown. I like low-contact kitchen sports when you’ve got an armful of molten chili. I’m pleased to say this year that no kitchen workers were harmed for yet another year of Christmas kitchen safety. Church choirs sing and different charity groups have booths and sell Christmas-y and other winter holiday gifts. My husband always goes big at the bakery booth. This year, I was enchanted by the sculptures done by Doug Chenelle and his friends at Milestones of Development. Where else can you get gift exchange items that are individual pieces of art for the low, low price of, well, what you’d spend on a gift exchange item?

My husband is fond of consumables for gifts. If you saw our garage, you’d know why. So our big gift this year was my favorite Yule welcoming celebration at the Cal Revels in Oakland, California. Once again we had the perfect seats. I use the “nose” method of determining seating chart selection. If you are sitting so far in the back that you get a nosebleed, you’re too far away; if you can count the hairs in the performers’ noses, you’re too close. I have to say it’s hard to get a bad seat at the Scottish Rite Temple in Oakland, though. The theme this year was King Arthur and Camelot. We were treated to the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with colorful costumes, artful dancing, juggling and as always a sing-along with the crowd. I love the Cal Revels' Christmas spirit, full of joy.

This year I had an added treat of a visit from my sister and her husband. My family never gets together at the holidays so I was thrilled to get a chance to have dinner at the Union Hotel in Occidental with them. Occidental is Away From It All, charming, woodsy, and has two famous rival Italian restaurants, the Union Hotel and Negri’s. Both are delicious dining, worth the scenic drive through amazing Northern California.

We always spend Christmas Eve with our friend Gerry and her family. The family is growing and growing, with adorable Lu, now almost two, and her new little sister who will arrive next week! Gerry’s grandson Nick had splurged on Scratcher tickets and I came away $3 richer. And, Nick, thanks for the pepper spray! I hope I never need to use it.

I decided to tackle Christmas Day head on this year and invited my brother-in-law Don, plus my young friend Andrew and his buddy Patrick to dinner. I had taken a somewhat more leisurely approach to the meal than usual. John likes his roast beef burnt, the condition where the chef in the finest and even less-than-fine restaurants will toss up their hands in a fit of pique and exclaim in some accent or another that “ze can NOT guarantee zee quality when zee customer demands zee beef overcooked!” I decided to pass on the fit of pique. John and Pat wanted well-done roast and although it makes me shudder to do it I figured out a way to give them their burnt beast and still have a decent, recognizable cut of prime rib for Andrew and myself.

“Two roasts,” I said as my Final Answer. Though it hurt me to do it, I scorched that poor beautiful rib roast until properly petrified for my well-done-ers and waited a discreet amount of time before introducing my well-cooked rare roast to the oven. A generous crust of maple seasoning and garlic salt graced them both. We played board games at the big round oak table while everything cooked. I lost on the last question for Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? and won at cribbage by a hair. We then quickly swept the cats into the bedrooms, set the table with my Grocery Outlet Christmas dishes, brought out the better silver, and had a feast fit for any king and a table full of knights, including the pumpkin pie with generous whipped cream.

My favorite Christmas moment, however, came the next day. I am in the midst of helping my friend Susan and her daughter Della get their internet connection up and working. I hadn’t seen Susan in a long time so I was so happy to get a chance to talk. Her cat had died a few months ago and they were still blue, missing Coalie.

“You need a cat,” I said, with my usual subtle diagnosis. “I know a cat.”

I didn’t exactly know the cat. I knew of the cat, or rather cats. My friend Becca had just told me about a recent rescue of a set of indoor cats who had not reacted well to one of the cats in residence. Teddy had been ousted from his territory in the office and had set up his last defenses in the bathroom. The situation was dire, especially since Teddy sounded a lot like the low-key lovebug that my Tony is. Teddy, the little Knight of Cups, sought peace, love, harmony and was currently lost in the deep, deep woods of a once-familiar home with monsters all around.

Boxing Day became Teddy Day and Teddy was introduced to Susan and Della. Teddy is a luxurious silver tabby with well-proportioned features and a soft medium coat. We knew the introduction could be delicate but we were hopeful. While Teddy did show his shy side, he didn’t panic. No barking dogs, no marauding gangs of invader felines, just two sweet ladies with a vacancy for a snuggle bunny. Teddy crawled up into a secluded spot in Susan’s recliner, not yet ready for thorough exploration. He didn’t hiss. He didn’t run or scratch. He let us all talk softly to him and pet his tail or foot.

“I’m a match-maker!” I beamed to John. At least I hope I am. Like the Knight of Cups, I feel it is never too late to pursue love, no matter how shy you are, no matter how long it takes. What better season than this to try to bring a little love into creatures’ lives?

Bright hopes and best wishes!

1 comment:

  1. Marcia:
    What a lovely story! You really are a lyrical writer. I look forward to more in the New Year!