It was Christmas Eve, and, as Christmas Eves always were, it had been a busy day.
Since early morning, my parent’s house had buzzed with activity; the last Christmas gifts had been wrapped, the table had been set for next day’s Christmas lunch, the traditional “King’s Cakes” (a delight made of sweet bread-like dough, aromatized with Port wine and spices, and laden with all sorts of candied fruits and nuts) had been distributed among all the farm workers, lots and lots of enthusiastic Season’s greetings had been exchanged, a million last minute errands had been frantically run, and the most impressive array of Christmas traditional desserts, which had filled the spacious, luminous kitchen with mouth-watering scents throughout the morning and early afternoon, was now safely stored away in the adjoining pantry.
All around that cosy, sun-coloured room, on the marble-top counters and on both sides of the sink, large plates of bread, raisin and pine-nut pudding, bowls of “sweet dreams” swimming in sugar and cinnamon syrup, trays of glistening “rabanadas” (a kind of French-toast, but in which the bread slices are immersed in a honey and spice syrup previously to being dipped in beaten eggs and then fried, and which are, when ready and while still warm, rolled in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon), dishes of golden egg and noodle sweet pudding (similar to rice pudding, but even more “yummy”), and several huge, sugar-sprinkled fruit cakes, blended in their rich, warm hues, in a festive, most inviting palette… oh, yes, both for the palate and for the eyes… mmmmmmm!
By sunset, everything seemed to be ready at last, and it was time for us to drive over to my maternal grandmother’s house, with whom we wouldn’t be spending Christmas Eve that year, in order to bring her our presents and visit with her for a while, before coming back to the house, putting more presents and some desserts in the car trunk, and driving off again, to my paternal grandmother’s home, for Christmas Eve supper (in those days, we always had Christmas Eve supper with each grandmother in alternate years). So, there we went, not without making sure that our doggy trio, who had been salivating around the kitchen table, the stove and our feet all day, in perfect “unison”, were comfortably set in the kitchen hall, with their freshly replenished food and water bowls, their favourite blankets, and their toys – and that the doors leading from the hall to the kitchen and from there to the pantry were securely shut.
The “trio” was an eclectic one. There was Freddy – one of a sequence of three gorgeous, fire coloured Irish Setters, all named “Freddy” – lean and gentle, with a very playful streak that made him come up with the most riotous antics (like throwing a plastic bottle high in the air, catching it by the neck, and then carrying it around in his mouth like that, as if he were taking a drink). Then, there was Mitriki, a stunning, fluffy and plump Lhasa Apso - Cocker Spaniel cross, whose long locks looked like they had been streaked at some fancy salon, and who could, alternately, flaunt the very best and the very worst personality traits of both breeds; in fact, she could turn, with scarce moments in between, from the most endearing, funny, loving bundle of hair, doe eyes and wet kisses… to a grumbling, ankle-snipping, chicken-hunting… well, yes, bitch. And last but not least, there was Cisco, a beautiful Australian Silk Terrier whose previous family (my dad’s youngest brother, his wife and little boy) had moved to Brazil, leaving him in our care; this little dog, who remained with us till he died at the great age of 18 years old, was a total cutie, very clever and with a certain philosophical air about him, and his long, silky hair, looked like it was made of strands of silver.
This assorted bunch was a joy to live with – even considering Mitriki’s bad moods, which never lasted for long, anyway – none of them ever caused too much trouble – well… except, maybe, for that time when Mitriki chased a whole flock of tame ducks, who belonged to our foreman’s wife, and who ended up unharmed… but with their rear ends totally devoid of feathers!... – and, best of all, they were all good friends, with never a fight or even the slightest display of jealousy among them, and they usually behaved rather nicely when they were left in the house by themselves, like in that Christmas Eve.
Bearing all this in mind, we went unworriedly about our visit to grandmother, and returned, equally unworried, to the house – having decided to let ourselves in through the front door, to avoid disturbing the “trio” (whom, we believed, were, by then, sleeping peacefully in the kitchen hall). We could then walk through the dining room into the pantry, get the desserts we were going to take to the other grandmother’s home and leave again, quietly. So, while the others got the remaining presents and loaded them into the car, I confidently followed my mother into the pantry, to help her get the desserts… and… oh, “geepers”, oh, “creepers”, oh, boy, oh, wow… you won’t believe, as we could hardly begin to, the scenery suddenly unfolding before our widening-to-nearly-popping-out eyes!
The door which leads from the kitchen to the pantry was as wide open as our mouths became, and, no doubt, so must have been the other door, leading from the hall into the kitchen – both of which, as I said above, we had made sure were securely shut before we had left earlier. From the marble floor, usually a gleaming ivory, and now a yellow and brownish, gooey mess, peppered with porcelain shards, Cisco, his silver beard a pasted, clammy blob of egg and noodle sweet pudding, flashed his broadest, most ingratiating smile at us, and Freddy, surrounded by half-bitten pieces of “rabanada”, shot us a single sheepish glance, before he went back to demolishing the second half of one of the huge fruit cakes, which he was holding, like a wheel, between his paws. Meanwhile, sprawled like a languid oriental princess inside the sink, fat Mitriki, an empty bowl of “sweet dreams” by her side, was leisurely lapping (and grunting, such a bellyful she must have had already) at what had been a giant plate of bread and raisin pudding, now down to its last few, insignificant morsels.
Of the copious, delightful, carefully prepared assortment of Christmas desserts, intended for that evening’s supper and next day’s lunch – and, or so we had thought, plentiful enough to grant the whole family an extra day or two of meal-crowning, sweet leftovers - only a fruit cake (with all the sugar licked off) and some “rabanadas”, hanging limply over the brim of a plate pulled to the border of one of the counters, remained. All else, alas, had been gobbled up, dug into, and spread around, in orgy-like fashion, by the “trio”… who, quote, usually behaved rather nicely when they were left in the house by themselves, unquote!...
What to do, then, before such a cataclysm? Well, since killing the “trio” on the spot was not an option and that wouldn’t have brought the desserts back anyway, we could do one of two things: Either fling the “trio” plus the remains of their devastation out of the window, and then have a panic attack, or sit down amidst the “trio” and the remains of their devastation, and cry. Yet, somehow, my mother and I opted for none of the above… because we looked at the “trio”, at the devastation, and then at one another… and we simply burst into the most hysterical, belly-hugging, screaming, body-wracking and rocking fit of laughter in the contemporary history of hilarity! Oh, dear gosh, they looked simply too funny for words… and the destruction was simply too great to even fret about it at all!
When the other members of the family – no doubt tired of waiting for us in the car – decided to walk in and see what in heavens was keeping us, the “trio from hell” was staring at us, not quite sure of what to make of our reaction – Mitriki burping from her “throne” in the sink, Cisco still smiling ingratiatingly, and Freddy panting, with the goofiest, most innocent look about his sugar-sprinkled face – and we… well, we were just falling about, staggering, our jaws hurting impossibly, and tears of incontrollable mirth streaming down our faces! And soon, after the initial, inevitable shock, everybody else was also laughing their heads off in that chaotic pantry – while the “trio”, now quite confident that there would be no unpleasant retaliations from those humans disintegrating before their smudged selves, wagged their syrup and pudding-coated tails.
To this day, we have no idea of how they managed to open two doors – with round knobs, too – or how truly plump Mitriki managed to jump as high as the pantry sink, or how they could have eaten such huge amounts of sweet stuff in such a comparatively short time with never even the slightest symptom of indigestion, afterwards. All we know is that, no matter how well-behaved dogs may be, one must never – ever! – trust them… alone in a house with an aromatic assortment of desserts, even if, between them and such temptation, there are several bowls of dog food, comfortable blankets, favourite toys, and two allegedly securely shut doors with round knobs.
We also know that we’ll never – ever! – forget that Christmas Eve – which became, in its unique, sweet version, that of the “twelfth day of Christmas… and three dogs in a dessert spree”!!!
Merry Christmas to all! Woof!!!
© 2006 Alexandra* ~ OneLight*®