I wrote a little while ago about the first Christmas I remember, and since the time of that Christmas there has usually been the sounds of laughter and happiness at this time of the year. There have always been the children around even if they were all grown up and did not believe in Santa Clause anymore for some time. This year looks like it will be a bit different.
My eldest son and youngest daughter are in the United Kingdom with families of their own, my eldest daughter is married in Toronto and, although for the past few years she has not been there for the Christmas dinner, she had been there for the family breakfast on Christmas morning. Breakfast was the part of the Irish tradition I held onto, which everyone enjoyed, and added a second dimension to the Christmas feast with the Canadian tradition of the Turkey dinner. Some years ago my youngest daughter brought a boyfriend to one of those breakfasts and the following year, although my youngest daughter had to work that morning, her boyfriend whom we had not seen since the previous Christmas, still turned up for the breakfast. Sonia, the lady who came into my life shortly after her husband died, when her two boys were quite young and I was raising a couple of teenage kids on my own, had added a third dimension to our Christmas. Her German ancestry added Christmas Eve to the festivities. Obviously there was always a lot of food and most ate too much for which we suffered through most of Christmas Day. Sonia looked after Christmas Eve, and baked all kinds of cakes like her delicious lemon and raspberry squares and somewhere along the way my eldest daughter had added to this with some of her own specialties, such as her delicious orange flavored balls. I thought they looked like small raw potatoes, and often went through a routine of getting some unsuspecting guest to try them. It was fun to watch their expression change from apprehension at the expected taste of a raw potato to delight at the orange flavor. My job first thing Christmas morning had always been to get the turkey ready and in the oven and then make the Christmas breakfast with eggs, bacon, breakfast steak, beef and pork sausages, thin potato bread, which in Ireland we used to call slim, and wheaten scones, which usually meant having more that one skillet on the go at the same time. All this had to be done of course before we opened the presents, which, with some excited kids around, was not always easy, but we always managed to hold off some of the excitement by letting the younger ones open a present or two before breakfast. With breakfast over, we all gathered around the Christmas tree to open the presents and it was not long before the room was strewn with wrapping paper and each person’s presents gathered into their own little piles. There was always a little time for rest for me while the turkey was cooking and before I had to make the gravy from some of the pan drippings. Sonia however seemed to be at it most of the time with getting ready the table, dishes, vegetables and the croissant rolls everyone liked so much. Everyone liked my gravy to which I always gave a lot of attention and also my sausage stuffing from the turkey. Our little pug dog liked everything as long as it was human food, and was always looking for handouts at both breakfast and dinner.
Dinnertime was usually a lively affair, and everyone was always happy. Over the past few years, until my youngest daughter went to live on the Isle of Man with her new husband, we had managed to hold onto just about everyone. At times it even grew when my eldest daughter added a husband to the group and Sonia’s two sons added girlfriends and even a twin sister of one of the girlfriends to the breakfast and dinner festivities. Lately the Christmas Eve has not been the same as it was when all the kids were home for the evening. The kids always seemed to have something else to do or friend to meet as they got older, but until this year we managed to keep Christmas Day pretty well intact.
This year, however, it has all seemed to fall apart. The little pug at almost thirteen years of age died in June, Sonia’s youngest son went off to Japan to teach English and her other son had planned to join him, which of course removed her two boys and their girlfriends from the group. With my eldest daughter having her own dinner group, that would have left Sonia, my second son and myself. Since my son always had to get a quick flight home for Christmas, Sonia felt it would be best to spend it in our townhouse in Florida which was a lot closer for my son to drive. As it turned out, Sonia’s eldest son is not going to Japan for Christmas, but by that time we had already committed to my son that we would go to Florida.
So we will spend Christmas in a warmer climate with no snow to look out on and a much smaller group. I had got used to being without the squeals of excitement over the past years, but there were still the smiles and happiness. I think I will miss those happy smiles and I think Sonia will miss them even more. Her two boys were more than just sons to her, they were three best friends. The food will still be there, though not so much, but Christmas is more than food, it is happiness and family. I will miss that and I will miss that little ball of fur with the twirly tail running around everywhere.