Friday, December 23, 2011

Laughter, Nerves, and the Christmas Roast Beast

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.  For me it is one of the most fun days of my year.   On this day, most of my grandchildren come to my house to decorate my tree, eat the Roast Beast, and open presents.  There is chaos, and laughter, and food and fun.   

For the Manly Spouse, it is the most stressful day of the year.  While I am cooking and chatting and laughing, he is watching small children run wild in our home (or so he thinks).  It is a juxtopositon of our different personalities.  I love watching the children decorate our tree.   He is terrified it's going to fall over and that ornaments will break (gasp!). Some years ago we decided to put up the tree, set up the lights, and leave it alone.  The families descend on our home before the meal is prepared.  Decorating the tree gives them something to do while they wait.  We have plenty of ornaments.  Some inherited from my parents, others we have collected over the years.  Some are made of cheap plastic, paper, or felt, others look antique.  If we break a few, the world won't end, and we have plenty more.

Of course there's also lots of food around, crackers and cheese, fruit, veggies and ranch dip, and cookies.  Don't forget the cookies.  

Early in the morning, before the day hardly begins, I prepare the standing rib roast by making a paste of coarse sea salt, coarse ground pepper, garlic (lots of garlic), olive oil, thyme and rosemary.  I don't have any particular measurements to this paste, I just start mixing it up until it feels right, and spread it all over the roast.  This isn't really a blog about the recipe, but if you're interested, I'll post it at the bottom of the page.

First son is supposed to bring the green bean casserole, with fresh beans, real cream, real mushrooms, and sourdough croutons, but he's not really very reliable, so sometimes we just have the old standard.  Some sort of potatoes, and corn, and we're good.    There are pies waiting for dessert.   We seat as many people as will fit in the dining room, one of the two times a year we use that room, eat and get full.  

Then it's time for presents!  Around this time also, Gramma starts to relax.  When Gramma starts to relax, she starts to laugh. We open presents.  We watch the cousins interact.  Gramma laughs some more.  This year we will have two little ones, almost two years old, together for the first time since they were babies.   

Grandpa is already nervous about tomorrow.  I plan to spend most of the day laughing.  

Oh... Here's a copy of my "recipe":

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Poetry Girl

Last week I was glad to receive a Christmas package from my sister. I was expecting it, and I was pretty sure I knew what was in it:  Gourmet Chipotle Pepper Olive Oil and Chocolate flavored Balsamic Vinegar. Ooh! I can't wait to cook roast pork flavored with that stuff.  But this posting, as it turns out, is not about a recipe with fancy oil and vinegar.

Because inside the package was a little book I had forgotten I ever owned.

Back in 1969, a treasured friend gave me this little journal.    From the time I received it, when I was seventeen, until the summer after I turned 21, I filled those pages with poem after poem.  I also wrote down the occasional dream, or errant thought.  Except for about 5 pages, the book is completely full.

I made a frontispiece:

"Poetry is a spontaneous overflow
of powerful feeling... it is emotion
recollected in tranquility."

- William Wordsworth

Some of the poems describe my feelings about growing up, searching for God, and boyfriends... I have read through it several times and there are a couple I really like. One in particular demonstrates the germ of the spiritual journey I was to take several years later.

It's like reaching out
but no one's there
and realizing that
that's good
because it makes me
reach in

As I read through this little book, I am glad that I had the foresight to make some little notes, "to DJ". Or, "to A.W."  However, I'm not a hundred percent sure who some of these poems reference. Who was that boy about whom I wrote,  
  "...I cried to hear you say 
you thought I didn't love you"?

That line is the very last one written in this book.  I was 21 years old and I remember that summer so well, or I thought I did anyway. That was the summer I embarked on the spiritual journey that I would walk for the next 30 years.

I am a little sad that I stopped writing down in my little book.  I know I was writing.  Somewhere in the universe there are thousands of bits of paper with my thoughts, and feelings on them. I wish I had them on a shelf in my room. During a visit to my parents' home around the time I wrote those last words  I destroyed several volumes of journals I kept while I was at college. I felt that my personal musings of that time, while meant only for my own eyes, we're too immature, too juvenile to keep;  I was a little embarrassed when I reread them. So I destroyed them.

If I could send a message back to my 21-year-old self, I would tell her to put those notebooks back on the shelf, waaay in the back. That way, when I came back to go through my parents' belongings 30 years later, after their deaths, I could collect them and put them on my own shelf.  There they could remain for my children and grandchildren to find, after I am gone, when they pick through the detritus of my own life.

My 21-year-old self, while so wise in some ways, as some of her previous poetry indicated, really had no clue, did she?