There’s no secret to balance. You just have to feel the waves. Frank HerbertLike a wave washing over me, I float on the joy and sadness of another Christmas, come and gone. It was a Christmas of firsts, some of which will, hopefully, never become seconds. Alexis came home from having moved 'away'. Amidst the flurry and clutter of her arrival the house became a busy zone of people calling, dropping by. Of gift wrapping and decorating (I didn't want to put the tree up until she came home).
Work at the shelter was busier than ever with media calling on a daily basis for updates on our preparations and Christmas WishList gifts and queries creating a constant thrum of activity. Presentations. School visits. Tours and just the daily plethora of things to do to keep all the balls in the air, and all the wheels turning smoothly. It was a busy time.
Christmas Eve arrived and I was still plugging up a few more holes, filling in a couple of blanks for Christmas at the shelter before turning my sites to Christmas at home. In a flurry of one more thing to buy, one more gift to get, I left for the mall mid-afternoon to grab a couple more stocking stuffer, oh no, make that 3 as I balanced out what was for Alexis and Liseanne and C.C.s daughter too. I raced to the grocery store to grab a few more items and still forgot to pick up that one necessary ingredient -- you know that one essential item that adds every ounce of flavour to a dish because without it, the entire meal will be flat and unmemorable!
Fortunately, C.Cs son T. sprang to the rescue and took off in my car to pick up fresh berries -- only to call me an hour later from his third grocery store where fresh berries had long since left for other Christmas tables. Scratch the berry dish from the menu and replace with.... OMG what can I bake in a couple of hours that doesn't contain gluten, meat by-products and dairy? Oh right. I've already made the chocolate brownies with rice flour. They'll work if I just thaw some.....
Another kitchen catastrophe averted, I raced for a shower, flinging my body between water drops in a bare minimum of time as I got ready to join C.C. at friends for a Polish Christmas Eve. Stop! I have to make the caviar pie. My one contribution to the meal. In a frenzy of chopping egg and onion, mashing avocado, I prepare my 'world famous' dish, race out the door only to send C.C. back for the tub of caviar chilling in the fridge. Caviar pie just wouldn't cut it without the main ingredient.
A joyful evening of friendship, tradition, laughter, great food, good wine and guitar playing and singing and music and joy and home again to wrap up presents and stuff stockings. The girls arrived home from Christmas Eve at their father's to find me surrounded by a mountain of unwrapped gifts and bows and crinkly paper. I hustled them out of the living room -- wait! I'm not ready yet.
Finally, just past midnight, the last bow affixed upon a box, I head to bed only to stop when I hear footsteps coming up from downstairs. It's Alexis and she's in tears. "Liseanne's sick and won't let me sleep with her," she sobs.
Since they were little girls, Alexis and Liseanne have slept together every Christmas Eve. Even last year when Alexis had moved out to live with her boyfriend of four years, she came home on Christmas Eve to sleep with her sister. It is their tradition. Their favourite thing to do Christmas Eve. They curl up in bed, watch their favourite Christmas flick, which has long been Love Actually, and giggle and laugh as they cuddle together in their new Christmas pajamas -- the one gift they can open before heading to bed Christmas Eve.
But this year, Liseanne is sick and doesn't want to share her bed, nor her germs, with her sister. Devestated, Alexis cries and I hug her. I even offer to sleep with her but, my generosity of spirit, not to mention my sense of humour, is lost on her broken heart. "That's not the same, mum," she cries. Fortunately, she knows it is her own tiredness which is making her cry and she heads to bed, alone and lonely on Christmas Eve as I too crawl off to take my "long winter's nap". But wait! What's that clatter? It's....
The ringing of the phone.
My heart beats frantically. For a moment I try to assess what's happening. My first thought -- something's happened to the girls, only to remember, they are both asleep under our roof. I leap from my bed to see what's the matter...
It's Liseanne from her downstairs bedroom.
"Can you bring me a bowl and some ginger ale please?"
I race to the kitchen grab a bowl and GA and race to her room. She's not just feeling sick. She's really sick. All night long. Every hour on the hour.
It was a long night. But! There was a blessing! I was way more organized than usual on Christmas Day. As I couldn't sleep between racing up and down the stairs, I spent the Night before Christmas, preparing, chopping, dicing and cooking, in between tending to Liseanne's needs. When our guests arrived Christmas Evening for dinner, I hadn't forgotten to make the trifle. I hadn't forgotten to put the chopped celery into the stuffing and I didn't have a frenzy of last minute prep to take care of -- I even had time for a shower and to put on some make-up!
When the fifteen of us, minus one as Liseanne spent the entire event lying on the living room couch wrapped up in a blanket, sat down to dinner, there was nothing missing. The cranberry salsa was chilled. The cranberry sauce jelled to perfection. The turkey was moist and hot. The roast potatoes, candied yams, sweet potato puree, turnip puff, brussel sprouts and..... and the counteless other dishes I'd prepared in my burst of midnight oil turned to kitchen energy were hot and ready to go all at the same time! The table was dressed to perfection. The picture frame place cards I'd decorated with jewels and flowers and glitter shone and sparkled in the candlelight. The tiny birds and angel cards scattered amongst the daisies of my centrepiece added a whimsical touch and the linen serviettes were even pressed!
Nobody went away hungry and nobody didn't have something they loved on their plate. And everyone got to take their picture frame home.
Oh. But I did forget to take any pictures and we did forget to open some gifts!
But it wasn't the gifts that made the evening. The evening was made up in the memories we created. It started with all the guests, along with Alexis, C.C., and his daughter going to the shelter to serve dinner to homeless clients before arriving home to enjoy our meal together. That's where the spirit of Christmas was created. In the sharing of what we had to ensure others had too.
And then, once dinner was over, it was the guitars and piano, the singing and laughing and dancing that truly made the evening a night to remember. In Alexis and Liseanne (whose spirits had started to perk up as the evening progressed) tradition, they dressed up not just one but two male guests as Marilyn Monroe, and convinced them to entertain us with lip-synching and dancing to "Santa Baby". It was divine! And funny! And part of a tradition that they started six years ago -- who knows why or how!
Our friends AJ and CS arrived for dessert with their four kids in tow and another friend arrived and then T's friends and a few others and suddenly, we had an entire jamboree going on!
It was fun and crazy and high-spirited and...
The perfect Christmas.
Now, to find me some of that balance. Where did I hide it in all the Christmas frenzy? Perhaps it got tied up in a bow and left beneath the Christmas tree.... Must go look. In the meantime....
Happy Holidays everyone. May your season be jolly and bright.