I hope everyone has a wonderful day today!
We celebrated last night at my mom’s house, who lives down the street. Until 2005, Mom had lived her whole life in southern New England. After we had the kids, she would leave work on Fridays, get on a 5 hour bus, and arrive here at 11:00pm. Then she would help us all weekend with the kids and the household chores, and get back on the bus at 6:00pm on Sunday night to be back for work Monday morning. She did this for about two years, before realizing that she didn’t want to miss everything that happened Monday to Friday. So, about 5 years ago, she retired early and moved to Maine. The kids go to her house every day after school, she makes us dinner on nights we are too tired to do it, and we haven’t had to hire a sitter in five years.
It’s been an incredible blessing to have her here. Not to mention the fact that she’s my best friend, and I can stop at her house and know I will have a nice cup of coffee, or, amazingly, a 5 course meal (somehow, despite having a tiny kitchen, she is always ready for any possible food and beverage need), and a great conversation.
It’s Italian American tradition where I am from to have a big meal and open presents on Christmas eve, so last night, Mom made lasagna and meatballs, and we had a long discussion about the proper proportion of pork to beef (25 to 75%), and about how to prevent the lasagna noodles from splitting (dunk them in cold water, pat dry). She is an amazing cook, having learned from her mother-in-law, who hailed from Pisa.
My mom started a food club back when that wasn’t fashionable, and it became so popular the state newspaper covered it. Growing up, my parents actually had a second house on our property just for parties. It was a converted barn, with a bar, a dance floor, wall to wall red shag carpet, two kitchens, his and hers bathrooms, and poker tables. This was the 1970s. I tell anyone who wants to know about my childhood to watch Ang Lee’s movie The Ice Storm.* Swap out the Connecticut WASPs for Providence Italians, and that’s pretty much it. Nostalgic for those heady days of real parties, Mom and I spend probably way too much time complaining about the way Mainers entertain (it usually involves store bought mayonnaise, overcooked chicken, and lamentably bad white wine, sometimes in terrifying combinations).
[*Alas, no one has ever actually asked me to tell them about my childhood, but I feel it is important to have a handy movie reference just in case.]
Anyway, from her, I received two cookbooks as gifts:
My husband got a subscription to Wine Spectator, which he is thrilled with, although we discovered this morning that even subscribers have to pay to use their website, which is ridiculous, if you ask me.
The kids also got books. Mom’s a big reader, and I grew up with books everywhere. We had books in the dining room, the kitchen, the bathroom, in little stacks (but nothing hoardish, don’t worry). Looking back, I think I got the message that there wasn’t just one room or one place or one time to read. And it stuck.
We have a great little children’s book shop in downtown Bangor called The Briar Patch, where my mom got these:
David and Max is about the Holocaust. Our boys haven’t “gone there” yet in fiction, so it will be an education for all of us to read and discuss, it.
My older son’s “big present” was a 3rd generation Kindle. Very exciting! Of course, I had to get out my own second gen Kindle and compare. The new Kindles feel so much smaller and lighter. I love the “home” button on the new Kindle, and find it easier to navigate, with faster page refresh and crisper contrast. I don’t like the tiny page turn buttons, or the lack of a number row of buttons.
Anyway, we immediately loaded the gift card he had gotten for Hanukkah from his other grandparents, and he bought two books:
Of course, we also bought a couple of books for my mom:
I swear, she asked for Old Maine Woman!
This isn’t always the easiest time of year for everyone, myself included. Without bringing the whole tone of the post down, I felt like I wanted to mention the people who experience loss, estrangement, or just interpersonal tension most keenly during the winter holidays. If this is a difficult time for you, know you are not alone, and consider yourself virtually hugged.
I converted to Judaism many years ago, so we’ll be celebrating Christmas the traditional Jewish way today, with a movie and Chinese food. I am working my way through Jennifer Crusie’s backlist as I write a paper on “emotional justice” and the romance novel. So look for a lot of Crusie reviews next week.
Whatever you are up to, I hope you get at least a few minutes to read and relax.