Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas party

I'm tired tonight, too tired to do much of anything, so I thought maybe it was a good time to write a blog. Tonight at 5 p.m. was my annual Tree Trimming (no tree) party. I've been doing this since the first year Joel and I moved to Texas--1965. I figured we didn't know anyone, and we were alone, and trimming the tree was always more of a pain than a joy when I was a kid, so I'd make a party out of it. When I was young, we all went to pick out the tree, though I can't imagine it was a joyous trip--no forays in a sleigh to cut down our own tree for us. We went to a lot on the South Side of Chicago. My father and brother got the tree into the house, into its stand, and put up the lights. Then they left, and Mom and I decorated it--not exactly a family celebration. Mom spent the holidays worrying about fire--keep water in the well, don't leave the lights on when you leave the room--and I'm sure she had to "undecorate" it herself, because I don't remember that part of it.
That's really why I make a party of it every year, and now, even though I don't have a tree, the tradition of the parties continues. For years, people really did help trim huge trees, and they brought ornaments by the dozens. I have a lovely, eclectic collection of ornaments that sits in the attic because I rarely have a tree--I'm always out of town.
I always cook all the food--no caterer for me. I was laughing at myself tonight. In September, I begin to think, "No, I just don't have the time or energy to do it this year. I'll just send cards." By the first of November, I'm planning the menu, and by Thanksgiving the freezer is full of cheeseball, desserts, and Texas trash, and the rest of the menu is planned. Tonight I served, as I usually do, cold cuts from Carshon's, my favorite deli, the cheeseball we've had every year since I was a kid, a brie with apricot jam mixed with cayenne and topped with sliced almonds, a pumpkin dip served with gingersnaps that Jeannie brought and everyone raved about, a spicy corn/Rotel tomato dip that I made that really disappeared fast, and a dried beef dip that I had doubts about but thought I'd try--it was really really good. The sweet tray had a chocolate cake and several kinds of dessert bars. Some of those were new, and Jordan was very put out with me because I didn't serve the peanut butter balls I "always" fix--for the life of me I can't think of what she's talking about--and something else she always wants, but I do try to keep some things standard and vary the rest. Tonight it worked. A Rent-a-Frog (okay, for those not from Fort Worth, the school's team is the Horned Toads, shortened to the Frogs, and some enterprising entrepreneur started a business called Rent-a-Frog whereby people could hire students to do valet parking, etc.) served the wine. His name is Raymond and he was great--cleaned up for me, was Johnny-on-the-spot in serving drinks and replenishing the table. Jordan used to do that sort of thing, but this year she declared she was off duty, mostly because of Jacob, though Jacob had lots of willing relatives to hold and love him. The party was at 5, everyone left by 7, and by 8:30 I was eating leftovers and drinking a glass of wine. Yeah, there's still stuff to be sorted and put up, but . . . .
The food was good, and people raved as they always do, and it made me feel glad I'd done it, as it always does. But the party's not about food, it's about people, some of whom have been coming to this party for thirty years or more. I laughed at one friend, younger than me, who was standing by when someone asked how long I've lived in this house. I said fourteen years, and his eyes grew wide. "I don't believe it," he said, "I remember the other house." I told him we're all growing older. Each year there are new people, and I delight in those new faces, but I also value those who've been coming for years. When one or another "old-timer" can't make it, I miss them. I am truly blessed to have garnered so many friends over the years.
Alter Alternative Christmas and Tree Trimming are now both over and done, and yet there's still Christmas Day with my granddaughters to look forward to--and perhaps a visit with Jacob. He was here tonight, all dressed in his best, but spitting up all over his bibs. He laughed and carried on for us, but he didn't like being passed to strangers and, when the party was at its height, he didn't like all the noise. Still, until he was very tired and cranky, he would favor me with grins. Once when we sat on the guest room bed, he rolled over and pulled himself up to look at me. I have a picture from Thanksgiving that I treaure--he's in my lap, and I'm talking to someone over his head, and Jacob has his head thrown back, staring up at me in rapt attention. Nice to be the center of someone's universe, even if only for a moment.
So that's it. A nice evening, and I'll go to bed happy. Oh, and better balanced. I have gotten over much of my unsteadiness, though I still keep a walking stick by for security. Life is good. Seems like I end the blog that way a lot.
Oh, and another PS: I am through with chapter 11 in my revision of the novel to first person. Once the holidays are past and thank-you notes written, I'll have to abandon it for some assignments--who can resist paying assignments? Have to revise a juvenile bio of Mirabeau B. Lamar, second president of Texas, and write a y/a bio of Oprah (by February 15th) plus send a column to the Dallas Morning News and a piece to Texas Electric Coop. I thought recently of those long-ago days when I said I'd write if I knew what to write about. Not that way now.
Enough. I really am going to bed.

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