Tuesday, December 21, 2010

If We Can Make It Thru December

"The office Christmas party. A time when they all think they pre-­ordered the beef wellington. Then, when you bring out the starters, they have remembered otherwise. But by now the entire group have swapped seats or are sitting on each other's laps and there are bodies on the kitchen floor."

Today is the shortest day of the year. From about Halloween on, I white-knuckle it til today. Tomorrow, the days will begin to get longer. Tomorrow, I'll begin to count the days til Spring. With all due respect to Hag, who might not "mean to hate December" ("it's meant to be the happy time of year"), I loathe it with everything I've got. I start with the weather and the miserably short days and work my way through to every single thing I hate about Christmas and the fact that I can't go to a bookstore any time from Thanksgiving til January 2 without a helicopter. This is the first winter in a decade I've lived without a garage (like an animal), so throw a perpetually iced-over SUV into the mix, along with a few impotent cans of Prestone, which precipitated something like a rage stroke when my windows perma-froze into the OPEN position last week.

From the moment that first "oh-oh-oh overstock.com" commercial rings in the season, I want to "oh-oh-oh open a vein." 

My pal Pete asked me a couple weeks ago just what it is I hate about the holidays and I had to admit I wasn't sure. After some thought -- besides the music and the decorations and most of the food (flaccid broccoli anyone?)--  I believe it's the disruption to routine that completely discombobulates my Rainman. I like order and I hate chaos and I don't like having things out of place. As long as I can run along on my little inner hamster wheel, I get along ok. Disturb my carefully controlled environment and schedule, and I'll either die, or I'll accidentally stress-eat all the other little hamsters. I am nothing if not a fear biter.

I do like presents. I like to give them and I like to get them. I celebrated with Electronics Santa last weekend and a new Blu Ray (for me, not him; he got a book; it is a very good book). It was supposed to come with ElectronicsSanta's flatscreen TV two Christmases ago, but I could only take so much change at once. I insisted on waiting two years to see if Blu Ray is really the last word on the agenda for awhile (having gotten screwed in the early years of 8 track tapes, although it is the best way to listen to my Jim Croce Greatest Hits collection), so now that I have one, expect something truly digitally extravagant to be invented later this week. I certainly don't require anything as grand as electronics to be happy though. One year, all my friends gave me batteries and light bulbs, because I constantly complain there's nothing worse than running out of either one. That was a great year.

The only other thing I like about the Holidays -- and they're soft of a present -- is Harriette's Cheese Straws. They are the stuff dreams are made of. In fact, I wrote a little song. It goes like this... Well, I can't write music, but if I could, I would endlessly compose odes to Harriette's cheese straws. They somehow manage to be simultaneously light and fluffy, yet delicately crispy. They're wafer-thin. The flavor is indescribably tangy and tart, with just a hint of bite. It would not be an exaggeration to say I think about them all year long. It is the only reason I am ever nice, because in the back of my mind, I am thinking that if I am good, I might earn some of them at Christmas. It's the only time she makes them. She's given me the recipe, but I've never attempted them. It wouldn't be the same. 

So it was a source of no small distress at my cousins' going-away dinner last night when we were head-counting for Christmas Eve reservations and it came up that Harriette will be out of town for this year's festivities.

What? Out of town? Where was she going? What would she be doing? Who would she be with? And then.... eventually.... Inevitably..."Well.... What about the cheese straws?"

What about em?

"Did she... you know... leave me some cheese straws or something? I mean... she wouldn't just leave town without... making provisions...?" Would she?  Surely not. This is the woman who, confronted with a mudslide on her road on the way to Easter brunch, somehow hiked down a mountain and handed her homemade country ham biscuits off to a fellow guest so that her offering to the gathering wouldn't even be late. In my mind, I think she handed them over a raging river and that river was filled with alligators. The road washed away... but by God, we all had country ham biscuits. The food gays have pointed out on more than one occasion that all of our menus suffer a bit from Gone With the Wind syndrome ("as God is my witness....")

This.... this is the woman who made dog biscuits from scratch last year for the neighbor basset (dog biscuits that Ian ate... Ian! the neighbor husband, not the neighbor hound).

At some point at last night's dinner, it was implied (if not stated outright) that maybe I was being a little... selfish. I think the question was along the lines of, "you mean with everything she has to do to get ready for her trip, you expect her to stop and worry about getting you cheese straws?" 


Would that be wrong? 

Jesus Saves; Bourbon Balls; and Happy Endings
Secret Santa
Harriette's Kitchen
Last Day of Summer 

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