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December 25, 1999
two years ago

Christmas Day

It's been a very, very long time since I was a child.

I realized that this morning when I turned around and chose an hour's more sleep instead of getting up to open presents. That was pretty weird. But I really wanted the sleep, and the presents would still be there whenever I managed to wake up. I didn't manage to wake up until after John had worked out on his exercise bicycle, and I joined him in the shower. Mmmm... warmth and hugs and showery goodness.

Fezzik joined John and I for the present opening, he just lay near us, watching while we opened everything. It's the first Christmas that John and I haven't been at either his parents' or mine for Christmas morning, so it felt mildly odd to just have the three of us for the present opening. There were lots of marvelous things. I think that since John and I gave Mom and Dad most of a computer (Kathy did the other third), Mom and Dad went a little nuts with the presents they were giving us, which was rather nice in some ways. Rather odd in others. I really loved what I got, which included the Julia and Jacques cookbook, lots of cool Origins bath things, a radio I've been longing for for about a year which takes no batteries and doesn't plug in it just runs of solar power or a hand crank, a pair of slippers with shearling interior for warmth and are beautifully made, and they threw in a gift certificate from Amazon as well. Wow. John got a pile of gifts as well. Kathy was cool and sent me and entire collection of classical piano CD's and TMF's The Unemotional Investor. Then John came out with his present for me.

I'd bought him a few things for the garage a little while back, when we'd gone to Fort Collins together. He found the gorgeous jade gaiwan that was at the Imperial Tea Court and bought it for me. Wow. It is absolutely incredible, cut from soap-smooth pale green jade it's translucent and amazingly smooth to the touch. The patterns in the stone are endless and it feels as beautiful as it looks. It is small enough to be cupped in one hand and I had fun drinking out of it all day. Jade is, in Chinese circles, supposed to bring good luck and good health. I think that the aesthetics of the cup alone are enough to promote a long life simply from quiet enjoyment.

John was cool and placed all the presents before Fezzik's nose before we opened them. One of the presents got riveted by Fezzik's interest and it turned out to be the one present that was really for him. Kathy had bought him a package of beef liver jerky and it smelled so strong that it was smelling up the whole box, so she's put an extra layer of plastic around it, but Fezzik could still smell it and he was convinced that it was a present just for him. He loved the stuff and wandered around the kitchen peninsula looking for it because he could smell that it was there.

After doing all the presents we called both sets of parents and had fun talking with them and catching up with them and figuring out what was going on with the presents. Kathy, Mom and Dad were plugging the iMac in and starting it up and having a blast. That was really funny to hear about over the phone. John caught up with his parents on the phone and that was fun to hear about from the background. His other brothers all called during the day as well, and it was cool to know that they're all doing pretty well.

Around noon, I started to make the stuffing for the turkey, using onions, celery, dried cranberries, a mound of herbs and spices, and a pile of dried breads. I roasted the chestnuts that we had, but we found that most of them had creeping green crud on them, so we had to throw most of them away. There was also the tank of turkey broth I'd made from the bones yesterday and I used that to moisten the mixture to the proper point. The whole went into a baking pan and waited in the fridge for the proper moment for oven placement.

While I was doing the stuffing, John made the cranberry sauce with raw cranberries, an orange and the food processor. A bit of sugar helped the two to meld a bit as it was then put in the refrigerator to mellow a bit. John then enlisted my help in setting up the extra table, the chairs, and the place settings. I got to set up all the candles as well. We were done early, so we changed and watched Denver football for a while before folks started arriving. It was such a gorgeous day, too. The highs were in the 60's, the sunlight was strong and direct and warm and it was just a marvelous day.

John had fun showing everyone the basement that is well on its way to being finished. I scrambled about finding places to put everything, but the main island proved adequate for just about everything. I just had to get enough hot pads for the things that were warm.

Fezzik was wearing a big red ribbon and sleigh bells that jingled everytime he moved. Molly, Ray's great dane, came with her family so that she could play with Fezzik. The two of them had a blast running around and around and around the yard. So Fezzik was well occupied while we were eating.

At 4:30, I stuffed the stuffing into the oven and started making the gravy. Much butter and canola oil in a bunch of flour until it was toasted to a toasty nutty scent, and then all the drippings from the roasting went into the gravy with much whisking. It came out creamy smooth and very tasty. Then all the other warm things went into the oven to get warmer again and then I said that food was ready.

Fourteen people sat down to dinner and had a blast. Everyone had brought something to make the meal, in one of John's family's fine traditions, and everyone had something in the meal. that was really cool. So everyone could toast the feast and know that they were being toasted as well. I really liked that. It also really came together well, the varied dishes all melded with each other really well. The best thing was that there was actually very little extra work for John and I.

Everyone really enjoyed it. For a number of the families, this was their first Christmas away from family and friends in other states as well, so they were glad to be sharing the occasion with others rather than being alone at home. That was a good thing to know and to hear. I think John and I would have been lonely as well, and as it was, we'd pretty much made an atmosphere that was exactly like that at his Mom and Dad's when they had Christmas or Thanksgiving at their house, with all their friends and their family as well. It was not nearly as much work as I thought it would have been, and the results were everything we'd hoped.

Even to the dice game. Everyone who wanted to play bought a $10 or less gift and wrapped it. The gift was then all put in the middle of the gathering and everyone that brought a gift rolls dice in order. Every doubles got a gift. You could pick a gift from the middle or from anyone else in the group on any double and then roll again. So it was really funny watching things happen. It isn't that high skill a game, but it's very funny to see how people go about it. At the very end, when the buzzer goes off, anyone that doesn't have a present gets to pick a present from anyone that had more than one. So, in the end, the presents get distributed evenly. So everyone wins, especially since the rules stipulate that you get a good present, not a white elephant. So it worked out nicely and entertained everyone for a good hour, what with enjoying the presents afterwards.

That was fun. Not too brainy, so I didn't have to struggle to think, and competitive enough but with such a huge element of luck, it couldn't be terribly competitive.

With all the small kids, the party eventually closed up around 10. Not too late, but decent for as many kids as we had. We got several offers to help with the cleaning up, but John has fun winding down by puttering about and cleaning the crystalware by hand and stuffing everything else into the dishwasher. He really does like working that aftermath of the party and letting me rest afterwards because he knows what I'm like after a lot of social contact. It was also nice not to have to clean up a bunch of cookware as well, since we'd done the bulk of that yesterday and folks brought so much, it really helped when they brought their own dishes home.

Fezzik lay like a lump for most of the last part of the evening. I think Molly tired him out completely. One of the younger kids tripped over him and he didn't even move or blink an eye. I'm not sure if that was cause he was tired or if that's just the way he usually is.

So I watched a little TV, played a little with my wind-up radio and then we went to sleep. It was a very, very nice little Christmas.

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