The Pinch of Christmas

We had a white Christmas here in Lawrence, Kansas. It kept a couple of people away from our Christmas Eve gathering, but not others. One woman came early to cope with the snow and ice before darkness approached. She bore a squash dish, salad, cookies, and a change of clothes. Slowed by the blizzard, three other people came late. They had to park down the hill, around the corner. The front door opened to a beautiful black woman her wealth of black hair flaked with snow, and two men–one my son–carrying warming lights and some hot dishes: a spicy shrimp and tomato casserole, fried plantains, and crispy balls with meat and cheese inside. Our Russian neighbors trekked to our house from across the street bearing a calamari salad, and a tray with crackers already prepared, each with a slice of brie and topped with a dollop of homemade spicy jam. Later, the son disappeared and came back from home with a little vodka. All of these dishes were in addition to what we offered: gorgonzola cheese and crackers, shrimp cocktail, cucumber/watercress soup, baked eggplant slices rolled with boursin cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, couscous with garlic, collards, oyster mushrooms, roast beef smeared with roasted garlic, and slices of semolina baguettes with butter.

We sat down to two adjoining tables covered with white tablecloths, set with silver polished a few days earlier, pewter and crystal candelabra bearing six red candles, and two small vases of little pink asters. Everyone seemed happy to be at the table. Not surprisingly, conversation started off with food, because each person had worked hard on his dish(es) and relished appreciation.

Uppermost in my mind was my Norwegian mother who, with help from daughters and daughters-in-law, always produced an elegant Christmas Eve dinner before we held hands around the tree to sing “O Yule Mesen Glede.” She is gone, my sisters and brothers live and celebrate Christmas in the east. As we sat down to eat, I raised my glass nodded to everyone and just like Mom said, “Velkommen til bords.”

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