I call this picture “Annie Carries Us All” because she does. Not only is she everyone’s favorite auntie – you can see the shadowed profile of the little nephew she is holding here – but she also cooks. This daughter of ours appeared like the Announcing Angel at 6:00 Christmas Eve and together with this girl in the middle whipped up an amazing supper that proved to be so raucously fun the curtain didn’t close in it until almost midnight, when she’d finally finished working on the dough for the morning’s croissants. She returned to her apartment then but was back here at 6am to roll it out or put it in pincurls or whatever it is that you do with croissant dough.
I didn’t see any of it. I didn’t get up until almost 9. (Our grandchildren wake up in their own house now. They used to wake up here, before it became time to make their own rituals.) All I can do is report that six hours later she had magically cooked a beef tenderloin, a couscous dish, some sort of witchy combination of bread and cheese and heavy cream, an asparagus dish, some zesty pinwheels of acorn squash and a foot-and-half long pelt of salmon served on a bed of lentils and fresh cranberries. A few other people made several other things and by 3 o’clock there were 20 people here feasting. I wish I had a picture of the whole crowd as I looked down the length of the living room at them. I managed to get only one or two, like this weird one in which the Tom Brady fan is about to be hung upside down by Annie’s guy John.
Back in November, he and Annie signed the Purchase and Sale agreement on a house they will take possession of next month. When the sellers accepted their offer, one of the things she said to her parents was, “You’ll never have to do another holiday!” We haven’t seen the place yet but we hear it has a great kitchen, with a work area all girded about with and countertops in the modern way.
This morning when I asked Annie’s papa if he remembered what had Annie then, he smiled a familiar smile. Familiar because it’s the smile you see on the faces of all people whose memories go back to the time when Christmas tree balls were called ‘baubles’ and everyone still owned one or two Santas that looked like the guy in the old Thomas Nast cartoon.
I think it’s the semi-sad smile of remembering and then letting go.
Maybe we never will do another holiday. But I look back now over the six years since Annie went to culinary school and realize we haven’t really done a holiday in all that time. Oh, we iron the tablecloth and set out the china. We do the dishes afterward, polishing those old glasses with three ancient linen towels until they shine like ornaments themselves. And afterward we police the house, picking up wrapping paper and torn bits of packaging.
We were so young when we came here that two of our three children had not arrived. They all did arrive in their time and now two of the three have houses of their own and now it’s time to get ready for a little change I guess – if it’s ever NOT time to do that. I’ll take tomorrow off I think, maybe just put up a picture or two if I can find some. Enjoy this nice quiet day everyone, looking back. Looking ahead….