Friday, December 27, 2013


At precisely 4:30pm on Christmas Eve my cousin, Maggie, rang the front doorbell and the annual celebration of Christmas officially clocked in. If we were the VanTrapps, Maggie would have been the one blowing the whistle and like little soldiers we all would have jumped in line; Ebby "rolls, three kinds all separated in zip-lock bags", Sandy "Angelfood cake made from scratch with fresh strawberries and hand whipped sweet cream", Bonnie "A crockpot of potatoes au gratin", and Rick "One smoked turkey and two beef tenderloins one cooked rare and the other not so rare for those who don't want to see any pink". We were ready, but just barely.
The dining room table was going to have to do double duty this evening. It was off with the tablecloth and on with the first official gingerbread house decorating competition.
Seventeen houses had been glued together and then each was bought back by each aspiring gingerbread a cost of five bucks per house, which was thrown into a kitty for the winners of the decorating competition. One would think Rick or I would have a leg up on a decorating competition but this was not the case. I filled my pastry sleeve with the frosting goop you use for glue but forgot to twist the top closed.
One squirt and I had frosting all over my hands, my sleeve, the table and the floor. Fortunately one of the dogs cleaned the floor of all the goop. Unfortunately about an hour later that same dog came down with a nasty case of diarrhea. I stopped decorating after about two rows of shingles made from mini-marshmallows and those gummy dots.
One of my nephews took first prize with a winning entry that would have put the makers of Candyland to shame.
By the end of the competition the soft sweet frosting glue we had been licking from our fingers had now turned to rock on the dining table, the floor and even some of the chairs. Candy was everywhere, but a quick sweep with the broom, some very hot water and a lot of elbow grease brought the dining room back to ready and set for the main meal. We're too many for a sit-down dinner so everything is served buffet style and then you're on your own to find a place to sit and eat.
It was not intended to be a thematic celebration or a costume party but my sister who currently teaches in the Middle East brought her burqa with her adding a new dimension to the term "inclusion".
We can get a little a Joan Crawfordish at our house with, "NO PAPER PLATES OR PLASTIC UTENSILS!" Everything gets served on vintage Fiestaware with Martha Stewart stainless flatware wrapped in wire edged ribbon and freshly pressed 100% cotton napkins. My job as cleanup scullery maid is to scrape and load all the dishes until the dishwasher is full and then move into the hand-washing phase. When that part is complete it's time to hit the countertops with a sponge, some Windex and a terry towel for a finishing buff.
In most families all hell would break loose after that, but our present exchange tradition is a rather long drawn out process where each gift is unwrapped for all to at a time. There were seventeen of us. You do the math.
Now all the presents have been unwrapped. The dining table has been stripped of gingerbread house sweet Spackle. The last of the leftovers have either been eaten or put away in refrigerator containers until next year when they'll get thrown out to make room for that year's batch of leftovers. The needles on the tree are beginning their decent and I've stopped watering the poor thing to allow its demise to progress quicker and less painfully. I expect to be finding little candy balls rolling around the dining room floor at least until Easter.
We're now headed to Tennessee for Christmas with the other side of the family. The Duck Dynasty crew will not be present. Hope y'all had a nice Christmas.

A Cottage Grove Light Show
Emmy Shaver/Melahn, photographer

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