A Christmas Story

We spent Christmas Eve at Aunt Polly’s house; all seven of the Duff children (grown-up now), assorted spawn, and Meema and her husband Donald. A potluck dinner was followed by the passing out of gifts. There were no small children present, and so it was all rather civilized compared to previous years.

On Christmas morning we drove to Jemesii and Jamie’s apartment, stockings, gifts for them, and a coffee cake in tow (my Mother’s recipe–thanks Mom!). Their little chihuahua puppy, Olive, provided entertainment.

We said goodbye to the kids after a couple of hours (Pete wanted to hang with his sister…well…Olive really) and David and I drove over to his Mom’s old house on the water, now just about completely vacant. I did a quick (and chilly) search for glass on the beach, and then took a few photos inside the house.

David and Buddy and I then got in our respective cars (we hadn’t thought we’d be going to the same place) and drove a couple of hours to Longmeadow, where our friends Melinda and Kihan live.

The bunnies are Christopher and Lizzy on Christmas morning (their family is a fan of A Christmas Story, and Melinda thought this would be really, really funny, which it was).

Kihan was recipient of the iconic leg lamp.  And I was given the most beautiful pillow in the world; Melinda and I had stroked it in a shop on Newbury Street some weeks earlier. Awesome friend, Mom and giver of gifts.

It was a wonderful but brief visit. Dinner, Lizzie’s photos of Argentina and Christopher’s tutorial regarding his Kindle. Shots of sipping tequila paired with dark choclolate, blackberries and clementines. A Nor’easter was on its way however, so just before noon on Sunday we headed north, right into the storm and a traffic jam on the Mass Pike.

Eventually we took an alternate route, and were able to evade the traffic and outrun the storm. Next stop was Amesbury, where Pete had traveled with his sister to visit Jamie’s family. After scooping him up, we had a yummy meal at Flatbread pizza, and another long drive home.

What a day. Once home, we opened our own gifts under the tree. Or rather, David and Pete did.

Ok, I exaggerate. My sister Bink sent along some lovely parcels. Best of all was a wee bird nest, lovingly woven from grass, horse hair and dryer lint, complete with two little eggshells (one is tucked inside the other). Magical.

The boys enjoyed their gifts, and then David fetched a smallish box for me. I opened it up and there was a jewelry size box inside. This was getting interesting. Inside that was a small silverish cube. Guess what it is, they both said. No idea. Look deeper in the box, they said, I did. There was a not quite clean kitchen spoon.

Our dishwasher has been pooping out, and so that was my Christmas gift, a new dishwasher.

Here’s the thing about Christmas. It’s about giving, not receiving, right? In which case, I had a stellar Christmas, as I can’t tell you how many gifts I carefully selected and wrapped (we both have big families). I think I helped make Christmas a little brighter for quite a few people, and that makes me really happy.

But, it’s still really great to feel like somebody put some thought into making sure my morning was special too. Like that bird nest. And I count on David in this respect, and for reasons I can’t understand, but which seem rather passive aggressive, he usually puts it all off until the last moment. Which means he then has to scramble, and comes up with something less than inspired.

So, I was hurt. And mad. I imagined breaking every ornament on the tree, and then pulverizing them to a fine powder. Putting it all in a jar and calling it ‘Compressed Christmas’. I resolved that next year I would send out a few checks and then go on a trip by myself somewhere; skip this Christmas business all together. I have this theory that hamsters were put on earth to break little children’s hearts; they fall in love with these cute little mammals and then a year later they die. We’ve been down that road five times now. Well, sometimes I feel like I’m still a kid and Christmas is my hamster.

David has a set of plates that belonged to his Grandmother. He loves those plates, and they are used only for special occasions. Should anyone offer to help wash up after such an occasion, I demur, advising them that should they accidently break a plate, they would have to leave and never come back. When wishing to express my displeasure with something David has said or done, I have (on more than one occasion), threatened to break those plates.

Well, the day after the day after Christmas, we had yet to make peace. I was laying on the couch. I heard David open the china cabinet. He brought me a plate.

It was the sincerest form of apology. I resisted temptation.

I had to leave early the next morning for my monthly appointment in Boston. A blizzard was still raging outside. David asked if he could come with me. Under the circumstances saying yes seemed like the best thing.

On Tuesday morning we both drove to Boston. At the conclusion of my appointment, David asked if I would go across the street with him. He led me to my favorite store, Good. Once inside, he said I could choose anything I wanted. This was way better than a dishwasher. I found a pair of earrings, shaped like anchors. A ship safe in the harbor; I liked the symbolism.

Truce declared, we agreed to try to get it right next year.

In the meantime, we are hunkered down at home as Pete’s had a whomping fever and a  nasty cough for several days. We might not be attending any New Year’s Eve parties.

Oh, and I asked David if I still would have gotten the earrings if I’d broken the plate. He’s not sure.

6 responses to “A Christmas Story

  1. Oh Linnea!

    I so admire you! I might have taken him up on the dish!
    Glad you love the earrings! But…I do hope you keep the dishwasher!


  2. Tracy, he can keep the dishwasher, and I’ll just use it 🙂


  3. I got blue cheese stuffed green olives and a scarf. But there were two chihuahuas to entertain us. But really, I gave myself that trip to Mexico last month, right?

    It’s all about being seen and understood, yes?

    Just started reading “Let’s Take the Long Way Home” by Gail Caldwell. I predict tears in the near future.

    A glorious, if cold day here in the PNW. Mt. Rainier glowing in her new white coat.

    • Stephanie, maybe I need to speak to Santa on your behalf as well. Or, perhaps you should just plan another trip next year too. I like that image of Mt. Ranier; let me know how the book is.


  4. Dear Linnea:
    Some men do not understand Xmas, include me.
    My Xmas in Argentina without a tree, a Santa from the North pole and millions of people in the malls, to buy and to exchange latter were different from Xmas here.
    It was summer time, good for the baby in the manger surrounded by parents, sheppard’s and the three wise men bringing presents in camels to the kids on January 6.
    We did not have a dishwasher in our apartment when Beryl miscarriage, I didn’t know what to do to comfort her, went shopping and returned carrying a dishwasher in my strong young man arms.
    Beryl said she like it. Do you think that she prefers nests with eggs?
    Many times I proposed to celebrate Xmas in a warm Caribbean beach, Beryl always chooses de snow…
    For this Xmas taking too many constipating pills all I wanted was poo! Thanks Santa.
    After denial of maintenance treatment for Alimta for NSCLC I got the first of 6 cycles last week, funny feeling when for a 10 minute infusion they charged my credit card $7,000 for 1 cycle.
    Ironic thing is that after my insurance reimburses my payments in full my platinum credit card gives a 1% bonus, $420 payment profit for me on 6 cycles at $42,000. Nice unexpected Xmas present.
    Hope that this treatment helps, the last chemos gave me a better silhouette down from 200 to 173 pounds.
    We are fragile and want to stay one more year, repeat every Xmas.
    ( ) ( )

    • Guillermo, how could you not understand Christmas, you are the sensitive type! Actually, the Christmas of your childhood was the real deal, I am sure. I have a friend here who grew up in Colombia, and she was telling me all about the moss sellers in the street, and the construction of a huge creche scene complete with jungle animals and candles. Every day they would move the three kings, and on Christmas Eve, put baby Jesus in the manger (my friend Cristina honors that tradition as well). She spoke very fondly of the whole event–it sounded quite magical.

      That is very good that you received a Kindle and that you now have far too many books to read. I have done the same thing, only they are books I’ve purchased at thrift stores. Until recently they were in stacks against the wall; my handy-man friend took care of that with some new bookshelves. I intend to read them all.

      And per Beryl and the dishwasher–I think that was a fine, kind surprise under the circumstances. A nest with broken eggshells would have been exactly the wrong gift. Know your audience, and it’s all timing I suppose.
      BTW, how did you and Beryl meet each other (and if you’ve already recounted this tale, humor me and re-recount)?

      I hope the Alimta has begun to work its magic, and bully for you that you’ve found a way to profit. About time.

      Check this out from today’s New York Times:


      I love the ‘lung of the block’. I hope to visit Buenos Aires some day–with perhaps a quick trip to Valparaiso to see Pablo Neruda’s home as well.

      Cheers in the New Year–and hope for the return to strength.


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