This year, for the first time on record, we didn't hold Christmas at my parents' home. There's been compelling geographic logic for this for ages: my brother, sister-in-law, sister, and brother-in-law live about an hour north, and my other brother has his job in one of those Massachusetts towns where not even the stupidest tourists are foolish enough to use the actual letters in the city's name as a guide to its pronunciation. But even if that weren't enough to make us go up there instead of pull everyone down south, there's the niece and her overwhelming gravitational attraction: she was getting too many presents to possibly load up cars there and bring things down here. So instead we packed up what had been around our tree and brought it up there.
That's not to say the process didn't have comic moments. There was yesterday's call --- while my parents were at church and I was trying to wrap my parents' presents --- from my brother asking us to bring up bread. He was thinking of, first, bread that could be eaten with dinner; or, second, ``holiday bread'', you know, the kind that's glazed with enough sugar or other embedded treats that it's really more pastry than bread. For some reason the request for bread baffled my parents, who kept wanting it explained. I tried to explain farther but I couldn't think of how to make ``dinner rolls'' or ``you know, sweet, bread-based snacks'' more explicit. My father went out this morning and found someplace open --- a Jewish deli in the midst of the Hasidic district --- and picked up plenty of things to snack on, and Mrs Geldstein wished him a merry Christmas, which just made his season. (I don't know what's going to happen if he needs something next Christmas morning.) It turned out he asked for bread from our sister and our other brother too, all of whom responded, so we had enough bread to let a Fifties Angel and Community Theater Devil battle for a bread truck driver's soul around us.
My brother was also frustrated last night when I asked just what time we were supposed to arrive. He thought it had been made absolutely clear that we should get there for 3:00. All I had heard was that back around Monday he didn't want things to get started later than 3 pm, but that seemed less like a ``this is when we start'' and more of a ``under no circumstances can we start later than this''. He felt he had been clear to our mother; I'd gotten my only time indication from my father, who was unaware before Wednesday just what we were doing for Christmas. My brother suspected that my mother had misunderstood his direction, to not tell our sister and brother-in-law when things start, as a direction to not tell anyone anything. My mother insists she wasn't told.
I still don't know how I knew anything about it.
Trivia: In Castille there were an estimated 1,500,000 sheep in the year 1300; by 1467 there were about 2,700,000. Source: Food In History, Reay Tannahill.
Currently Reading: Reluctant Rebels: The Story Of The Continental Congress, 1774 - 1789, Lynn Montross.