Friday, December 23, 2011

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T

THESE PIX ARE FROM ANOTHER CHRISTMAS
THAN THE ONE THAT ALMOST WASN'T.
THESE ARE FROM THE YEAR THE SINK KEPT STOPPING UP.

MY FRIEND MAUDIE AND ME
IN THE KITCHEN
RON S. BY THE MANTEL
AREN'T THEY PRECIOUS,  MY PALS?
CARD BY ARTIST EXTRAORDINAIRE
MAUD SIMMONS
One Christmas morning several years ago, at my old apartment in Koreatown, I woke in the dark, as I tend to do this time of year, and sat for a bit, basking in the little colored lights and drinking coffee. The furniture was dusted, the mirrors polished, the floors vacuumed. There were long red tapers on either side of the fireplace and a 138-dollar standing rib roast in the fridge.  Christian, the friend I’d commandeered to cook the meat—and of course stay for dinner—would arrive in a few hours. Ten were coming to dinner and it was all going to work out perfectly.

First, though, I had to bake my pear cake, so I finished my coffee, pre-heated the oven to 350, and began assembling the ingredients. Suddenly I realized I should have been feeling a current of warm air. I pressed my hand against the glass of the oven door: ice cold. The pilot was lit, but no gas was flowing in.  I opened the warming oven and fooled around with the little red button: no dice. I fooled around with the knob: no dice. I took the shelves out of the oven and tried to light the oven manually, no dice. I called the gas company, where the woman who answered told me I could make a repair appointment for January 5th. I took a deep breath, walked very slowly into the living room, sat down on the couch, and put my head in my hands.

THE OLD O'KEEFE AND MERRITT
I SOLD IT WHEN I MOVED 
After awhile I got up. I tried the landlord and my ex-husband: no answer. The stove was an old O’Keefe and Merritt gas range, so I started googling: O’Keefe and Merritt, gas oven troubleshooting, gas oven won’t light. All that came up was a bunch of complicated diagrams, so I waited till 7 and called Christian. “Why don’t I just bring the stuff up here?” Christian sighed. So he angelically drove down and we hauled everything out to his car: the 14-pound roast, the potatoes, garlic, carrots, mushrooms, parsnips and turnips, the baster, the beef broth.

What of my pear cake, though? The one with the caramelized brown sugar “crust,” the hint of corn meal?   I called my friend Joe, another prospective guest, to report the hideous turn events had taken. “Come on up,” he said. “We’ll cook it at my place.”

One challenge remained: the Yorkshire pudding, which was to be cooked at the last minute and presented at the table. I called my downstairs neighbor Emil but having already helped decorate my apartment, he was holiday-compassioned-out and snapped (which I knew was a lie), “My oven’s broken, too”. Everyone else in the compound was out of town except Oscar. I called and pleaded, “Do you think I could use your oven for twenty minutes later this afternoon?” Oscar’s apartment, I happened to know, was packed to the rafters with bird cages, tapestries, chandeliers. “Hold on, Miss Heather,” he replied. “I’ll have to take out all the stuff I have stored in there and see if it works,” he replied.

There were more snafus. I overbaked the cake. One guest called to say she’d had a panic attack and been hospitalized. By the time Christian had hauled down the roast and the Yorkshire pudding had been cooked—in Oscar's  oven—dinner was two hours late.

But in the end, things all worked out. We lit every candle in the house. We had a toast. Everything was delicious, or delicious enough. The anxiety has faded. What remains is the memory that my plan got derailed, but that there was another plan; that things almost fell apart, but miraculously came together.

I wonder if Mary and Joseph didn’t feel the same way, gazing down at the baby Jesus in the manger—which, after all, means “to eat.”

THE CRUCIFIXION,
GIOTTO, c. 1300
Thank you, thank you all, for your readership, reflections, comments, and LOVE!!!
May a child be perpetually reborn in each of us...
I'm cooking again Sunday--
And Merry Christmas 2011...

15 comments:

  1. Love this Heather...hope your oven blazes hot this Christmas with all the delicious fixings. So glad to see you for a second in Silver Lake.

    Merry Christmas.

    Love
    Kerry

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  2. That was lovely! (it seems that the most memorable Christmases are the one's where things didn't go perfectly) Thank you for pointing out the spiritual lessons to be found in the "not quite Martha Stewart" moments!!

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  3. Heather, Merry Christmas, and thank YOU for all of your thoughtful reflections, often thought-provoking, always reminding us of what is at the center. As a new Catholic since 2010, I'm intrigued by how much power the Crucifix, upon entering this or that sanctuary, has to grab me and lead me to Him, so thank you also for sharing the Giotto.

    John W. White
    Purcellville, VA

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  4. I can't remember the miscues and crossed signals that led us there, but one Christmas our family wound up having dinner at the bowling alley. I was 10 or 11 and loved it.

    Merry Christmas, Heather!

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  5. Heather
    Here's wishing you a happy and merry Christmas. My prayer for you in the new year to continue your inspired blog and other writings. God bless and keep you.

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  6. A blessed Christmas to you Heather.

    P.S. the four day retreat with the Benedictine Monks of Oxford MI was phenomenal. (It's so odd to know they are in a different country and less than 1.5 hours away at the same time.) I began and finished your new book, Shirt of Flame, over those days and can only say it is 100% real and makes that Little Flower 100% real.

    I did much highlighting (yes that is possible even with an e-reader) and will be moving those captures into my journal.

    I am also seeking a way to make the prayers at the chapter ends a part of my prayer life for 2012. Our lives are different but then again not so different. I have work to do and it is with an odd admixture of fear and courage that I begin (again).

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  7. Two years ago I decided I would get all the cooking done on Christmas Eve so that I could pre-empt the usual mayhem of several cooks jammed into a small kitchen, all talking, and laughing at the same time -- which was utterly disorienting to my hermit equilibrim. At 2 A.M. my husband lifted the beautifully bronzed turkey out of the oven, and I watched in horror as the whole thing, stuffing and all, went splat! on the kitchen floor. (Thanks to Dollar Store foil roasting pans). Needless to say, "it was a man proposes, God disposes moment." I think the message was that I should cherish the big, crazy, uncontrollable family events
    -- and lighten up a bit on the hermit life and my need to always be in control.

    Have a blessed and merry Christmas, Heather!

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  8. Merry Christmas Heather! That pear cake sounds delicious! I always enjoy your posts.

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  9. MERRY CHRISTMAS, HEATHER.
    Sometimes, God's got other plans:)

    Sounds delicious the menu.

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  10. Puer natus est! A child is born!

    "En, grege relicto,
    humiles ad cunas
    vocati pastores approperant.
    Et nos ovanti gradu festinemus!
    Venite adoremus Dominum."

    ~ John Francis Wade

    (Translation, guaranteed to be semi-accurate: "Behold, having left their flock, the summoned shepherds approach the humble manger. And let us, too, hasten thither with eager pace! Come let us adore the Lord.")

    Am unsure of "cunas" -- and would welcome correction if I've rendered it amiss!

    God bless you, Heather, and God bless all of my fellow followers of this most inspiring blog! Merry Christmas, all!

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  11. Thank you for your words - they have been a precious and blessed part of 2011 for me both here and in your books. Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year! God bless, Lizzie

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  12. Merry Christmas Heather!! You're a blessing!

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  13. Heather,

    Thank you for giving the gift of yourself to each and every person who reads these pages of yours. God has given you great grace and you have in turn shown us this grace working in your life.

    And a bonus for us- you have a wild and wonderful sense of humor, lady! I so enjoy all the funny and quirky things that pop up from you.

    God has blessed us.

    As Pete would say,

    "Baby Jesus! Cross! Pray Heather!"

    Love, and Merry Christmas!

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I WELCOME your comments!!!