This is the eighth in a series of Christmas reflections.
The Fat Red Jabonie
Is there any morning in the whole calendar year that feels as sweet as Christmas? OK, maybe the first morning of summer vacation, IF you are a teacher, might be better. When it comes to warm and fuzzy, though, Christmas morning tops all, and if there are kids around, then it’s that much better.
The first realization was that I had indeed been finally able to get to sleep, and what was more amazing, I had slept the night through. Now I could hear clanking in the kitchen, and the sound of a shower going while one of the big boys got ready for eight o’clock mass. Pa, Eric, Brian, Noel and I all went to the early mass, while Mom and the younger troops went later, after breakfast and present-opening.
Even church was not as dreary as usual, because Father Mac actually authorized the Women’s Altar Society to decorate it each year. What they did was bring in twenty or twenty-five freshly cut fir trees, and jam them in along the back of the altar, so that they filled the church with the scent of Christmas, while filling our eyes with greenery. The organist played Christmas hymns, and we knew what was in store for us, as soon as we finished breakfast.
JT maintains that Christmas morning was the only breakfast of the year that our whole family sat down to together and ate. I am not sure that is accurate, because I remember Pa lining us all up and telling us that a specific weekend was being given over to accomplishing this roof-tarring venture, or that sewage pipe project, and that everyone was helping. I then remember Mama going through the refrigerator for left over potatoes, both the boiled ones from the previous night and the mashed ones from the night before that. She would scramble up a couple dozen eggs, make a pile of toast, and we would all sit down before convening to the site of the work. Of course, I would concede that one of the big boys was going to get that hunk of left-over steak that Pa had not eaten, because it sure wasn’t going to be me.
However, on Christmas morning, there was certain to be bacon or sausage, with plenty for everyone, eggs, taters, juice and on top of everything else, there was coffee cake. Christmas Coffee Cake was a once-a-year treat that was universally cherished. Mama would certainly have made two, and with a little luck, the degree of cremation would be negligible. Even in the most dire of straits, cremated coffee cake was still pretty dank, and in the grand spirit of the occasion, we overlooked such an insignificant detail. We were smart enough to recognize that Mama didn’t make the coffee cake for her.
Once we had finished chowing down, and Papa could see that we were straining at the collective bit, he would look at Mama, wink his eye, and wonder idly if any fat, red jabonies had been seen wandering around on the roof last night, and maybe we should “adjourn to the other room.”
We were always careful not to knock him over on our way through to the living room, with the sounds of “O Tannenbaum” ringing through the house. It’s funny how Noel always managed to be the last one to leave the kitchen, as he paused to make sure that the coffee cake was not being molested [by anyone else but him].
Into the breach we went, each to his or her own stack, where we paused momentarily, assessing the overall picture at a glance and then zeroing in on our individual jackpots. From time immemorial we had found Christmas morning to consist of this scenario. As I tore into my stack, I knew from the outset where the end of the tunnel dwelt. I knew that I could set all speed records for unwrapping my prizes, but I also knew that it was an entire year before I would be able to do it again. So I took my time. I looked over at JT’s pile. (Ugh, a doll. Poor JT.)
Whoa. The Call of the Wild. Perfect. I’ll start with that one, before reading The Sinister Signpost, the new Hardy Boys book, that not even Brian had read. I got a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle, a cool magician set, and a Dodgers pennant, that even Brian thought was bitchin. What can I say? Now if only we can keep Noel from bagging the rest of the coffee cake. You know what they say about the call of the wild.