Tom's mince pies. The red and green garnish was my idea; the Queen of Hearts can eat her heart out.
It's always the same old story this time of year: no room, no room.
"Why mince pies? No one'll have any room for them along with everything else."
" Don't get negative. They'll make room."
" It's always so fraught..."
" I'm not a pastry cook."
" Oh, the cracklin...!" ( The butcher always needs persuading that we really ought to have it.)
" We'll have to find room in the oven."
" I need to find room for D.'s gin in the freezer." It always astonishes me it doesn't freeze solid.
" He doesn't drink martinis at lunchtime..."
" Not normally, it makes him bad tempered. But as it's Christmas he's allowed." At 84, we will permit him a little seasonal martini-induced curmudgeonliness. He won't be driving.
" She's a big woman, E. says, and likes her food." This hapless dinner guest whom we have yet to meet becomes a veritable Gargantua in our imaginations; she will swallow all our food, and there will be no room around the table, perhaps she will need two chairs... Later we hear she is of quite average size, larger than E. herself who is bringing her, but then who isn't? We are slightly disappointed.
I am busy busy busy. I buy few presents at Christmas but make a lot, I purport to keep the greed frenzy at bay by keeping out of shops, but indulge it in a reckless doubling of quantities, and how many cantucci biscuits do my friends really want to eat? I doubt I save much money. I suppose myself to be rich in time if not in money, but it doesn't feel like that today. I find room in my day to watch Carols from Kings. Tom tries to talk turkey, I shut him up.
" We haven't room for her. It's not our problem her useless spacewasting alkie son couldn't get himself here. We haven't enough starter, we haven't enough cutlery..."
Excuses. We know if we liked her more we'd find room. She will be on her own.
" If she hadn't been so obnoxious last time. If she wasn't such a bigot..."
" It doesn't mean we won't have her in the house again though. I can live with her."
" Hrrumph. I wouldn't go that far!"
In the end, and quickly too, we make room. We buy extra starter. I extend the invitation. Just prior, other friends have already asked her. Our relief is honestly earned; we had committed ourselves, done it with a good grace, yes really. We can eat extra scallops.
"This tray of flapjacks is falling out of the fridge!"
I had cleaned and emptied the fridge of non-essentials.
" How do I get the flour back in the cupboard?"
I rationalise the jars, wipe the floor of the cupboard down. I suppose Christmas at least makes me do a bit of huswifery anyway. The flour just about goes back in.
We sit head to head peeling and juicing mandarins. We go over more slowly the events of the day. I rid my language of extraneous and gabbled detail, order and enunciate the words. It is satisfying; there is more room in the sentences. As he picks over the citrus segments, Tom cracks the old one about taking the pith. I laugh more than it might seem to warrant, but for me, there's always room for an old and familiar joke.
I wanted to write something deep and crisp and even. I wanted to show you angels, coming through cloven skies with peaceful wings unfurled, if I were a wise man, I would do my part...
But my mind is cluttered with abundance and things of this world, there is no room in it for any such rarefied grace; epiphanies do not come to order. Tomorrow may be my dancing day, tonight I am thinking about sage and onion and brussels sprouts.
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