And now for something completely different.
Neil is a truly compelling speaker and he often captures in words the feelings we all have. This poignant story of heroism is remarkable. And his remarks afterward about saving ourselves in this world of useless “leaders” resonates with how I feel.
Christmas Eve with the grandsons at their home was great. They were in epic high spirits and we talked of various things. With the eldest it was nuclear fusion and robotics. With the youngest it was, of course, dinosaurs but also his latest pet, a bearded dragon with an inexhaustible appetite for “super worms.” With the others there was talk of soccer and what they would be doing on the Christmas holiday next week. Much food was eaten and the younger kids were occupied with happy mayhem. Something with plastic swords and shields.
But this morning, Camera Girl is at peak output with potatoes being mashed, lasagna, roast beast and ham cooking and side dishes being prepared. I can tell her patience is exhausted so I have to tread carefully around the outskirts of her kitchen or a carving knife might end up under my ribs. She does have Sicilian blood on her mother’s side. But I can tell all is going well. She’s in the zone. All of the desserts are already prepared and the meat courses are right on schedule. It will be a feast to remember. And the leftovers will be glorious. That ham will end up in at least a lentil soup and probably some breakfasts.
But after eating way too much food and way too much dessert I’ll spend the time with the grandkids. Now that Princess Sack of Potatoes is a full four years old, she’ll be right in the thick of it with her older cousins. I might even try to put on a showing of one of the “Christmas Carol” movies but Camera Girl frowns on television watching on the holidays. She prefers more sociable pursuits like cards. We’ll see.
The weather has cooperated. Although bitterly cold, the roads are in mostly good shape. Only a few curves of the hills have some large ice hazards but last night I noted that these had been treated with salt so my guests should be safe coming and going today.
Monday we can get back to the political nightmare our country has descended into but today will be “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” So, all of you have a great day and night and in Tiny Tim’s immortal words, “God bless us every one.”
I ruined my own surprise by hanging around the kitchen. Camera Girl had secretly bought me a boneless loin of lamb. She hates lamb and vociferously refused making it when I mentioned it last week. But after performing my duty of cutting an X on the raw chestnuts, I glanced over at the stove and there it was. My discovery angered her but what could I do? She should have hidden it. I did thank her heartily but she is pretty mad for me spoiling the surprise. Well, I’ll make it up to her later. Christmas just got a whole lot merrier. But, boy will I be groggy tonight.
I’ll be heading out for a Christmas Eve dinner a little before 3 pm. I intend to eat too much and spend as much time doing whatever the grandchildren want to do as circumstance allows. Their parents are hosting the party so they’ll have to do all the work and I’ll get to hang out with the kids.
I haven’t written a political post lately other than the odd comment on the headlines. It’s just too grim to do on the holiday. The only rational option is to ignore the horror for a few days to allow some joy in our lives before we have to face the wreckage that is waiting for us up ahead.
And that’s reasonable. Human beings require joy in their lives every once in a while just to survive. And Christmas is the prime example of how we attempt to make a recurring ritual of joy in our lives. So Biden and Pelosi and Schumer and the rest of the vampires will still be there when the holiday ends and we will still be up to our ears in dysfunction and depravity. But we will have had a few days to feel a little happiness in our lives and remind ourselves that there is good in the world.
So I hope everyone has a good day. And even if it’s just a day off, enjoy it and forget about the problems of the world for as long as you’re allowed. I’ll post as time allows and as the spirit moves me.
This scene shows us the day after Christmas and Scrooge putting his new found understanding of life into practice. But he demonstrates that he hasn’t become a humorless convert and has a little fun with Bob Cratchit before remaking their relationship immeasurably for the better. Happening as it does at the epicenter of Scrooge’s former evil life, his “money changing hole,” it convinces us that he is indeed a new man.
“But he was early at the office next morning. Oh, he was early there. If he could only be there first, and catch Bob Cratchit coming late! That was the thing he had set his heart upon.
And he did it; yes, he did! The clock struck nine. No Bob. A quarter past. No Bob. He was full eighteen minutes and a half behind his time. Scrooge sat with his door wide open, that he might see him come into the Tank.
His hat was off, before he opened the door; his comforter too. He was on his stool in a jiffy; driving away with his pen, as if he were trying to overtake nine o’clock.
“Hallo!” growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could feign it. “What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?”
“I am very sorry, sir,” said Bob. “I am behind my time.”
“You are?” repeated Scrooge. “Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.”
“It’s only once a year, sir,” pleaded Bob, appearing from the Tank. “It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.”
“Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,” said Scrooge, “I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,” he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again; “and therefore I am about to raise your salary!”
Bob trembled, and got a little nearer to the ruler. He had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down with it, holding him, and calling to the people in the court for help and a strait-waistcoat.
“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!”
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”
It is reputed that at the Pilgrims’ first Christmas dinner the main course was lasagna. Apparently, some of the Wampanoag Indians learned how to make this dish from Christopher Columbus or one of his friends back in the late 1400’s when they were on a Caribbean vacation and upon returning home it became traditional in the New England area. Admittedly some scholars reject this time line. These dissidents claim it came into vogue in the 1900’s with a later wave of Italian influence.
Regardless of which camp you find yourself in it’s obvious that lasagna is a very interesting choice for a Christmas menu. Now Camera Girl had asked my opinion about the Christmas menu. I had recommended a roast beast after the Italian wedding soup and she added a ham and then as an afterthought I asked about lasagna as a course. Surprisingly there was resistance to this reasonable recommendation. Something about not everyone liking lasagna. I can’t remember if I pounded my fist on the table and shouted some strangled syllables that might have been, “Heresy!” Later I calmed down and just swallowed my disappointment.
But Camera Girl is a mysterious creature and without my knowledge or permission she bought the ingredients for lasagna and today she is doing the assembly for later cooking. There are fragments of sausage and meatball, sauce and various cheeses that go into the layers between the pasta layers. Of course, I forgave her for her treacherous silence and subterfuge. Just as Adam forgave Eve for that whole apple thing, I was the better person and put the whole treacherous story behind me and gave my blessing to this lasagna conspiracy.
But this does create an awkward situation for my meal. I really like roast beef and I like ham. But lasagna is enormously delicious and infrequently available. How do I do justice to this dinner without ending up in the hospital emergency room? Ah, heavy is the head that wears the crown. Well, I’ll figure it out. And of course, left over lasagna is a very pleasant situation and I’m sure Camera Girl will distribute it to the households that have children to feed. Maybe the real concern is that some of it remains for me on December 26th and 27th.
Here is a photo of the intermediate stage of the lasagna assembly process.
And one of the end product.
And here’s one of the Italian cheesecake she’s also got going.
Well, I have to say, Christmas 2022 is shaping up to be pretty remarkable. It seems that the crazier the world becomes the more special become the personal moments that we share with our friends and family. In fact, that’s probably why they’re that way. It’s a defense mechanism to keep our sanity and concentrate on the things within our control and keep the awfulness at arm’s length. Well even if that’s so it doesn’t detract from the greatness of these special things we do. Tomorrow we’ll be away at Christmas Eve most of the day so I’ll say Merry Christmas to everyone here. May you enjoy your time and make the most of it.
When Scrooge awakens and embraces his new life we feel the electric thrill he feels at everything around him. He rediscovers life and the joy it contains.
“What’s to-day!” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.
“Eh?” returned the boy, with all his might of wonder.
“What’s to-day, my fine fellow?” said Scrooge.
“To-day!” replied the boy. “Why, Christmas Day.”
“It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself. “I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. Hallo, my fine fellow!”
“Hallo!” returned the boy.
“Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street but one, at the corner?” Scrooge inquired.
“I should hope I did,” replied the lad.
“An intelligent boy!” said Scrooge. “A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there?—Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?”
“What, the one as big as me?” returned the boy.
“What a delightful boy!” said Scrooge. “It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!”
“It’s hanging there now,” replied the boy.
“Is it?” said Scrooge. “Go and buy it.”
“Walk-er!” exclaimed the boy.
“No, no,” said Scrooge, “I am in earnest. Go and buy it, and tell ’em to bring it here, that I may give them the direction where to take it. Come back with the man, and I’ll give you a shilling. Come back with him in less than five minutes and I’ll give you half-a-crown!”
The boy was off like a shot. He must have had a steady hand at a trigger who could have got a shot off half so fast.
“I’ll send it to Bob Cratchit’s!” whispered Scrooge, rubbing his hands, and splitting with a laugh. “He sha’n’t know who sends it. It’s twice the size of Tiny Tim. Joe Miller never made such a joke as sending it to Bob’s will be!”
Today is the highest of solemnities in Camera Girl’s kitchen calendar. I, even I, am banned from encroaching on the rituals being performed. And I’m no fool. Interfering with the magic going on risks the spoiling of those spells and the blighting of the baked goods being produced; a horror not to be imagined.
Today Camera Girl and her daughters and now her granddaughter will gather like a coven of witches and take their magic ingredients and hover around the stove and drink coffee (or hot chocolate in the case of Princess Sack of Potatoes) and knead dough and add vanilla extract and hand shape the grandma cookies and the chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies and whichever new variants they decide on.
And wondrous aromas will waft through the house and when they’re through there will be a pile of cookies to get us through to New Year’s Day. Splendiferous confections that turn a coffee break into a feast. And make watching an old movie into a special event.
But even ignoring the practical results of this activity, this is a primary ritual of our domestic calendar. The hand written recipes are coming on fifty years. The paper is beginning to crumble and the writing is fading from exposure to ingredients and wear and tear. I’ve warned Camera Girl that they need to be copied and digitized, printed out and distributed to her daughters to preserve them from loss. But if it’s going to be done, I’ll have to take on the project.
I look at some of the recipes and the notes on them and see the names of friends and relatives from long ago. Only one or two living women are represented. Most are from our parents’ and grandparents’ generation. A few go even farther back.
And that’s a comforting legacy. In these times when fools are trying to deconstruct the meaning of man and woman and sever the traditions that have given meaning to our lives, there still exist people and rituals that ground our lives and make them human and pleasant. Baking cookies may seem to some people to be a trivial and possibly harmful activity in a world of obese people. But it’s exactly opposite. Christmas cookies are a special and specific part of the year. Once they’re done, we don’t make more. We move onto the winter months when we subsist on meager fare, far removed from the bounty of summer and fall. Christmas is a celebration and an ending of the year and needs to be treated as such.
So, I will withdraw from the kitchen and keep myself busy with other things while the women commune with their flour and butter. From time to time, I’ll find an excuse to walk by the kitchen and see how things are going. And maybe my granddaughter will come visit with me for a game of Candy Land. But for the most part I’ll leave them to their industry and their talk. And before I go to bed there will be the hoard of golden and white and brown cookies in various cookie jars and containers. And of course, there will be a big mug of coffee and one or two (or even three) cookies waiting for me to enjoy during a holiday movie. God bless you Camera Girl and long may you bake.
The 1984 version of A Christmas Carol has I think the best portrayal of Marley’s Ghost
“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing his hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
Mankind is the business of us all. And today the priority is to preserve what makes us human. Protecting the young from the lies and perversions of the nihilists must be our focus.