So back in November at Thanksgiving I was complaining that I burned the turkey. I said that my experty calibrated oven couldn't have been at fault - oh no! Had to be the stupid, wrong directions on the turkey itself.
Long story short, the thermostat in my oven is apparently going on the fritz. Turns out that when I put the dial on 325 degrees the oven goes to 450. Or 200. It varies. To actually *get* 325 I have to set the dial to...ahhh, something less. And then something more. The oven won't keep a constant temperature. In retrospect, I'm lucky I didn't burn the house down last time.
Anyway, today I'm watching over the turkey like a mother hen. Ouch. Even I wince at that strained metaphor. But watching it, I am: constantly adjusting the temperature selector to maintain that proper and exact 325 degrees. So far, so good. The presents are wrapped and ready to go. The tree lights are a-twinkling. I feel very good - who doesn't love Christmas Day?
We're doing Christmas at Matt's, as usual, since he's got the bigger house with the bigger kitchen and the bigger family to go with it all. He's working on the side dishes as we speak...or at least I hope he is. The gathering will include his brother Jacob, sister and her husband, who-knows-which-other family members (maybe his real dad), and a few lone stragglers who don't have anywhere else to be. We've got plenty of food and plenty of wine.
Matt's house has always been a central gathering place. It started back when Hurricane Ivan hit. He and I broke out our extensive camping/cooking gear, and managed to eat fairly normally while most other people were "feasting" on grilled hotdogs and hamburgers and cold-cut sandwiches. I made chicken and sausage jambalaya one day and a chicken pasta salad that you would not believe how good it is on another. No hamburgers for us!
This year, Alisha has requested/demanded that along with the turkey I bring a big tub of my patented crabmeat potato salad. It's not a complicated recipe (basically just potatoes, crabmeat, and mayo plus some seasonings) but the taste is out of this world. There is never any leftover - and I always make tons! So it's done, and it has taken all of my self control to keep from grabbing a big mixing spoon and shoveling it into my mouth.
I haven't been flying much lately. But the few times we've gone anywhere, the Boss has requested that I put one of the Christmas music stations on the XM radio. Now look, I like Christmas music as much as the next guy, but I'm friggin' SICK of hearing Dean Martin's "Rudy, The Red-Beaked Reindeer" or the 99-millionth version of "Winter Wonderland."
And so I'd almost forgotten about my favorite Christmas song of all time, Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses. It's not a Christmas song in the traditional sense; it was one of the first "Alternative" Christmas songs.
Written in 1981 and recorded during the summer of 1982, it's a bittersweet tale of a harried, lonely, kind of depressed city girl. She met a guy last winter in a ski shop, and all year long she's been trying to hook up with (not in the modern sense but in the early-80's "get-together" sense). But things always keep sabotaging their plans: she gets a bad sunburn in the summer, his car craps out at Halloween. So she decides to spend Christmas alone, cooking dinner on Christmas Eve. But - and I can relate to this - she's forgotten the cranberry sauce.
The A&P has provided me
With the world's smallest turkey
Already in the oven, nice and hot
Oh damn, guess what I forgot!
So back out into the cold she goes, to the only store that's open. I won't spoil things if you're not familiar with the song, but let's just say it has a happy ending. It's up in the player at the top of the screen, and it's worth a listen.
I love the song because it reminds me of Christmas in New York City - which, although beautiful in its own way, I hope I never have to endure again as long as I live. I love the song because it's optimistic...that it gives us hope that life does sometimes work out. I love the song because it's about people who are cool with spending their Christmas alone, which a lot of us do. And I love the song because it fades out with this incredible Dixieland riff that sounds so...un-Christmas-y.
I have spent Christmas alone in the past, intentionally or not. I have spent Christmas lying on a beach on a tropical island, soaking up sun and drinking rum. I have spent Christmas at work, like my friend Hal Johnson is doing today, sadly. It's always better to spend Christmas with family and loved ones, of course. But the important thing is to recognize why we're marking and celebrating this day at all.
And I can't let it go by without expressing the hope that...wherever you are, whomever you're with (or not with), and whatever you believe...that you have a wonderful, warm, joyful, rewarding Christmas. In other words, I wish for you the same as I have for me.
Christmas Wrapping Lyrics