Christmas at the House by the Parkway was indescribably exhausting, but also indescribably great. TJ and husband arrived in the morning (he with some unidentified virus that had buckled his knees a couple days ago and she with a newly acquired cold), and everyone exchanged gifts – lots of gifts. It’s a good country.
They won in the creativity department. TJ sneaked off to Café Press and had some things made that bear the “Parkway Rest Stop” Logo, which I thought was really clever. Of course, wearing the shirt will ensure that I will have to try to explain what a blog is to the uninitiated. (“No, it’s not a ‘blob,’ dammit.”) TJ’s husband had scoured the internet for a Hopalong Cassidy Poster that referred to the “Bar 20,” and found a great one for the movie “The Bar 20 Rides Again.” Its significance is that “The Bar 20” is another name for the “Usual Suspects,” the gang with whom we regularly raise hell. Besides, as a kid, I loved “Hoppy.” I even know the name of his horse. Do you? But I digress.
Not long after the wrapping paper was cleaned up and the mountains of food that had been prepared over the prior 48 hours was placed in the warming oven, came the onslaught of friends and family. As in past years, I spent most of the day standing in a corner of the kitchen making drinks (this is a drinking crowd), assisted by good friend, Anal-Retentive Ken.
The preferred drink of the day was apple martinis, served “up,” with a slice of Granny Smith apple and the rim of the glass coated with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. A half hour in, and already damned near half of a half gallon bottle of vodka was gone. Did I mention that this is a drinking crowd? I also made a bunch of cosmopolitans, which were carried out of the kitchen to whom, I’m not quite sure. Because I love to shop in liquor stores, this is the kind of house where you truly can name your poison. Chances are, I’ll have it. It’s a good country.
Lest you think that all we do is drink, it was also a day of food, rich, calorie-laden food, too much food. It’s a good country.
First came the appetizers, which consisted of a cheese board and hot appetizers brought over by TJ (asparagus and cheese baked in little rolled dough things) and the Original Bill (pepperoni bread and stuffed mushrooms).
Then came the serious food, a ridiculous amount of food, decidedly international fare, including baked ziti, and sausage with peppers and onions (both, New Jersey staples), kielbasa and sauerkraut and gowumpkees (spelled phonetically) i.e. cabbage rolls, reflecting about half of my ethnicity and all of Mrs. PRS’s. There was also a Christmas ham, fried chicken, piles of cheese, homemade potato salad and macaroni salad with Jewish rye, Russian rye and Italian rolls. Our neighbors (who are Jewish and always spend Christmas day with us) showed up with a huge plate of genuine homemade latkes (potato pancakes), which were to die for. It’s a good country.
The Main Feed was followed by a dazzling array of homemade cookies. As in the past, my niece stole the cookie show with a tray of very fancy cookies that would rival anything one would ever see on the Food Channel. The chocolate mousse cups (chocolate mousse in a homemade chocolate cup) should probably be entered in some kind of national cookie contest. I assume there are such things.
Of course, the drinking continued throughout the food thing, as did the scullery work, ensuring that I (and Loyal Friend, Anal Retentive Ken) stayed on our feet and working (and having the occasional drink) the entire time.
This was the first year that Bill the Ham (as in ham radio) a/k/a “Tall Bill,” “New Bill,” and “Joe Cigar” made an appearance. Of course, he came bearing and sharing some very excellent cigars. He also served as my “refrigerator guy,” a job I suspect he will keep for future Christmases.
Despite Herculean efforts to “clean as you go” (as the signs “advise” in Army kitchens), when the last person left, the place bore the aftermath of a great party. The cleanup would just have to wait until the next day, because by that time, each of my feet felt as if it had a toothache.
So, today was spent slowly (verrrrry slowly) cleaning up the debris, and taking lots of reading and coffee breaks. No television, no radio and no music. After yesterday, a sustained period of relative quiet was nice. The only part of the cleanup that still remains is the returning of some furniture to its regular place. Once that’s done, the place will look as if the party had never happened.
But happen it did, and it was wonderful. It is indeed a good country.