But the perfect parts of Christmas 2005 will be what I shall long recall. Mom and Sis (younger) and niece (the eldest of my two) arrived a bit late and the SO was a bit fretful that dinner would not be able to be staged correctly, that the food would lose flavor and texture as it awaited in the warmer. But once the rest of the family had arrived, we simply set right to the shrimp salad appetizer. My sister apologized for whatever inconvenience the lateness might have caused and cannily suggested we be served from the kitchen island buffet-style and bring our plates to the dining room table. SO had suggested this to me as a possibility shortly before the arrival of the guests and was delighted at the great good sense of my sister. I was in favor of the buffet idea so long as it was nice and sparkling clear that somebody would be bringing me my dinner- historically, I had never seemed to use the correct utensil in the correct order while serving myself and had been nagged by the women into a childlike sulk. We sat and dined and toasted with our non-alcoholic beverages. There was an especially tasteful sausage wrapped in bacon concotion that was a big hit and left me slightly sad that I had never been served it before. There was the obligatory turkey and ham, stuffing, roast potatoes and lots of vegetables. We had five sorts of pies. Everyone ate too much and said so. After the main dinner, and while my mom and SO were chatting in the parlor, my sister brought out her prized potato salad and asked her big brother - equally respected and reviled for his candid opinion- what he thought of it. She was really asking...
"Is mine better than Mom's?"
It was and it wasn't. It tasted slightly better to me for having more egg and mustard than my mother's much more famous salad, but was made too chewy by the presence of tiny pieces of celery. For whatever flavor enhancement the celery brought to the potato salad, my uppermost feeling while eating it was that celery and potatoes are masticated at entirely different levels and one was left chewing bits of celery long after the much softer potatoes had disolved. I found this tedious and by the third or fourth bite had the impression that eating a whole serving of it would be a Bataan Death March.
"It's the best I have tasted," I said. "But the celery makes it a bit chewy. Will Dad and Sis eat it?"
"No," my sister said. "But Jimmy loves it."
"Well, there it is," I said. "Jimmy loves it. But you know how I am."
"Yes," my sister laughed. "You were too lazy to eat fried chicken when you were little."
"Ha," I said. "Not just when I was little. I haven't eaten fried chicken since I was five. And it wasn't 'lazy', per se. Cautious. Grandma Florence told me that if I wasn't careful eating chicken, I could choke on a bone and die. It didn't make sense for me to eat something that might kill me from lapse of concentration." But Sis knew the story as well as I. Families repeat their mythologies to each other... and the ancient event becomes somehow more dear with repetition.
I took nearly a hundred digital photographs. In the modern era of my family, I had always led the battle to logic. My parents were such horrifically bad photographers that every candid photo from our childhood is out of frame, has a thumb in the corner, somebody's *** chewing their shorts or some odd form of cranial distortion where one person's head is two or three times the size of everyone elses'. Their pictures went beyond the merely unflattering and became grotesques. By the time we kids were ten, we had morbid camera phobia and would rather have been sold to gypsies than be anywhere near a shutterbug. I had pioneered the idea of 'like it or spike it" to deal with our lingering trauma. We would all sit around the computer and view the digital photographs at the same time. Anyone who didn't like a photo of themselves could 'spike' the photo and it was summarily deleted. It turns out that we now have brilliant family and holiday photos... and nobody greatly minds having their picture taken with my camera as they know no unflattering image of them will be retained for posterity. We have several wonderful photographs that we will be proud to pass down through the generations from Christmas of 2005. My niece at fourteen shows every indication of becoming a stunner... and her Uncle is her designated photographer.
"When Grandpa takes my picture," my niece said as we looked at the day's photos. "I always look retarded."
"The Curse," her mother said. "Grandpa has the curse."
"A real Anvil Adams," I said. My sister spit out a sip of Diet Coke. My niece had Ansel Adams explained to her.
The guests left at 10:00 p.m. They had originally planned on staying no later than 8:00. The night was even more wonderful than the day had been. The Christmas gift exchange had been very pleasant and we had all spent about the same amount of money on each other. Nobody felt chintzy while opening a $100 gift from someone they had forked-out $25 on. We all hugged warmly. Next year, we go to my sister's house in Clarksville, Tennessee for Easter and Christmas. I am actually look forward to it. I must be getting old.