Last night John was setting the table and I turned from making the gravy to see our little corner waiting for us. The lights twinkling and reflected in the dark window, the candles lit. We have had two Christmases on our own here in our nearly 44 years together. The first, Christmas of 2020, was a sad one in many ways. There’d been a surgery that had resulted in an unexpected injury and we’d been advised to keep to ourselves as much as possible to avoid exposing John to the COVID virus in his weakened state. I remember our children set up a WhatsApp group video call so that we could all share a festive drink together. On our phones. (It had come to that!) I roasted a duck and we sat at the table among the shades of those who usually joined us for Christmas, wondering about the future. But even by the New Year, everything had brightened. This year we chose not to travel and in retrospect, I think it was a good decision. The airports and ferry terminals were not happy places to be during the cold week leading up to Christmas. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I remember hearing a news item on one particular ferry cancellation because the throttle on the life-boat had frozen.
Last night was quiet but lovely. As I always do, I read the nativity passages from the Gospel of Luke as a grace. I’m not a Christian but somehow the words of the King James version carry a message that is worth hearing.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
We had prime rib with port and shallot gravy, potatoes mashed with celeriac, roasted Brussels sprouts, and light high Yorkshire puddings. John made the trifle that was traditional in his family, garnished with a pink marzipan pig. The lovely Waterford wine glasses shone and when we tapped our glasses together, the crystal rang like a silvery bell. After dinner we watched A Christmas Carol. My father loved this story of how a miserly man is transformed by his encounters with his own past and his own choices to become a paragon of beneficence. We have an aging video tape of the 1951 production starring Alastair Sim and as usual it took some time to remember how to play it (so many remotes!) but then we settled in, each scene so familiar that we knew every line of dialogue. As for ghosts, I remembered the first time our children watched this version, having previously seen the animated Mickey Mouse one, and how Brendan exclaimed incredulously when the Alastair Sim character first appeared: That’s Scrooge??? I thought he was a duck!
So a quiet and mostly sweet Christmas day, birds fluttering around the feeder, the snow melting so quickly that the world was green by lunch time, so green this morning that I just looked up to see an elk grazing under the arbutus outside my study window. And then John saw one lying down in the moss just beyond the greenhouse, and then another, and another. A huge one at the bottom of the stairs leading to the upper deck. This one was nearly as tall as the greenhouse roof! (She’s on a slope above it.)
The day after Christmas, a day of leftovers, birds, and the huge elk gathered around like carollers. Carollers who want bark and tree tips rather than mince pies but just as seasonal.