My Christmas Eve (Merry Christmas to my WC family)
Christmas Eve, and I’ve just washed my hands of the oil basting the turkey. Outside the snow is everywhere. It continues to fall, tiny flakes lost in the bright gray sky. I think the last time we had a white Christmas was 12 years ago, when the hill on Lonsdale Ave was so packed with snow that people decided to ski down it Christmas morning. My parents are in the living room, looking worriedly at the falling snow, hoping that our guests will be able to come. We always invite the “lonely” over for Christmas dinner—old widows, stranded young couples, the missionaries, new immigrants to Canada, and the house is filled with the noise of 15 people and 2 or 3 different languages.
The house is still right now, from the living room Nat King Cole sings “O Holy Night”. My parents and I are waiting for potatoes to finish boiling, and for the next hour to be up so that we can baste the turkey again. I say we, but this year they decided to delegate most of the cooking labor to me, figuring that I could use the experience because “one day [I’ll] be a dad and will have to know how to do Christmas dinner”. I don’t point out that dads in North America sometimes do more to ruin Christmas dinner than anything. In my family my mom stays away from the ham and the turkey. That is dad’s territory. She worries about everything else, the potatoes, the yams, the stuffing, and half a dozen other things that I’m probably not aware of. She worries about the snow on the driveway, and sidewalk.
Dad this year is passing on his tradition of cooking the turkey to me. He stood by and told me how to defrost the turkey, taking care to wash it in the laundry sink (because it was a lot easier to wash it there than in the kitchen) and warning me to not let the turkey touch the sink itself because “who knows what kind of chemicals are there, it’s the laundry room”. Some cynical part of me thinks that he’s letting me do the turkey because he doesn’t want to haul the big bird all around the house. After the turkey, he has me slice the ham. He leans in with his hands behind his back, poking his face towards the ham and asks me about families in America: “Does the mom or dad carve the turkey?” I have no answer. I wasn’t paying attention the last few times.
The snow keeps falling. About a couple of hours ago I shoveled away the 8 inches
covering the driveway. The snow is undoing my work; 2 fresh inches of powder pile in the driveway. A crow caws in the muffled stillness of the snow. Its calls and the sound of water dripping into icicles are the only sounds outside. No one is dumb enough to drive around in the weather. North Vancouver’s hills are treacherous, this morning no one has cleared the roads.
Dad comes into room just minutes after my mom came in to tell me to eat lunch (breakfast). He complains about how Mom has been worrying about the snow all morning. “If she would just not worry about it, I’ll deal with it later,” he says. Funny enough, he worries about it probably more than she does. I hand my dad the Emma DVD we bought for mom. My mother is terrible about keeping secrets for Christmas, she usually buys herself something and gets my Dad to wrap it for her. Last year, two days before the big day, she came into my room to show me the $5 bargain bin book of British poetry that she got me for Christmas. I had a mini-freak-out at her. “Couldn’t you not show me for two more days?!” Dad and I always try to be sneaky about her “real” present from us, to counter the “fake” present from us.
I wonder about gifts. The older I get the less I get. But what about giving back to Christ in the Christmas? What gift can you give to the creator of all things, because as King Benjamin says, “if ye shall serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath…if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.” Despite this we try, we try to keep the commandments because that’s all he asks for. But can we give more? “The Little Drummer Boy” comes to mind, with no gift to bring except playing his drum the best for the Christ child. Give our talents for Christmas? Give ourselves to Christ for Christmas?
In all of this stressing and cooking, I’m not feeling the energy and excitement of Christmas. No more excitement for gifts. It’s buried outside in the snow. Instead I’m aware that I’m not sure how many more of these Christmases I’ll have with my parents. This year, they’re passing on the last (only) major Lee family tradition: cooking. Part of me is worried that this is the last torch to pass on, their legacy. I know I’m wrong but it’s still there. What can I give back to my parents this Christmas that is not a DVD or a book, or whatever it is my mom has bought herself in my name? Perhaps all I can really give is a promise to carry on their traditions and charity.
Maybe without stressing about the driveway too much.
Merry Christmas friends.
Edit- That's my turkey. :)