Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Home again, home again

Oops, I didn't mean to go this long without posting, but it's taken me a while to get back in the swing of things. I left Maine a week ago to spend a night with my friends S and T, and their wonderful daughter C, in north Jersey. Although it was a short visit, we had a very nice time; I got to see their new house and neighborhood, and S and I got to catch up. And Rocky did quite well with the one-two punch of a toddler and a cat who is unused to dogs.

The following day, I drove the last hour to my parents' house and feverishly finished the scarf I made for my aunt, the last of the crocheted presents to be completed. Eventually, the house filled up: For most of the weekend, my parents' small Cape was occupied by seven adults and five dogs (except for Christmas dinner, at which point there were nine adults and five dogs). All things considered, it went pretty well -- the dogs got along, and so did the people. Crazy Lucy did gobble up the loaf of bread for Christmas dinner, and Jelly fell down the stairs to the basement, but neither was the worse for the wear.

In my family, Christmas is always a three-day affair. It begins on the 23rd, with my dad's parents' anniversary. Typically we go out to dinner, but my grandmother didn't feel up to it (and my grandfather has a hard time hearing in restaurants anyway), so we had takeout pizza -- the thin-crust NJ version that you fold in half to eat -- and orange soda at their house to celebrate their 63rd anniversary.

On Christmas Eve, we returned to my grandparents' house for the traditional Italian dinner, attended by all three of my grandparents' sons and their families. We've been celebrating the feast of the seven fishes for years -- although it's not something my grandfather's family did when he was growing up -- but for at least the last decade it's been in the form of seven-fish stew, a marinara sauce studded with seafood and served over linguine. I couldn't face the plate of shrimp, mussels, scallops, halibut, cod, squid tentacles and other assorted fishy bits this year, so my mom made a batch of meatballs and a separate pot of sauce, which I happily consumed.

This celebration was more harmonious than it has been in most years. Part of that has to do with the fact that my cousins -- three typically out-of-control boys -- are growing up; they range from 10 to 16 now, and are actually capable of carrying on conversations and recognizing when it's inappropriate to be rude or sarcastic (not that it always stops them...). Part of it also came from what seemed to be the naturally good moods of everyone present. My uncle C, the father of the boys, even started a round of carol singing with my grandfather, who absolutely loves to sing and can never get any of us to participate. C tends to be somewhat dismissive of his father, but on Christmas Eve he was warm and generous, and my grandfather was visibly pleased as we sat at the table after dessert, singing carols off-key.

We spent Christmas morning at my parents' house -- my folks, my mom's sister, my sister and her husband, Darren and me and all the pooches -- then my grandparents came over for dinner that night. All weekend, food was a bit of struggle for me. I never threw up -- thank jebus -- but I felt mildly queasy and extremely tired almost the whole time. I drove the whole way home, in a (successful) attempt at avoiding motion sickness. The drive took us nearly 8.5 hours -- about two hours longer than usual, thanks to the misery that is traffic between Boston and New York -- but Monday night we happily slept in our own beds.