Ringing It In

I spent this New Year’s Eve day overseeing the deep cleaning of the kids’ rooms. One child just needed a thorough vacuum. I found myself dusting off Slaughterhouse Five, which I’d given him last year and forgot all about and gave him this year, again. I must have thought he was old enough for it last year, and–forgetting that–I must have thought he was ready for it this year. And so it goes. The other child–at a sentimental age–needed deep purging and reorganizing, as well as the thorough dusting and vacuuming of all the tender, teeny, little keepsakes and notes and whatnot. I tried to play a mere supervisory role, letting them do the cleaning. I was, nevertheless, roped in. I loaded and carried out a few bags of trash, a box of thrift shop donations, a small bag to give to a smaller, fellow lover-of-horses. And so many loads of laundry, countless, really. I can hardly account for the loads of laundry that I’ve done today.

As dinnertime rolled around, I found myself assembling the stuffed seitan that I’d been too weary to make for Christmas dinner, and to follow that, the chocolate fondue that we’d been too stuffed to eat on Christmas Eve. The seitan was an elaborate recipe, some sort of vestige of 1970s co-op vegetarianism in this, the Paleo age.  Being unfashionable, I assembled the two cups of wheat gluten, and sage, and every other hippie condiment you can think of. I rolled the sage stuffing into the wheat gluten dough. It smelled delicious. I even threw together a vegetable broth to baste the seitan loaf, and in its last basting, filled the sides of the pan with roasted potatoes. 

As I cooked, I remembered that on the last New Year’s Eve with my husband, we’d party-hopped to three parties, one to a parent of my son’s, the other two to colleagues. Those people may all be hosting parties this year, but I’ve been invited to none of them. I recalled, too, that husband was so sick that year. I’m not sure what I’d take–lots of invitations from superficial colleagues, or this quiet and loneliness. What does it matter? I haven’t much choice in the matter.  Here I am, today. I have sage from Ed the farmer, and onions, and Swiss chard, and mushrooms from the farmers market, and it smells good, and that’ll have to do, for now.

We plugged in the tree lights, lit the candles, put out the good plates, and I wished the kids happy new year while they chewed away at the glutinous seitan loaf. I was pleased to stuff them with Good Things. We chatted, sat back, and prepared ourselves for the fondue course. I melted the chocolate in our delicious local cream. I served strawberries (not local, natch) and apples and spongecake and pretzels. The kids dug in. We chatted. We dipped. We enjoyed. Soon the kids admitted, sheepishly, that they were stuffed. When I met my husband, I felt like such a Papist in his family of Episcopalians, and I feel that way sometimes with my children, when they get so formal and polite and I just feel so unrefined. I assured them that was fine. Golly, I served enough food to feed another family. What I didn’t tell them was that I just wanted them to feel…plenty. I wanted to feel that there is more than enough for them out there. I was stuffing them with my good intentions. They politely set their fondue sticks down. We cleared our dishes, in good spirits, and Daughter queued up the Doctor Who Christmas Special that she’s been waiting for all week. And so it goes.

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3 thoughts on “Ringing It In

  1. I hope 2014 brings good things into your life and that your new normal starts feeling as good on the inside as you’re making it appear on the outside. There is wisdom in the saying, fake it until you make it. May this be the year when we both make it!

  2. We both deserve it, Jean!

    All these small, formal dinners accomplished something. I’m glad I made the effort, even though I didn’t feel like it. We felt like a family, not like the remains of an old one. We brought over some of our old rituals, added some new ones, and it wasn’t fraught or painful. I felt like we deserved to celebrate our little rituals. We’re a small family, but we’re still family. Every one of us is a person of value. This is the rebuilding, a piece at a time.

    And, goodbye holidays! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

  3. I’m smiling because I made a seitan loaf (three, actually) last week; it was either too much sage or too much nutritional yeast, but it tasted a bit yucky.

    Belated happy new year to you…

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