44: Oh What a Day!

44: Oh What a Day!

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grand and Great

Oh What a Day!

Last year, exasperated with epicurean excess overshadowing the blessed event and fearful of maxing out my credit cards once again, I began planning a simpler Christmas, unaware that I was about to create an unforgettable moment and a pretty terrific day.

I decided that although I would buy gifts for our twelve grandchildren, I absolutely would not buy presents for our seven adult kids. Absolutely not. Well then, I thought, I’ll just make up a nice basket of goodies for each couple.

In August, I traveled to the outlet mall and purchased seven big baskets. I went to yard sales and bought cookie tins and cute little containers. Really saved some money, too. Next, I chose a few crystal and porcelain dishes just to dress things up a bit (I’m into elegant). I also bought red, green, silver and gold spray paint.

I wanted to personalize the baskets somewhat (I detest “cookie-cutter” gifts). So I decided to decoupage tall cans to match the decor of each family’s home. Good grief! I had no concept of how much cutting or how many pictures and scraps it takes to arrange one simple design. I cut from our albums, encyclopedias, history texts, magazines and flyers. My husband’s toes curled when he saw the job I did on his National Geographics. Of course, then I had to buy all the glue, brushes and decoupage stuff. One entire bedroom was set aside, and locked, for this project.

Meanwhile, I pored over new recipes seeking something special for each person. The decisions took me weeks. Next, I was off to the farmer’s market to purchase bushels of apples for chutney, pies and applesauce. I foraged for days to find special salt to make beef sticks for the guys.

I chopped, sliced and diced until my hands resembled crazy explorer’s maps. Oh, the pain. Homemade candied fruit, madeleines, mustards, relish, special sauces, rolled candies, decorated petit fours, dried fruit slices, potpourri. I was driven, a madwoman on a quest for perfection. I was on a complete Martha Stewart binge.

Did I mention the fifteen-cubic-foot freezer I bought just for this endeavor? Oh, yeah. Real savings there.

Time was running out. The pace quickened: shopping, wrapping, tagging, decorating, cleaning, baking. Spare moments were spent creating tiny marzipan flowers and fruits. My husband (and the dog) had the audacity to expect dinner every night in the midst of this frenzy. An additional little chore nagged at the back of my mind: Christmas dinner for thirty-five people. Just another incidental.

Finally, after scouring boutiques for cute little gold cards, I meticulously arranged the baskets. Now, the final touch: bows. I bought yards and yards of gold and silver ribbon; gorgeous stuff. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say, I failed Ribbon Making 101. Checkbook in hand, I stormed out of the house and dashed to the craft store. People dispersed in every direction as I entered; they saw the crazed look of a woman “on a mission.” No one in my path was safe. I exuded danger. Quickly, I placed my order for seven huge bows with streamers. They were lovely and only cost eighty-eight dollars. Plus tax.

Earlier in the year, I’d made cookbooks for each daughter and daughter-in-law. These contained recipes of family favorites and little cut-outs of my favorite hymns, quotes and prayers.

The crowning touch was a personal poem for each, emphasizing individual traits, with endearments to match. Oh, they were such fun to do!

The great day arrived, and I was anxious. Just to be sure the fellas wouldn’t be too disappointed by the excess of feminine accoutrements, I’d gone out Christmas Eve and found seven Star Trek mugs. They were only twenty dollars each. Well, my dears, the baskets were a raging success. “Oohs” and “aahs,” and “Oh, Mom, this must have taken you days.” (Excuse me — days?)

Suddenly, like a gentle ocean wave, a hush overcame the room (Ever notice when we women stop talking, no matter how many fellas are around, there is a hush?). Pages turned as silent tears fell — then audible sniffles — then, as the poems were shared, uproarious laughter filled the moment. Surrounded by hugs and wet faces, I glanced across the room at my husband. He grinned back with happy eyes. Love personified the moment. What a day.

~Lynne Zielinski
Chicken Soup for the Soul Christmas Treasury

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