some time to take a breath…

[[ This post was actually written sometime around the middle of January and got left in my queue… so here it is, a Christmas 2011 round up, four months later. ]]

Christmas was a good holiday this year. I cannot help but compare it to the last two. Christmas in 2009 marked the descent into hell — the project at work that would come to include 9pm international conference calls four nights a week was only hovering at two or so, but in hindsight the direction of things was clear. Christmas in 2010 was sheol… I felt cut off from light and God deep in the earth. The conference calls continued four nights a week into their twelfth month, as if exhaustive nightly tracking would make glacial progress go faster. No, this year was a Christmas where I could stop ever so often, look around, and take a breath. The traditions of the season were sometimes hurried, but pleasurable. I found the energy to enjoy the time was not significantly lacking. It was a good time, that seemed to pass just a little too quickly.

I took Friday, 23 December off as a vacation day and got a lot of baking done. The middle of the day was tedious, and taken up with grocery shopping and picking up a St. Honoré Cake that we were pledged to bring to Christmas dinner on Sunday. I left at about 10am to go to the gym and do my shopping. I got home after 2:30pm, and had not even had lunch yet. I found a second wind, however, and baked a fruit cake, a batch of chocolate chip cookies (a Cook’s Illustrated recipe), and a batch of molasses cookies with a rum glaze (from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook also courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated.) The last batch of cookies didn’t cook until about 10pm, but who cares? It felt good to be on vacation.

Saturday was a lazy day that ended with the Geek family going to 6pm Christmas Vigil Mass. My Dad commented “You ‘orthodox’ can do that… Had the sun gone down yet?” (This is, of course, an example of his ultra-dry wit; he, like me, has been Roman Catholic his whole life.) Given that we brought Baby Geek with us, we arrived at the Church just a few scant minutes before Mass started. It was standing room only. Thankfully, three chivalrous young men decided to give up their seats in a pew for some of the women standing, which included Mrs. Geek and Baby Geek. Baby Geek was rather squirmy, but loved the audience of people he had sitting and standing around him. His smiles caught the eye of several of the people nearby, and a number of people commented on how lovely he was. I ended up carrying him through about two thirds of the hour-long Mass, much of it in the rear vestibule of the Church along with select other parents with small children (including one with a 7 week old girl who looked smaller at 7 weeks than Baby Geek was when he was born.) We decided to duck out of the service immediately after Communion and skip the final Blessing… a squirmy baby near his bed time who hasn’t yet had his supper is not something to gamble with. We weren’t the worst about this; another family at Mass had 7pm dinner reservations and left at 6:45pm, with little consideration for the progress of the service.

Christmas Day was a lazy day. We got up at about 6:30am, our usual hour, and got Baby Geek his breakfast. Then we opened presents. Mrs. Geek liked the Swarovski crystal charm I got her. I got a locally made bottle of rye whiskey, and a 21 year old bottle of Caol Ila scotch. Baby Geek got a lot of Fisher Price “little people” — a holiday train, a farm, and a school bus. I then made waffles (using an America’s Test Kitchen recipe that puts butter and a little finely ground corn meal in the batter – yummy!) for Christmas brunch. Dinner with my in-laws (Mrs. Geek’s Dad and is wife) was our only remaining obligation for the day.