Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

Morning. I shovel the path to the door and a stretch of the driveway (you don't need to do that -- this from Ed), shake off the extra snow from the snowman and retreat to the farmhouse.

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It's just a few degrees above freezing. That wont melt the solid foot of snow, but it's clammy and wet and we deem it to be suboptimal for skiing. Instead, we stay inside and Ed sweetly rewatches with me the movie I slept through last night (the lovely rom-com called Maggie's Plan).

It's pretty at the farmette, in a gray sort of way. I am hoping that tomorrow's day of drizzle (before the next cold spell arrives next week) wont wash away our lovely winter landscape.

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We eat breakfast slowly and deliberately and with smiles of understanding.

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Christmas isn't something that Ed is at all used to and he is not drawn to the fuss that comes with it, but he is a good soul and he goes along, contributing in a million tiny ways to making it happy for me because he knows I am so completely engulfed in the family activities that come with this holiday.

My daughter asked if I would join her and Snowdrop in baking cookies at her home.

Of course!

When I get there, I see that Snowdrop is so very excited! She wheels penguin around and around the kitchen island, grinning the whole while.

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Snowdrop is a natural in the kitchen and she wants to be part of every step of this project. It's her one fault: she is too ambitious. If I want to guide her -- she gently pushes my hand away so that she can proceed on her own.

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On her own!

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Her mommy shows her the decorating possibilities and here, too, she is confident and impressive -- down to putting on the tiny caps on the tubes when we're done.

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The young family is setting out on a string of Christmas errands and visits. I linger for just a minute while Snowdrop shows me whose present is where...

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And then I wish them all a Merry Christmas Eve...

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... and return to the farmhouse, where I share some of Snowdrop's cookies with Ed.

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In the late afternoon I make something that isn't quite lunch, nor is it dinner -- a pot of butternut squash soup -- which we eat with cheese and crackers.

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I have a 4:15 bus to catch for Chicago. The extended family is gathering there tomorrow and since festivities will start early, I decide to head out tonight. Ed will be holding down the fort at home.

There is a bit of drama when I go to the barn to wish the cheepers a happy holiday (throwing down some extra bread for them). I see that a 'possum is hovering just feet away from them. He hides when I come into the barn but the hens are agitated and with good reason! Ed will have to set out the trap again to move him away from here.

(Scotch takes this moment to shake all the barn dust off her feathers.)

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In Chicago, I'm staying at the newly opened Robey Hotel. This one:

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I could have camped in my daughter's home, but she has a houseful already and I opted (quite happily) to make it easier on all of us by staying here. (It's just a fifteen minute walk from her place.) My daughters groaned at that, foreseeing that I would make a point of going down to the bar for a solitary drink on Christmas Eve just to feed a good story line here, on Ocean. I laughed. Would I do that?

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Oh dear. Maybe I would...

But honestly, I like bits and pieces of alone time. There's much to think about in this world and I need time to process life, perhaps especially now, on the day before this very beautiful holiday.

Too, there's always more to a story than one photo allows. The fact is that I tried to preempt evening hunger by our late day soup at the farmhouse, but after three hours on the bus and a half hour on the El train, I felt... hungry! My hotel was willing to squeeze me in for the buffet meal they were serving tonight until 8 (I arrived at 7:55). For $55. I was not $55 worth of hungry. I circled the floor and came back with an offer:
What if I just had a plate of your cauliflower gratin. Would you really charge me $55?
They softened. It's Christmas Eve after all. Come and have your gratin.
Can I have a drink too?

This then is the fuller picture:

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How much do I owe you? -- I ask at the end.
Food's on us. Just $10 for the drink.

I sit now in my top floor room (ask, and you shall receive) with a beautiful view of Chicago before me.

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Chicago. This city has messed with me since I was a young adult. I came here as a student, hated it, left gladly, came back for another look as a visitor from up north, and finally rediscovered it with greater sensitivity when my daughter decided to call it home. Perhaps it's like life -- very imperfect, but harrowingly complicated and beguiling. Your heart breaks at the problems here, but quickly mends when you look deeply into people's faces. You grow to love a place for those who live there. I suppose these days I must admit to feeling quite a surge of affection for this city.

(Oh! I can see the El stop where I got off...)

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For my readers -- may you feel connected to those you love, now and always. For those who celebrate Christmas -- may it be very merry indeed!