Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Our First Christmas

Grant and Diane
The very early days of marriage, of most marriages, in fact, are days of exploration and discovery. Of the combination of ideas and ideals. Of the solidifying of the ties binding the couple together.
So it was in our house. The happiness that goes with simply being together. Peace. Love. Joy. One imagines that it will last forever. And it does. Until . . . The First Conflict.
I use this term lightly, because it really wasn’t a conflict, but more of a steady pull in two different directions. He wanted us to spend Christmas with his family. I wanted to spend it with mine.
I won.
Mostly, I admit because I painted a rosier picture than he did. I snared him with magical words like . . . food, fresh baking, treats, candy, chocolate, sugar, sugar, sugar. Okay, I exaggerated. But my family really did have fun on Christmas Eve. And I wasn’t ready, yet, to miss it.
And my Mom was a really good cook.
He gave in. And so, Christmas Eve found us nestled snugly in the bosom of my family, preparing to enjoy. Unfortunately, the preparing part went on a little too long.
My eldest sister, Chris was home for the holiday and she and Mom, demon bakers both, were lost in their own fragrant world. Admittedly a pleasant place to be, albeit rather ‘calorific’. The rest of us floated by periodically, sniffing, staring hungrily at the stacks . . . and stacks . . . of pies, cookies, cakes, butterhorns, brownies, fudge, cookies, lemon squares, butter tarts, cookies.
There really were a lot of cookies.
Dinner was forgotten as more and more goodies emerged from the cavernous depths of the great ovens. Cries from hungry tummies grew more and more insistent. Also, the younger set was getting impatient. It was time for that games of games, anticipated for a whole year. The annual Stringam bloodbath. The Christmas game of Rummoli.
With real poker chips.
Okay, so it wasn’t a bloodbath. Not even particularly violent. But it was as close to gambling as the Stringam gang ever got. And we really did anticipate it feverishly. Well . . . some of us looked forward to it with excitement. Okay, I really liked it. Geeze.
By 10:30 pm, many had given up the thought of getting ‘Christmas Eve’ started. Baking was still being pulled from the ovens, dinner still hadn’t materialized and even the faint hope of a Rummoli game had long since vanished. My husband looked at me. He was too kind to put it into words, but I was getting fairly good at reading him, and his expression said, “For this, we gave up an eight-course meal with my family?” I shrugged my shoulders and tried to laugh.
It was a weak attempt.
He decided to take matters into his own hands. He got up and wandered nonchalantly past the stack of baking which completely covered the counter and nearly filled the space between the upper and lower cupboards.
Seriously, we’re talking an area eight feet long and somewhere between 18 and 24 inches deep. Covered. With. Fresh. Baking.
His hand snaked out, nabbing a butter tart. Quicker than the eye can blink, it was in his mouth. All of it. The heavenly combination of flavours poured through his soul like celestial honey. His knees grew weak. He brought his teeth together to begin chewing this small slice of perfection. Mom straightened from pulling yet another pan out of the oven, her face flushed with heat and effort.
He was caught. He suspended all chewing movements and tried to look innocent, but Mom could spot sneaky behaviour at 1000 paces. Certainly she could recognize it standing across the counter.
The counter filled with mouth-watering . . . but I digress.
She set the hot pan on the cupboard, placed both hands on her hips and levelled a glare at him. “Don’t eat that!” she said. “It’s for Christmas!”
He stared at her. Then at the mounds of baking that couldn’t possibly be eaten in the next 24 hours. In the next 24 days. He put up one hand to cover his mouth. And the precious contraband that now had a home there. No way was he removing it from his mouth. All sorts of places in his body would have rebelled if he had tried. “Sorry,” he mumbled, slowly backing away, his hands spread apologetically.
We never did get our Rummoli game.
Or supper.
After that, my husband and I saved Christmas Eve for his family. And Christmas morning for mine. It was easier on our relationship.
Oh, and the statement, “Don’t eat that, it’s for Christmas!”
Quoted every time someone pops something into their mouth. Year round.

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