The winter always belonged to my mother and me.
We both loved the late autumn, when the last of the leaves plastered the pavements in a smear of color, and our breath fogged the morning air. November also usually brought the first snows, in that faraway land of four proper seasons – a land that seems so dreamlike now in this drizzly country of muddy ivy green.
We both had our birthdays in November — Mom first, and then me a few weeks later.
And then there was Thanksgiving, hard on the heels of presents and cake. I learned how to cook the meal from my mother, and each year I prepare it using the same gravy-stained recipe, all the American measures and temperatures converted in the marginalia. I can no longer ring her up, seven thousand miles away, to get advice about stuffing or to give me verbal reassurance that the bird is actually done.
And finally Christmas, when we’d do the turkey all over again. But also there’d be gingerbread cookies, flaming raisins, and dozens of other ritualistic kitchen adventures to share.
I find myself passing all of these rituals to my own child, who is just as eager to crack eggs, roll out dough, cut shapes and decorate as he is to scrape the last bits out of the bowl with his finger for a sweet treat.
And my family creates new traditions, such as the medieval figgy pudding we threw together yesterday using garden plums and figs thawed from the deep freeze, drizzled with flaming brandy and a sprig of holly.
Christmas becomes a scramble of past, present and future, the best of what you used to have melded with the rituals from your partner’s family side, tweaked with joint innovations – each generation sculpting and perfecting a personal haven of deep family life and experience. There’s probably a scientific metaphor in there somewhere, but I am officially off duty until 2020.
Happy Christmas and New Years to all!