Merry Christmas

The day is done, and it was a busy one. Actually, it’s been pretty busy the past few days, but that’s OK with us. Busy is good.

The sad news for today is the loss of a good friend’s Mother. Mabel passed on this afternoon at the tender age of 95. Please help us heap blessings on Daughter Nancy, Granddaughter Lisa, and their families to help them through this trying time. Mabel will be missed, but not forgotten.

Sorry to start out with bad news but, ya know, life is funny like that. It’s unpredictable and keeps us all wondering what’s going to happen next. Sometimes it’s exciting, some times it’s not.

Yesterday was extremely busy for Diane and me. We got up late, like normal, then went to First Lutheran Church, here in St. Helens, to assist with the annual Boy Scout sponsored event that provides hot Christmas meals to hundreds of people, all delivered to the recipient’s door. Bill, the head “Scout Guy” in the area, said the event isn’t advertised and help isn’t requested, but  there are always plenty of helping hands who show up to make it work. This year was challenging because the scouts had to move from one staging area to another for political reasons. So, a process that has been in place for years had to be re-engineered to work from a much smaller facility. It worked out nicely.

My humble part was initially unwrapping and separating rolls into defined numbers determined by the number of people in each family receiving a meal. Lots of ones, twos, threes, etc., and a couple of twelves. Diane and I were doing the separating and Lydia was wrapping faster than I could unwrap. But, we got it done and ended with one table full of newly wrapped rolls. Another lady parceled out patties of butter into stacks for each group of rolls. In hindsight, we figured it would have been better if we’d’ve wrapped the patties with the rolls. This was determined after I dropped quite a few of them while transferring them to the distribution table. It was because of the slippery gloves I had to wear. Really.

From rolls duty I was sent to help fill vegetable plates and pass them on to the wrapper. Part of the time that was, again, Lydia who gave me a little grief for not keeping up with her. She’s pretty quick, and she’s a very hard worker. Diane was out doing other “stuff”, like cutting and boxing up individual pieces of pie, and I know she did a ton of other things but I was wrapped up, so to speak, in my task. Tunnel vision, you know. I do know that she, Daniel, and the kids made numerous trips around town delivering meals to many people. It’s time-consuming but very humbling to be part of this effort.

Once the veggie plates were done someone saw me taking a break and sent me to the kitchen where I was put on mashed potato and gravy duty. This involved three huge, like 10 gallon pots sitting atop an electric range. Two of the pots had boiling water into which were placed semi frozen packages of mashed potatoes, five bags to a pot. In the packaging area was a steam line with potatoes, beans, dressing, and gravy, two of which were my responsibility to keep filled. Behind me, on the prep table, Terry and Vern were ripping up turkeys and ham and placing portions in containers for delivery. I never figured out what a portion was because it was done using the “BGBG” method. That means, By Guess By Golly. The ‘cutters’ filled the containers by hand, literally, using the zen approach. A handful to them, I suspect, filled the needs of “x” number of adults and kids. It seemed to work until we started running out of meat. Then portions got more normal, but they were still generous portions.

For me, the potatoes were renewed numerous times, I burned off all the fingerprints of both hands multiple times, and I kept the gravy train rolling. That huge pot almost got empty once, then I had to make up a recipe for a new pot. Never having made that much gravy at one time, it was interesting, and I have no idea how it tasted. To make it I used all the stock salvaged from turkeys that were delivered by volunteers throughout the afternoon, and some pre-mixed thickener which was, I’m sure, stock and flour. Whatever it was worked OK and we wound up with just enough to finish the job, I think. I don’t know for sure because I had to leave as things were winding down to prepare for our choir responsibilities at our church. That was happening at 2100. In all, Diane and I both spent almost 7 hours working non-stop, along with dozens of others doing the same. It was gratifying.

Our service was OK, but Pastor got a little carried away with video clips which many people, including us, didn’t think was appropriate for the service. I know, we have the technology, so why not use it, right? True, but there’s something to be said about tradition, and last night was about as far from tradition as one can get. Jean, our organist, was particularly upset because the service had “Joy To The World” at the beginning instead of the end. Until last night the choir has always marched out singing “Joy To The World” to end the service, following the Acolytes after they extinguish the candles. It was just wrong, ya know? The choir was great mostly because I didn’t sing very loud. I’m sure that would have ruined it for sure.

After the service we dropped Diane’s Mom at home because it was after 2300, then went to Daniel & Jennifer’s home to watch the kidlets open their gifts. This is our own tradition, and it will not change. For a while, at least. By the time we got home it was well after midnight and we were dog-tired, as old people tend to be when they stay up that late. So, Diane and I exchanged our gifts and went to bed. I got a new pair of Nike Air sneakers, and Diane got a nice little flashlight for her purse. We were both pleased.

This morning the dogs, not caring how little sleep I got, made me get up at 0715, about 5 hours after laying down. Then I napped until mid morning when Diane needed my help to get a 21 lb turkey in the oven. People were told they could show up anywhere from 1200 and beyond, as their desires dictated. It was going to be a ‘simple’ affair, buffet style, right? Right! In addition to the turkey there was a very large ham, all the pieces that go with a holiday meal, including some an awesome sweet potato and yam casserole from Wynette. I’ve never had that before and it was great. J&W brought that as well as their very welcome company. It wasn’t ‘simple’ by any means. As I may have mentioned before, I’ve learned to just stay out of Diane’s way and respond to help when beckoned. If not beckoned, just stay out of the way and don’t talk. Oh, I did make a double batch of fudge which actually turned out pretty good although I used too much butter, on purpose. I just didn’t want to figure out what 1/3 of a cup was. I used too much sugar, too, but that was OK because the recipe calls for almost an entire can of condensed milk for a double batch. So, instead of tossing out what little remains I used it all, like Jack said he does, and added an extra cup of sugar. It’s pretty good.

The meal went on throughout the afternoon, the middle of which we retired to the rearranged living room to watch old slides of years past, before digital cameras. I was pleased that they are all still in pretty good shape and we all enjoyed seeing ourselves all dressed up in younger people’s clothes, with more hair and skinny bodies. Our children, Jeff and Jennifer, were especially pleased to see the pictures of themselves as babies in foreign countries. Jeff was born in Rome, Italy, and Jennifer was born in Agana, Guam. About as far apart in the world from each other as you can get, I suspect. I set the screen up in front of the big screen TV which wasn’t on at all today. We just visited, watched slides, laughed, and laughed. It was an exceptional day of remembrance for us.

Now it’s over and I must retire. It’s almost 2300 and Diane’s already gone that direction. We had our entire family gathered around us one more time, and we feel blessed.

We hope you all had a wonderful day and that the spirit remains with you throughout the year.

Peace, Love, and Joy to you.

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