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How was your December? We just got home yesterday on December 30th. After unloading the car, and putting most everything away, some laundry, checking in with family that we safely made it home, catching up on the mail and news and some dinner and a great amount of joyful reflection, we realized that there are many whose lives living or lost, have not had the same joyful December as we have been blessed with. And I feel their woes and pains, truly I do. But isn’t this an apropos time to share some good news? I believe so!
This true life story began with just a bunch of notes.
For us, December has been fraught with birthdays, announcements of coming births, a new born little bundle of miracles from eight years of trying, meeting new family, making new friends, celebrating Christmas with family with before mentioned new baby boy, enjoying culinary delights made possible by many participates, enjoyable and safe travel with conditions made perfect by the unusual warm December and even passing by the World Headquarters of Duct Tape! 🙂
For 40+ years, I have been cooking and particularly, holidays meals such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. For the very first time (this past Thanksgiving) was I able to not only enjoy the cooking, but to actually enjoy the service that I always seek to serve others. For years, I have forewarned and warned others, NOT to come into the kitchen or even speak to me while I am cooking, less I bite your freaking head off! At a meal prior to Thanksgiving, I tried something new. I played some low volume classical music in the background while I cooked, hoping it might take off the edge. It worked, but I didn’t know why at the time.
Having some success, I hoped this was no fluke and I wanted to repeat the classical music thing at Thanksgiving. By then I understood why. When we were growing up, us, three chil-ren, listened to what our parents liked, Big Band, Swing, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis and so, but certainly NOT classical music. However, coming home from school and after homework and chores of course, we were allowed to watch cartoons in the afternoon and on Saturday mornings. From Walt Disney, Hana Barbera, Walter Lantz (Woody Woodpecker), Warner Brothers and everything else, they all used classical music.
When I grew up, I knew nothing about this music or who wrote it, but when the music played, I sure recognized the tunes from the cartoons. So, in my adult mind, I equated happy times as a child and when the music played, my little old heart just thumped and fluttered happily while cooking! 🙂
Besides the music, there were two more things never done before, I started the actual cooking. I cooked the dressings or stuffing the day before and my wife had beautifully set the table, the night before, Thanksgiving. I was organized; everything was set. The results? Not only did everyone enjoy the food and the fellowship, so did I! I was determined that this would be my new normal and it would be repeated at Christmas! It was, but with another first.
Our Christmas dinner was actually on the 26th. I started out a little tense because, we had to open stockings and presents before the table could be set. The table would be in the living room. The dining room was used for delicious breakfast cinnamon rolls and scones and mimosas, all lovingly prepared by others. I had the low classical music playing in the kitchen as I prepared the turkey and got it in the oven, set and ready to check again in ninety minutes. I made coffee and eggnog lattes, before my cappuccino/espresso machine literally blew up. No one was hurt and no damage was done and no one other than myself and my wife knew. We heated the eggnog in the microwave and I made espresso in the brew coffeepot. No one knew and they still loved the results.
So, after breakfast, stockings and presents, the kitchen and dining room were mine. Our host and hostess reminded everyone that there was “a force field” around the kitchen and to not go in. The word was out, don’t come into the kitchen and talk to me. The first person I allowed in was my bother-in-law Lenny, the husband of my sister. I wrote “allowed,” but better words would be, ‘OK with,’ as I don’t think he would have accepted NO as a response from me. 🙂
But Lenny became the de facto kitchen manager, keeping everything clean and organized, even though I told him I clean as I go. He just smiled and kept doing his thing. I had only two choices, to freak out or just accept his help graciously. He later carved not the one turkey, but both, yes, two turkeys. I wanted everyone to have leftovers. The next day there were leftovers. Then our sister made incredible soup. Yesterday, she made Shepherds pie with all that was left. This all as she wrote was, the turkeys’, “delicious history.”
A couple of people came around the corner and asked if they could help me do anything. I kept my peace and politely said no. Then they proceeded to just have a conversation in the kitchen while I was cooking. I had to laugh because, I was totally OK with this. Then I discovered, I was not playing the music in the background. Still, I was OK. Later, I found out that one of the ladies that had asked me if she could help, has great difficulty in staying out of the kitchen because, she loves to cook too.
I gathered everyone in the living room and made an announcement. It was something new to me and I was going to give it a try. I asked anyone that wanted to help, to help me!!! OMG was this a big deal to me, huge! It’s not so much that I was a control freak, but I suppose I was. Everything has to look good, be hot and served at the same time. It has to smell good, taste good, rekindle fond memories and promote good conversation before during and after. There is a reason for everything I try to do. It’s a lot of work and I take it seriously. So, instead of doing everything myself as I’ve done for years, now I was going to allows others in. How was I going to pull this off?
I have everything any chef in the world has, except for the paper, the certificate from a culinary institute. I am confident in my ability. I have cooked and prepared this menu countless times for countless people and have perfected my own recipes as much as a perfectly imperfect being can perfect anything. Still, I brought my own notebook of my recipes. I had previewed this not-my-kitchen and knew where everything was. I was set and nothing was left to chance. I was prepared, for any unforeseen thing.
I am not about praise! I am results oriented and happy to be in the background, to work behind the scenes and to SERVE and spatter joy! But others wanted to do the same thing. I just wasn’t until this moment sure, who would be found in the kitchen, Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? Well, I opened the front door and kicked Mr. Hyde in the rear and out, never to return again! No matter how great the conductor, it’s all about the music. One can conduct all day long, but people want to see the musicians play and hear the music swell. Other people wanted to spatter joy too!
Christmas tree napkin folding was done by my wife Susan and Quin, the mother of the husband of my niece. My sister peeled and mashed and made the potatoes. Others set out the pre-made Christmas Tree pats of butter I made and brought and they set and decorated the table.
Everything was being taken care of, lovingly, graciously and happily! As I watched, there was no classical music playing. I was watching a beautiful symphony played out on their faces and by their hands of service and all before my ears. And the finale?
Comments from those that did not like turkey was, “I loved it” and “it was good.” A comment from one that did not like dressing or stuffing was, “I loved it.” Other comments were, “the Best Christmas Ever!” For myself personally, this was the best meal I have ever HELPED to prepare and have so thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish! This is HOW to cook! Spatter Joy!
Though I have tried to source the following quote and I believe its origin was Ralph Waldo Emerson, I have not been able to corroborate it. But it fits here.
“A true man (or woman) is absolutely confident in their own inspiration (or ability).”
Now, I have not only permanently kicked out Mr. Hyde from my kitchen, and now understand, not only the science and art of cooking, but the heart. Now, I can honestly teach others not only how to cook 5 star culinary delights— anyplace and at anytime, but NOW, I can show HOW it can all be enjoyed from start to finish! I highly recommend a movie we watched in Ohio, ‘The 100 Foot Journey’
How was your December? Mine was just getting started! The draw of the figurative centerpiece of all the festivities was a brand new baby boy, born on December 19th, 2015. He could have been born on the 18th, but that date remains the birthday of one of our sons. And he could have been born on his due date of the 29th, but that date remains our brother’s birthday. So each have their day and were born precisely, right on time. But this brand new little baby boy, named Joshua, is the first and only Great Nephew to my brother and I. He is our sister’s first and only grandson and grandchild. Babies draw people together.
My sister and her husband came from Raleigh, NC. My wife and I came from NY. My brother and his wife came from IL. We three all, came to Ohio and at different times of arrival. That’s a big deal. There were long drive times, costs and other matters involved for all of us to get there and I for one, am deeply appreciative and will forever appreciate their efforts! For myself, I only could get in three hours of sleep before we made the (2nd) 7 hour trip to Ohio. One has to stay awake somehow! Well, I am a mischief magnet, TRE (a Target Rich Environment), a silly man, an Unky (uncle), a Gunky (great uncle) and probably only about, fo-yeer-ohd (four years old). 🙂
My parking ticket in this life has been validated and acknowledged, revealing in a comment, “the secret to my success.” A single image and a quote confirms this—
And just so you do not misunderstand, it is confirmed again by a single video—
Dancing with Dahni
If it’s still not clear, try this—
“Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Oh, but there’s more, much more. And if you think this is about me, or my family or December or the holidays, keep reading my friend, KEEP READING!
On December 29th, 2015, we took my brother and his wife out to dinner and our family treated them, to celebrate his birthday.
All these many events culminated with something that has not occurred in some thirty+ years around the holidays. Our brother, and sister and I were all together, TOGETHER!
The craziness, silliness and love and heart remains after all these years and though the time was short, it was FULL and it was as if, we never missed a single beat.
So, as this month and this year comes to a close, I will raise a glass to our grandparents, Lilian & Stanley, Papa & Nanny, all our ancestors before them and to our parents Calvin and Jean, from which all those we have been touched by and whose lives we touch, has been made possible!
And this is the purpose of the Gathering Place. Though it is our home, we were not here, we were in Ohio. The Gathering place is not just a place, it is a heartbeat, where ever and with whomever it may beat. Though many could not be there with us and many had not the same kind of December or year as we have and many suffer, this is how life is supposed to be, should be and for us, it was, it really, really was this way! So, much has spilled over, into so many, many lives.
So, to you for the new year and forever, SPATTER JOY!