After dragging my butt and procrastinating since the first Sunday of Advent, the sounds, sights and smells of Christmas are starting to appear chez Leger.
This is not about me being lazy, or even too busy. In fact, I am amazed at how not busy I am right now. For example, this is my day off, and except for the panic I just had 30 seconds ago that I don’t have two families to light the Advent candle on Sunday…any takers?…I’m pretty relaxed. My programs are winding down as the main liturgists of our parish are speeding up amidst lung and foot infections. But no panic.
This is actually about my homesickness. This is only my second Christmas without family. The first time was in my second year of seminary and I thought…let’s try it. I hated it. I called Marc in Moncton and informed him I was coming to visit.
For the past four years we have had Mom and Marc’s parents, Anne and Norm, for Christmas.
With the insane pace I had on Christmas Eve (4 services in 10 hours driving 200 km in between) it was wonderful to have extra hands and cheer around the house to counteract my exhaustion. Christmas morning was beautiful hysteria as we exchanged family Christmas traditions and then, of course, the famous laid back turkey.
This year, we are 1,500 km from our parents and it is time to start our own Christmas traditions. It’s hard to believe. As a person who loves to host and as a priest, one wouldn’t think it would be this hard. I just can’t imagine Christmas without our East Coast family.
I have not sunk into despair, though, and it is starting to feel like Christmas here. The white Christmas helps a lot! I don’t think I have had a white Christmas in about 3 years. When Marc was in Columbus, I started putting up outdoor Christmas lights, something I have never done. I never had a ladder tall enough to reach the high gutters of the rectory in Antigonish. I found the greenery and put it in our new windows.
One big missing piece was my Christmas baking, which, I guess I should say was never really mine. Mom has 3 sisters still alive who always found a few extra cookies and squares to send me at Christmas. I think they took pity on me because Mom does not have that same creamy thumb they have, and so how would I ever learn? So Christmas baking was Aunt Tappy’s cookies and strawberry jam which was easy as anything to make, but never really tasted right without her garden grown berries and Aunt Shirley’s peanut butter balls and plum jelly. Mom has one Christmas specialty I am especially fond of, Hello Dollies. She also makes wonderful shortbread.
So, this year, I am the resident baker. My first batch of shortbread was a total failure. I forgot the cornstarch, so had these beautiful creamy fried egg looking things. I was encouraged when I scraped them into the compost and they had a creamy, crumbly texture. The second batch got rave reviews. The first batch of Hello Dolly’s are delectable.
Not being a baker, it has taken me 5 months to discover 1) My oven’s hotspots and 2) I don’t own a large mixing bowl. With all the powder flying around this kitchen–flour, cocoa, icing sugar–this needs to be addressed. I also need cookie tins!!
So, today, I made these delectable Chocolate, salt and pepper cookies. They are very rich so I can’t tackle more than one at a time. They contain white pepper, black pepper, sea salt and fleur de sel on top. They have that irresistable combination of salty and sweet and once they are happily swirling in your tummy the pepper kicks in. What fun!
Oh, and one last bit of Christmas cheer. For the past four years we have had the benefit of a fresh, Guysborough County Christmas tree given to the rectory. Yesterday morning, we discussed whether we wanted to venture out and get a fresh tree. We had almost decided against it, until I went to All Saints’ King City for clericus Christmas lunch. A fresh tree had been left there with no takers. So we bundled it into the car and it is now sitting in our living room, awaiting decorations at my traditional birthday tree trimming.
So, finally, it is beginning to look and feel a bit like Christmas.