Finally … the Intangibles
Dec 27th, 2007 by Sonja

I wrote at some length about my best Christmas gift the other day.  But here are some other gifts I received on Christmas.

We have a new tradition now … spaghetti for dinner.  I spent a couple of hours making a (new) recipe for dinner.  Chicken Cassoulet with Acorn Squash.  It smelled delightful and yummy.  Just the thing for a winter dinner.  The thing about cassoulets is that they are soupy stews that you bake.  So I did as directed.  For the last half hour you should remove the dutch oven lid.  When the time came, I was feeling lazy and LightBoy loves to help in the kitchen.  So I directed him to remove the lid from the pot.  It seemed simple enough, but just pushing his envelope of responsibility so that he would feel necessary.  No.  It was too much.  He had not traversed the foibles of a heavy pan in the oven with the rack and the heat and everything before.  No one is really clear on what happened, but the cassoulet ended up on the floor, along with LightBoy’s self-esteem.  I hugged him and reassured him and mentally kicked myself in the a$$ for not getting up off the couch.  Then I promptly forgot everything I ever knew about the properties of heat transfer and suggested that he pick up the blazing pan lid that was sitting on the floor without an oven mitt.

LightHusband and LightMom made spaghetti for dinner after that.  I just could not recover.

And discovered that after years and years of thinking that Christmas dinner had to be special … it’s really the people, not the food.  We usually have roast beef because I love it.  Spaghetti was really wonderful.  They dressed it up pretty nicely with red wine and leeks and cut up steak and chicken sausage and whatever else they could find in the frig.  But it was wonderful.  I think it was one of the best Christmas dinners ever.  Yummilicious.  And there were no hours spent preparing it.  Half an hour.  And we all love it.  New tradition!

I heard two new family stories that will remain with me for a long time.  I’m working through them to find the nuggets to incorporate them into my life.  But they were gifts to me this Christmas.  One was a back story that filled in the gaps and holes of a story I’ve known for a long time.  The other was new.   They were both about my paternal grandparents.

When my dad was little, his paternal grandmother lived with them.  His mother was my grandfather’s second wife after my grandfather was widowed with three children.  So my grandmother raised 3 stepchildren and 2 of her own children in a house the size of a small apartment AND she had her mother-in-law living with her.  By all accounts, my great-grandmother was not the easiest person to live with either.  All accounts meaning my grandfather told me this one day.  I also happen to know that she was a person of fairly deep faith (because my father still pretty bitterly resents having to sit and read her Bible to her when she couldn’t see anymore … hehehe … he used to try to skip verses in the Psalms and she’d know right away 😉 ).  Just so you have some context.  So one day my grandmother was in the kitchen making dinner or something and fuming about something my grandfather had done or was doing or something and said to my great-grandmother (her mother-in-law), “When will men stop being so stubborn?”  and the story goes that my great-grandmother replied, “When women stop being so willful.”  Now, don’t reply to that … just let it sit with you for a while.  It’s pretty deep.

The other story is about my grandfather.  I’ve known this much for a long time … that one Christmas when my dad was young, my grandfather got grumpy about something, collected all his gifts and refused to open them until April.  Everytime my father got a little grinchy about Christmas or a birthday or any celebration, that story was hauled to explain it.  So I asked my father about that this week.  Why did his dad put all his gifts away that year?  My dad got a funny grin on his face and said, “Oh, I think he (my grandfather) was mad because he told everyone not to spend so much money on him. And he was making a point.”  We were all sitting around the table when that was said … LightHusband, LightGirl and LightBoy all turned and looked at me … AHA, that’s where you get it from!  My dad went on, “My father … from the first time he began earning money … always, scrupulously put 10% of his earnings into savings.  So he always had money set aside to help his family.  He didn’t think people should spend so much on him, but it should be spent on other things.”

My intangible gifts … I’ll be pondering them as I continue on my journey.  You’ll probably be reading more about these thoughts as we enter the new year, but I’ve been appreciating them in the Christmas afterglow.

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