Arthur – Another Christmas Eve… But a Pass on the Lasagne


Christmas Eve. This year it was a quiet one for Judy and I. In the early evening we got a call from Kevin to tell us how their Christmas went – Australia is about 13 hours ahead of us so it was Christmas morning there. He was over at Cassie’s parents. The kids had been up since six – for the entire week as well. Kids and Christmas sleeplessness go together.

Kevin sounded tired but happy. Dutifully Louis came over to say a quick “hi” and then Zachie too. Nice to hear their little voices. Would have been nicer to see their faces though. With Cassie’s sister back home from Germany for Christmas, it seemed like it would be an enjoyable time there for all. Jessica planned to stay until after Cassie had the baby in early January. That was nice.

I was happy Kevin called. It’s times like this you realize just how far away he is. Sadly we get to only see them maybe every two years if we are lucky. A lot happens in two years and you can never compress two years of experiences into a short visit.

Dinner was tortiere, fresh baked from Farm Boy Grocery. Judy had started making lasagna earlier in the week but we hadn’t anticipated that we were going to have lasagna at Andrea’s place the previous day. I guess we really should have expected that to happen since it is a family tradition to have lasagna on Christmas eve?

Why is that anyway? As I recall, we decided to have lasagna on Christmas eve because Andrea never really liked turkey on Christmas day. All that good turkey stuff for her was not a happy meal. So Judy started making things that Andrea would like every Christmas eve: lasagna, Caesar salad and garlic bread. Judy is always so sensitive to people’s feelings. Everyone must have felt it was a great idea to do this as the tradition of lasagna stuck like glue.

For many years Christmas eve was an active one for us, more so too when my son’s friends would pop in. However confusing or active things might have been, we always knew we would be eating lasagna with the kids. Lasagna was the traditional meal.  While we didn’t do it this year at our house (can’t have it two days in a row), both Kevin and Andrea have adopted the custom. Andrea’s version that we ate Monday night was from her mother’s recipe (Judy gave each of our kids a standard recipe book when they got out on their own; Andrea when she got into her own apartment and Kevin when he moved to Australia. There are some great recipes in those “standard cookbooks” that are now common to at least three households).

When we spoke to him, Kevin told us he had served lasagna on Christmas eve to his extended family in Australia. I am happy to see that our kids have taken something from us and passed it on to their families, but the sad part is that the family getting together on Christmas eve is no more.

Some things such as lasagna dinners remain the same. Other things change. It’s pretty obvious to me that it was not the lasagna nor the turkey dinner on Christmas day that was the most memorable part of the season for us in times gone by. It was having the family around.  We really miss this now. Kevin is half way around the globe and we never share the big holiday meals. It’s great for Cassie’s parents as they will not only participate in their daughter’s festivities but of course they will be able to see their grandchildren first hand. Kevin’s kids will always feel comfortable with them and they may pick up some of the little sayings or habits of their grandparents.

Zach and Louis and the baby-to-be will know us primarily as the ones who send neat stuff to them in the mail and visit occasionally. Even Andrea is much less accessible to us now that she is married, as she has been closely adopted by her husband’s family (s). James’ folks reserve at least two Christmas get-togethers, a new year’s get together and most other major holidays.  And of course Doug and Marie live just a stone’s throw away, so they see them regularly. Their lives are now intrinsically intertwined through proximity.

I am sure Andrea appreciates the family closeness, but I sense she also sees some of our discomfort. It is difficult to maneuver such a situation as this with reasonable fairness. Our family roots are deep. So are James’family’s. We have always been the ones to convene the meals on special days and include our children in everything we do. So too have Marie and Doug. But both Judy and I notice that while we used to be so family-centric –Kevin and Andrea were always there and even their friends seemed to end up at our house – we now seem to be on the periphery.

Judy and I opened our gifts to one another on Christmas eve. My mom had forgotten she was to have dinner with us and she ate fish and chips in her apartment instead. She came down to share a glass of wine with us after dinner and then went back upstairs to watch tv. We did the same as it turned out, catching up on two sessions of the Canadian Pickers.

Afterward we went to bed, sleeping more soundly I think from the effects of the wonderful wine we bought at the Niagara winery where we celebrated our anniversary in the fall.