Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Family is the marrow of our Christmas. It provides flavor, and substance. The family I grew up with is rather like the family in "Little Women". All of us agree on this. First and always first they cry "Jenn is JO!" This is an embaressment. You may recall Jo is the passionate one, the one who sighs " I confess I sometimes crave violence"? The ironic thing is that I DO Christmas. You know, " Peace on earth, goodwill to men"? I do that. Jenn the Barbarian.

My sister Laura is Meg. She is compassionate, loyal, wise...a bit bossy and a great help in the kitchen at Christmas. No, I have never burned her hair with a curling iron. However, occasionally I burn her brown and serve rolls. My sister Sarah is Amy. She is feminine, artsy and forever the youngest even though my brother was born 5 years after her. She's a terrific cook and her Christmas desserts are legendary. Last but not least, my brother James is BETH . Other than the fact that he is the wrong sex, the similarity to Beth is marked. He really is too good. So good that at one point our family contemplated nominating him for canonization. St. Jim the Nice. But as I believe he would have to die (like BETH) to become a saint, I am glad that we did not. He mainly drinks spiked eggnog and sneezes at my cat's fur at Christmas, but is cheerfully willing to move furniture upon request. (perhaps the "cheerfully" part is due to the eggnog?)

My turkey soup is boiling cheerfully at this point! No turkey soup is complete without lots of carrots. I get about 6 fresh ones, peel them and chop them into 1/2" rounds , then scoop 'em into the pot.They swirl about, adding flavor, some vitamin that's good for the eyes, and much-needed color.

Color is added to the family mix at Christmas by the amazing progeny of my brothers and sisters. My sister Laura's son, Taylor, justt turned 20, is usually acting out some wild experience he's had, leaving us rolling on the floor with laughter. He will no doubt be a Hollywood script writer that creates video games on the side one day. I have already asked him to take me with him to the Academy Awards. Sarah's son Nate is just a few months younger than Taylor. A track man at CalBizerkly, he just won a Christmas one-mile race called the Eggnog Run. He had to drink 10 oz. of EGGNOG (blah!) every 200 yards! Really good at chugging and running, Nate wiped out the competition with a 5.5 minute time. This Christmas, he sits on my couch, talking passionately about politics. I think he might be a Senator one day.

My daughter, Princess Lauren, the psychology grad student, talks a little, laughs a little more, cooks a lot, and analyzes it all. Then she plays with 2 yr. old Gracie... my brother's child. Gracie amuses herself by doing laps around the house--on tiptoe. Usually with an adult right behind her, on tiptoe also. Laughing and singing, she spreads almost visible love and star-dust wherever she goes. Only Gracie could get all of us adult-sized people, including my 85 yr. old mother, to play 'Ring Around The Rosie" with her 7 times. And only Gracie could get away with laughing at us while we 'all fall down' and she doesn't. Ha! Do you see leadership potential there or what???

Hmmm....This soup has got great potential too. Into the simmering pot, I throw 3 chicken bouillon cubes for salt and flavor. I chop a whole head of fresh celery and a bunch of Swiss chard, and dump them in too. I boil them for about 10 minutes, then add about 3 cups of dried Rotini shaped pasta and boil for another 10. Salt and pepper to taste. Best the next day of course!

It seems like Christmas takes a while to come and then a while to leave us. Like a great Turkey Soup it is to be savored, not just at the time, but a few days hence. Unlike soup, however, family memories never have to leave us completely. They just get sweeter with time.

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