On Christmas Eve, Rob and I celebrated The Feast of the Nativity at St. Mary's in Bonita Springs. We had visited this church twice before, but like all holy days many showed up for this particular service...many we had never seen before...strangers all, driven by the need to participate in one of the most holy of days in the church. It was lovely; bright red poinsiettas, candles softly glowing, priests, deacons, acolytes, and torch bearers all garbed in flowing robes of creamy white accented by a royal choir robed in periwinkle blue. Beautiful carols were sung by all. A few ancient songs, that only the choir could handle, brought us all into an earlier time of Christian worship. The organist was in his glory...driving his center stage machine like he was coming around the winning corner of the Indy 500. Incense was delivered regardless of allergies...after all Christmas is a holy day. Everything and everyone was doused at least once from near and then again from afar. The service began at 9:30 p.m. and we were on our way home at 12:40 p.m. Two plus hours, although lovely and spiritual, left Rob and I both wanting our bed and wondering how our knees and back had knelt, stood, and sat for so long.
I had been feeling a bit sad because neither Cathy, Lalo nor Cheri were able to join us in sunny Florida this year...after all they had work...for which we are grateful, given our nation of unemployment. The Christmas Eve service sparked me up, made me feel more Christmasey.
Christmas morning brought with it a light breakfast and then the opening of our gifts from Cheri, Cathy, and Lalo. While last night's gala of song, solemn eucharist, and incense had cheered me, opening gifts without the kids was still a bit of a kicker.
Our neighbors, Larry and Mary, who were returning north for their family Christmas, had been thoughtful about our impending aloneness and thus had spread the word to the correct neighbors who were planning a progressive Christmas Day dinner. We were invited! We didn't know most of these people prior to this event. Rob knew two of the men from golf and I knew Judy, a wonderful massage therapist, who lives on our street. But really, we didn't know each other.
Cocktails started the early afternoon at Barry and Regina's. Drinks flowed along with good cheer, stories were told, light finger foods served and after two hours of getting acquainted and breaking the ice, we all returned to our respective homes to get ready for dinner. I prepared my dish for this portion of the progression; the only dish I can make without a recipe. Rob had football planned for this interlude, but soon he was flung back in his chair and snoring softly with occasional snorts. (I later learned every single husband in our merry group engaged in this exact same behavior. Was it the wine? I think not...Rob is a master at this behavior and needs no wine to achieve perfection.)
The "main course" was served at Bob and Mary's home. It proved to be everything and more that a Christmas dinner could embody. The foods were tasty dishes of carbrohydrates, proteins, and vegetables all done with novelty and stories of origins. My offering had been discovered many years ago at a Noffke Christmas party on Kerlikowske Road in rural Coloma; simple, tasty, corn pudding.
We indulged in one more eating saga at Jim and Janet's home. The fare consisted of cookies, cakes, and wonderful fresh fruit. Good conversation followed each meal setting. The light banter became more comfortable and friendly as the evening progressed. Perhaps the wine? We exchanged "white elephant" gifts amid much laughter and joking. Christmas with strangers...who would have thought it could be so lovely?