Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

When I was a little girl, my Dad would gather us all in the living room. We would snuggle down with blankets and pillows in front of the fire and he would read us "A Christmas Carol".

Little did I suspect that the story would be prophetic.

While we still lived in Windsor, Alan and I developed the tradition of hosting Christmas morning brunch for our families and close friends. Brunch is so much easier to arrange than dinner. And you can have such fun with it.

One year, I made tortiere, sculpting little birds out of pastry dough to set on top. The following year, some neighbours of my Mum's were selling their homemade tortieres to make a little extra Christmas money. Mum bought a few and brought them along.

My mother-in-law, tasting hers, complimented me on it, adding, " I think it's even better than last year's." Had I been older, and wiser, I would have accepted the compliment and not told her where the pies had actually come from.

Of course, I had been up late the night before, getting everything ready. Just as we were heading off to bed, the tree fell over. If it had been just us, I'd've left the silly thing where it was. But my sister Eileen was staying with us and would have been deeply disappointed to come down Christmas morning to a seemingly dead tree. So we stayed up and fixed it.

It was a good crowd that morning. My parents. Alan's parents. Eileen. Several of Alan's siblings and his nephew Ian, celebrating his very first Christmas. Our good friends and our godson.

As it turned out, that was our last Christmas in Windsor, and the last of the Christmas brunches. Maybe that's why it stands out so strongly in my memory.

Or maybe it's because of all the ghosts.

We lost Eileen ten years ago. Three of our parents and an honourary father-in-law have died in the last four years.

And while we are so grateful for the family and friends we do have. And we will enjoy every moment that we spend with them and with each other, there will be many ghosts at the feast.

Christmas is a bittersweet time. I hope, in the final rush of preparation, you can find more sweet than bitter.

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