We’re on our second artificial Christmas tree. Our first one came from the Hillcrest Ace Hardware in San Diego and twinkled every Christmas for twenty years. But last year, expecting the usual, I opened the long tree box, found the elusive plastic feet, set the top on the bottom, plugged in the cord…nothing. No twinkle, no glimmer, nothing. A quick trip to Lowe’s solved that lack of twinkle and this year, the new tree lit up as expected.
Setting up a tree for a few weeks seems like a lot of trouble, but then, there’s the fun of unwrapping old friends: Sweetie’s yearly angel, the beautiful glass squares from Patty and Jim, Nikki’s sparkly cat ornaments, my Gramma’s swan and penguin that Ginny gave me, the cherub Muth brought me from Brussels, the gold leaf we got at Wall Drug, and Lara’s wonderful red birds. Putting up the tree certainly unwraps the memories.
In December 1984, we were finally getting settled in Los Angeles after the move from Vashon. The Sweetie was training educational software in Texas and I had a job at Stratton’s, a fancy continental restaurant in Westwood. He flew home on Christmas Eve and I had Christmas Day off, so we decided to have a Christmas picnic at the beach. On my way home from work I picked up California rolls at Cowboy Sushi, bialys and lox cream cheese at I N’Joy Bagels, and a tin of chocolate chip cookies from Mrs. Fields. Bob bought the finest champagne Westward Ho had to offer and the next morning, we tossed our Mexican rug in the trunk, and set off for Santa Monica. The beach was almost empty—a few gulls lurking nearby to snatch up our crumbs, one lone Christmas surfer, and endless blue skies. The only thing missing was The Beach Boys.
The Fosters show up in several of my favorite Yule time memories. There was that year we went to D. C. and saw a Man Ray exhibit at the Smithsonian, shopped at fancy city malls, ate Ethiopian food in Adams Morgan, and cooked an elaborate Christmas dinner at Dick’s house. Then there was the winter we decided to fly down for a San Diego Christmas. December weather in the Northwest can be treacherous, and sure enough, a blizzard cancelled our flight. Not to be deterred we thought, “We’ll just drive. No treachery there!” Six hours later we were at a dead stop on the 205 around Portland where we stayed for eight more hours. We burned through one jar of Ruby’s special strawberry jam, two tubes of Pringles, a tin of gingerbread men, a bag of Cheetos, and our backup Diet Cokes. Luckily for me, we brought along paper cups; after all that Coke, there was no choice.
So turn on the tree, bring in the dogs, gather up all your special ones, wrap up in that new silky throw and listen to these wistful Christmas songs.
BTW, forget about that enormous, shiny Costco pumpkin pie. Buy a frozen Marie Calendar pie shell and make this instead.
Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
- 1 tablespoon gelatin
- 1⁄4 cup cool water
- 3 whole eggs, separated
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cup cooked or canned pumpkin
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoons each, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger
- 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
- Whipped cream
Soak the gelatin 1/4 cup cold water Separate eggs, reserve whites in metal bowl. Beat the egg yolks slightly. Combine beaten yolks with 1⁄2 cup sugar, pumpkin, milk, salt and spices in the top of a double boiler. Cook ingredients over boiling water, stirring frequently until thick. Stir in the soaked gelatin until dissolved. Remove from the cook top and chill until mixture begins to set. 30 minutes to 1 hour. Beat egg whites with 1⁄2 c. sugar. Fold pumpkin mixture into egg whites. Pour into baked pie shell. Refrigerate