January 4, 2009

12th Night

Filed under: family,misc,This is not a mommy blog — Duchess @ 4:30 pm

It isn’t quite 12th Night, but as this is getting close to the last time one can decently use the c word until next November, I bring you, “Catching up: Christmas chez Duchess.”

One week before Christmas, The Piper’s Son fetched me from the airport.  I was coming back from a further month’s visit to the US, making 2008 the only year I have spent more than weeks in my native country since 1983.  I was glad to be home (England home) and not thinking of travelling again for awhile.  

A couple of days later I was again at Heathrow Terminal 5 to pick up Elder Daughter and her boyfriend.  Terminal 5 is the brand new state of the art way to fly long haul into London.  Here are the brand new state of the art fountains outside the door:

Terminal 5 fountains

Inside there are brand new state of the art baggage handling systems that didn’t work at all when T 5 first opened last spring, so they solved the problem by putting all bags, wherever to or from, on a bus to Milan.

They’ve sorted that now, it seems.  Elder Daughter was arriving with boyfriend.  In the distance, through the NO ENTRY doors I spotted a young, bearded man pushing pink suitcases.  I pointed him out to my ex husband, and, a moment later, we watched our daughter, swinging her violin, emerge through the doors.

I don’t have any pictures of that lovely, grubby, travel weary, grown up child whom I had not seen for one long year.  I simply cried and held her and then shook hands with boyfriend, a new acquaintance.  The suitcases, so clean, pink, and Legally Blond when she left for Uganda 15 months earlier were filthy.  Rats’ piss, she said casually.  The violin was the only item of value we sent her away with that hadn’t been stolen, because no one knew what it was or what it was worth.  Oh, guitar?  people would ask.  Yes, she answered.  A very small guitar.

My daughter worked for the VSO, the British version of the Peace Corps, posted to a small NGO, the Peace Education Trust, in the corner where Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo meet.  While she was there she looked after some of the most vulnerable people on the continent — deaf and blind children and HIV/Aids orphans.  Incidentally, she also set up youth volunteering options for much shorter periods — two weeks to several months — so get in touch if you have a young person looking for something worthwhile to do between high school and college, or college and grad school.  My daughter promises me it is safe, though readers of this blog will know I have fretted.

Meanwhile, back to Christmas with newly home Elder Daughter placing the dove that always sits on top of our Christmas tree

I admit it is a haphazard Christmas tree.  There are clothes pin and silver foil angels made by the children, felt snowmen and paper and glue stocking decorations.  Little wooden ornaments sent from Germany and glass ones from America carefully stashed in Granny’s suitcase.  There are unlovely, but loved, plastic ones meant to be hung on low branches, safe from babies, kittens, puppies.

My younger daughter is rather proud of our tree.  Her friends, she says, have Trees with Themes.  Unlike ours.

The Piper’s Son was eager to show me that five years at Fire Lighting School had not been spent in vain.

All the children grumbled when I said we might do without the knitted nativity (a Duchess hand knit original) so I put it on the windowsill as usual.

They never fail to remark on how fat Mary is, compared to poor little Joseph (in green next to her), but I deny this has anything to do either with my inability to knit to gauge or to Joseph’s weakness of character. All women who have just had babies are larger than life, I say, and husbands are naturally subdued.

Over the years the shepherd, poor thing, has lost his lamb and one of the kings has lost his gift. When I am a grandmother, my grandchildren’s parents will know more about fat Marys and I’ll knit up celebratory frankincense, myrhh and a whole stable full of lambs.

The presents were finally wrapped and Santa did come at last.  The cunning disguises in everyone’s stocking were a great hit.

So were the ping pong ball shooting guns (oops not politically correct, but I’m pleading years of a dove topped tree in mitigation)

The Piper’s Son gave us all bean seeds and a potted plant, according to our characters and gardening abilities.  His father got broad beans and a cactus.  I got runner beans and an orchid.  He gave his older sister and her boyfriend climbing beans and an olive tree, his baby sister dwarf beans and a jade plant (the jade plant is nicknamed “money tree” — the Baby has expensive tastes; her friends with themed Christmas trees may provide a hint).

After presents everyone pitched in to Christmas dinner cooking, especially when the cooker (=British stove, not the cook) broke down and dishes had to be shuffled oven to oven.  Everyone, that is except the Ex, who was busy enjoying his Christmas reading

Elder Son normally makes the Christmas pudding (from scratch!) but he was 8000 miles away, so this year’s was a store bought, out of date, emergency item I had picked up a few years earlier in case Elder Son’s plane didn’t arrive in time for heavy duty chef detail.  I shoved it in the cupboard and was too embarrassed to give it to the local old people’s home once it went out of date, but not at all embarrassed to resurrect it this year and serve it up to my family. 

Holly stolen from the neighbours over the road spruced it up nicely.  We did pour flaming brandy over it, but the ensuing excitement, what with the table also catching fire, means the before picture is all I’ve got.

And very nice the pudding was too, even after.

Crumbs!  I haven’t got to Boxing Day or New Year’s Eve at the Rock of Gibraltar pub on the Oxford Canal.  But I think that is all I have energy for, for now.


  1. This was such a lovely post. Thanks so much for sharing your family’s Christmas with us. Lots of people here have themed trees too. We have colored balls that bring the whole tree together but still use every single ornament the girls have made over the years. I can’t imagine the tree without them. MHS also started giving me White House historical ornaments for my birthday which I treasure so maybe we have a theme afterall…Childhood memories and US Presidential tree? Happy New Year, Duchess!

    Comment by Smart Mouth Broad — January 4, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

  2. It sounds like a lovely holiday with your family! I can’t wait to hear about Boxing Day now!

    Comment by Twenty Four At Heart — January 4, 2009 @ 6:05 pm

  3. I didn’t realize at first that the daughter at the airport was the one who has been in Africa – is she home to stay now, or is she going back? Either way, so nice that you were able to see her for Christmas!

    Comment by Liz — January 5, 2009 @ 10:12 am

  4. The Ex looks like Santa Claus–or, shall I say, Father Christmas…

    Comment by ByJane — January 5, 2009 @ 12:20 pm

  5. Move over, Dickens, the Duchess has reinvented Christmas. Your post flows on a current of emotion, carrying us along with you. Thank you for sharing it with a world that needs joy. -SfPE

    Comment by Steve from Planet Earth — January 6, 2009 @ 7:19 am

  6. This was a beautiful post for what must have been a beautiful holiday. And I’d just like to add a ‘well done’ for your obviously amazing daughter and her recent experiences. It takes a tremendous amount of empathy, heart and courage, all of which she obviously has! Happy New Year.

    Comment by Tricia — January 6, 2009 @ 7:10 pm

  7. How lovely of you to carry us along on your Christmas celebration. That son with his personalized plants is a genius. I’m going to give this some careful thought and maybe do the same for my children next year. I’m not sure they’ll “get it” but at least I will. Glad daughter is home safe and sound and hope it’s long term and not just a visit. Can’t wait for boxing day update.

    Comment by Midlife Slices — January 7, 2009 @ 7:22 am

  8. Amen to everything that has been said above. Sounds like a perfect family Christmas … almost makes me revise my thinking on the whole festival! I blame too many themed trees for my jaundiced views. So glad to hear your daughter is home, safe and sound.

    Comment by Tessa — January 8, 2009 @ 1:34 pm

  9. […] mentioned earlier that on Christmas Day the cooker broke down.  It wasn’t unusable, but it was definitely […]

    Pingback by DuchessOmnium - Island to island » The gasman cometh — February 18, 2009 @ 3:56 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

CommentLuv badge

Freely hosted by Weblogs.us. Powered by WordPress. Theme by H P Nadig