Wednesday, January 27, 2021

PANDEMIC DIARY - How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 7 - A Christmas Tale


 To quote Anthony Newley in "Stop The World, I Want To Get Off" - "Thirty-five years, Evie, thirty-five years."
As many of you know, I'm a Christmas-holic.  For thirty-five years, give or take, Richard and I have hosted a holiday party for around 35-40 friends (sometimes more, a few times less) - first in our Studio City home and now in Ojai.
When we left Manhattan and moved to California, our party was always on Christmas Eve for all us ex-pat NYers whose families were still back east, and all our other ex-pat friends from across the U.S. who came to L.A. to work in "showbiz"...  We decorated every room (small trees and tall trees, Santas...) and Richard made a feast, many of which I've blogged about over the years.  Our "not native" Los Angelino transplanted friends often provided the desserts or appetizers, but Richard cooked for days... Sometimes he'd make a French peasant cassoulet -- sometimes a huge turkey and ham - or his Deer Valley chili...

... with myriad veggie, salad and pasta sides to "go with."

 Whatever he decided to make, it fed the multitudes. This party was a family affair.  All our Jewish and Gentile friends' kids were included and spent their Christmas Eves with us (sometime coinciding w/ Hanukkah), some started as young as two.  As they grew into adults, they still came.  When our surrogate daughter, Gaby, entered our life (she was around eight), her parents generously shared her with us on that night and she, too, grew up at that party.  Tradition!  
After almost three decades, we sold our home.  Of course, we threw a farewell party and invited all those friends and adult children to say goodbye to us and to the house itself.  The new owners, a young married couple, both actors (appropriately) - came as well.  Those now adult children warned them - they had spent their whole lives at our house on Christmas Eve and they would be knocking on their door come December 24th.  Tradition.  Of course, they were teasing, but it filled our hearts that those parties meant so much to them.

We moved to Ojai during the summer of 2013, knowing only our good friends, Stu and Kyle Crowner.   As fall approached, I dreaded the coming holiday season.  Did I even want to decorate?  To repeat, I'm a Christmas-holic.  I decorate!  And decorate some more!  Now that our surrogate daughter had moved to another state and our friends were no longer in our 'hood, woe was me!  But, as we were settling in, the Crowners had taken pity on us and introduced us to a few of their friends, and Richard had gotten involved in the local theater and was cast, after decades of not acting, in a small roll in a production of  Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night... Or What You Will" - so....

... with hope in my heart, I decorated (and decorated some more) and we invited the Crowners and people we barely knew, to a holiday party in our new home.  No, not Christmas Eve, but a few days earlier.  No three-course meal as in prior years, but a cocktail party leaving folks the opportunity to come early and leave to party hop in case they got other invites. We sent out invitations to around thirty people hoping ten might come.  But, everyone - and I mean everyone - came.  I had actually only met about five or six of our guests, but the evening was a great success - everything Richard made (I've blogged about our Ojai parties, as well) was devoured, from his poached salmon appetizer to his shrimp, cream concoction, as well as the cheese platters, pates and spreads.

I now know all the guests, all friends, and more friends have been included.  The only year we didn't give our Ojai holiday party was the year of the Thomas fire -- that is, until this year.
I again dreaded Christmas arriving while Richard and I were sheltering in place.  Do we decorate?  Why bother?  But as Thanksgiving passed and Christmas approached, I longed for some holiday normalcy.  We didn't buy our usual 7-8 foot tree - but a beautifully shaped four foot tree to put on our front window table.  
Richard hung the lights around our door, and we placed a small tree on our front patio table to give a holiday welcome to drivers-by.  

I need to digress, a bit.  Over the almost three decades of Studio City Christmas Eve parties at our house, we also spent every Christmas day at dear friends, Candace and Craig Anderson (who always came to our party).  Like us, they love Christmas and fill their house with gorgeous decorations.  We'd start the day with frozen cosmos, wines, appetizers, and gift giving, culminating with a perfect rib roast Christmas dinner for us, their beautiful twin daughters, Katie and Liza, and a few of their friends (who became our friends) and kids.  A sit-down dinner for almost 20. Tradition.
 After moving to Ojai, we continued to drive down to L.A. on Christmas Day to be embraced by the warmth of their family and friends -- that is, until this year.

Many of you know that Richard has become the main cook (well, chef, really) in our house during this pandemic. I've certainly written a few blogs about his pandemic meals, so we decided to create a new Christmas Eve.  Knowing how much I love rib roast, Richard decided to make that, along with popovers (his first ever), and an amazing bottle of red wine to complement his dinner.  I set the table, candles always, our Spode Christmas china...
  and sterling silver... we lit the fire, plugged in the tree lights, dimmed the house lights and savored every bite and sip, and each other.  

Christmas day supper, we had rib roast leftovers made divine with new sides and gravy.  Again, served on our Christmas china, candles glowing and toasted the Andersons.

We missed not having our holiday cocktail party.  We missed seeing our friends on Christmas Day, but we made new memories together.  It was a beautiful Christmas. Tradition Adjacent!!!