The Christmas season is upon us and the kids and I have been having a lot of fun preparing for the Holidays. As you know, we enjoy baking for our family and friends and we are off to a great start. Our pretzels, Chocolates, Chocolate truffles, Italian Wedding and Chocolate Chip Cookies are done. Next up on our list are the Rugelach, Pinoli Cookies, Sesame Cookies and Coconut Macaroons. Yum! I've never made Rugelach before but I have my mom's recipe, which is delicious, so I can't wait to try them later on today.
Ava and I went to see the New York City Ballet perform the Nutcracker last weekend in Lincoln Center. We went to Bar Boulud beforehand for brunch, one of Daniel Boulud's restaurants that I've been dying to try, and had an amazing time together. We've decided to make this a yearly tradition and I'm already looking forward to next year. She's a really funny kid and decided that it would be fun to play a combination of Top Chef, as she was really excited to find out that the chef is a guest judge on that program from time to time, and Chopped. I enjoyed listening to her critique the food. It was funny to hear my five year old describe her potatoes prepared by a top chef in NYC as being "overdone".
Right now, I'm sitting in the living room all alone in the quiet with nothing lighting the room other than the white lights on our Christmas tree. The room looks beautiful. A ceramic Santa and Mrs. Claus sits on our mantle. My Grandmother, my mom's mom, made them both. She and my Grandfather ran a ceramics studio in their basement in Long Island. Their garage housed two kiln and my Grandfather was in charge of pouring the molds. I used to love painting ceramics alongside my Grandma and her friends when I was a little girl. My Grandma made the Santa and Mrs. Claus many years ago for my Aunt Maryann, my dad's brothers wife and also my Godmother. She was very special to me and we were very close. Last Christmas she sent the ceramics home with my parents for me. She wanted me to have them because they were made by my Grandma. She knew how much I loved her and thought it was important that I have them. Aunt Maryann passed away this past August. All of the Holidays on my dad's side were hosted at her and my Uncle Andy's house. Some of my fondest memories growing up were Christmas's a their home with tons of family around as well as our annual girls versus guys game of Trivial Pursuit.
My cousins asked me to do a reading at her funeral and I was honored to do so. I remember going to her home afterwards and soaking everything in. Waves of sadness overcame me, thinking about how much things were going to change now. It was hard to be in her home without her there.
Another great loss this year was the recent death of my uncle. My mom's brother. He passed away unexpectedly less than two weeks ago. I still can't believe it. I loved him very much. He was one of the funniest guys you'd ever meet. Very witty and always making fun of everyone in his path. It was all in good fun though. Everyone enjoyed being around him. We've spent Thanksgiving and Easter with them for many years and his absence, along with the fact that my aunt will be moving across the country as a result, has left me very sad. Things have changed tremendously on both sides of our family this year with the loss of two very special people close to my heart. Close to all of our hearts.
Stephen and I planned to go to the hospital to say goodbye to my uncle the day he died but we were too late. He called me at 4:15 to say that he was leaving work and we'd go to the hospital as soon as he got home. My sister called two minutes later to say that it was too late. On our walk back from Tae Kwon Do that afternoon, I turned to Ava and told her that I had something very important to talk to her about. She's spent a lot of time with my aunt and uncle and adores them both. She put her hand up and said, "Don't tell me." She knew that something was going on and that I had been worried about him. I pressed on and told her that it was very important that I explain something to her. She said, "Don't tell me, I already know."
That night at dinner talk turned to how her week was at school. Two of the class hamsters had escaped from their cages. We knew that the baby hamster was found alive and well, but weren't sure what ever became of the older one known as Jack "Hammy" Hamster, so Stephen asked, "So Ava, what ever happened to Jack "Hammy" Hamster?" To which she replied... "You know, the same thing that happened to Uncle Fran".
Uncle Fran's Memorial Service is next week, just a few days before Christmas. Back in August, my uncle bought airline tickets for my cousins, their four kids, to fly to the East coast Christmas week so we could all be together at my parents house on Christmas day. It's been many years since we've all been together. In fact, we haven't all been together for Christmas since my Grandparents were alive. I'm very grateful that we will all be together this year. Naturally though, it will be a difficult year. I'm going to miss him very much. We're all going to miss him very much.
I know that as time goes on, we will all begin to heal. Nothing is more great or merciful than the gift of time.
One last thing that I'd like to share with you is that Ava's amazing teacher lent us a book to read together in light of all that's been going on entitled, "Houdini was..." It was written by a group of 2nd graders in honor of their class pet who died, who also happened to be a hamster. She warned me that the last page was going to make me cry so I may want to read it alone first.
As a wise person once said..."Don't cry that it's over...be happy that it happened."
Thank you Aunt Maryann and Uncle Francis for all of the love you've given and all of the memories you've helped our families create. You will be missed.