We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Elf…

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Elf…

The Christmas plan e-mail came yesterday from my sister Marla, the organizational elf.

 “We need to pin down our Christmas plans. We had tentatively set Saturday, December 23rd as the date of our family get-together at the Farm and it would be for dinner that night, with people arriving shortly after lunch or whenever you wanted to get there.

 This year we want to make it easier so we don’t have to spend all our free time cooking … we thought about getting something like a variety of ribs, chopped beef, beans, potato salad … we can supplement with whatever we’d like to add to that.”

 “Since most of the kids are not kids anymore, we’re inviting them to bring a ‘white elephant’ and we’ll have one big exchange. Maybe this year will be more fun with more people. The last few years have not generated enough stealing…

 Please send Mother the list of items you and your spouse and kids may want. Be specific — and if a gift card is better — include that too. Send your lists to me and I will forward them to her.

 I need your input before we finalize these plans and if you have any conflicts let me know ASAP.

 — Marla

Reading this, you’d think that our family Christmases hum along merrily, proceeding along a well-defined and smoothly run course.

You’d think that, but you’d be wrong.

Our family is a great one for plans. In fact, we generally start making plans for Christmas a year in advance — typically before the leftovers of that year’s celebration have begun to cool.

The conversation generally focuses on what went wrong and how to avoid it next year. It’s a common theme. Too much food, too many gifts, too much work.

We have agreed, every year for the past 30 years, that beginning next year we are going to keep it simple.

Of course, keeping it simple involves very elaborate and long-range planning on our part. We’ve been studying this problem for decades without once ever having achieved the goal of celebrating Christmas without each one of us, at some point thinking, “I wish I could run out of here screaming.”

I know I have.

Despite Marla’s well thought out plans and our pledge to follow them, the truth is, very few of us stick to the script.

Except, I should say, for me.

There was the year we drew names, and we were only to buy a gift for that person. No extra gift buying allowed. Which I did. I followed the plan.

But of course, Marla and Darla just had to bring “a couple of little things.” “A couple” as in a couple dozen. For everybody.

So did Sharla. I could usually count on her, being just as shopping-challenged as I was. But no, she was flaunting the rules just as brazenly as Marla and Darla.

So I’m sitting there, Karla Scrooge, a stack of gifts piling up to my knees while they murmur … “it’s nothing” … “just a little something” … “I bought this a long time ago.”

Which was really so not the point. The point was …we had a plan, and I was the only one sticking to it!

The year we were keeping it simple at the farmhouse, one of us brought a set of Christmas china from home, complete with silver, because paper plates were tacky.

The year we were “keeping it healthy” because three of our number were on strict diets, we had to open an annex for the dessert room.

You’d think I would have learned my lesson, but again, you’d be wrong.

It has taken several years for me to realize that no matter how elaborate the plan or how much allegiance we all swear to “cutting back,” it is just not going to happen. There will always be a loophole.

Here’s the loophole in this year’s plan — “We can supplement with whatever we’d like to add,” which could mean anything from organizing a live Nativity (complete with camel), to roasting an entire pig on a spit.

We’re going to have too many gifts, too much food and most of all, too many opinions, to have a calm, quiet Christmas. The truth is, we like our Christmases merry and bright, bright, bright!

Even if it does set off an occasional flash fire.


Fruit Cake Cookies

  • 2 lbs. chopped dates
  • 1/2 lb. candied cherries
  • 1/2 lb. candied pineapple
  • 1 lb. chopped pecans
  • 2 1/2 c. sifted flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 c. butter
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs

Cut fruit into large pieces. Sift flour, soda, salt and cinnamon. Scatter about a cupful over fruit and nuts. Cream butter. Add sugar gradually, creaming until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. To creamed mixture, add fruits and nuts and remaining sifted dry ingredients; mix well. Drop from teaspoons onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool slightly. Makes about 25 cookies.


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