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Life as a Scot in California

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Christmases Past

Posted by berkeleyscot on September 21, 2007

Planning Christmas in California for P&M makes me think of the
Tong family Christmases we shared in the 1970s.
Richard and I and P&M, were relatively newlyweds, living in tiny apartments, with no room to host family Christmases.
One year Richard and I wanted to be on our own for the holiday. We were living in Cambridge (UK) where Richard was completing his Ph.D.
We wanted to experience a real Cambridge Christmas, with a carol service in King’s College chapel and walk on the frozen River Cam.
Besides, I wanted to cook a small Christmas dinner for just the 2 of us in our studio apartment.
I’ll always remember that cozy Christmas when we were happy newlyweds.
But we never repeated Christmas-by-ourselves until we came to US.
We had to endure the “in-law sulk,” which involved heavy sighs and “You will miss us when we are not here for you to come to at Christmas!”
But we all got over that and I do have fond memories of the in-law family Christmases.
MIL cooked and baked everything herself, spending hours in her tiny kitchen. FIL assisted by plying her and the rest of us with pre-lunch sherry.
One year he made exotic cocktails, which immediately sent SIL, M, to bed for the rest of the day.
There was no dining room in their small house so we crowded around the table in the small living room. There were never enough chairs, but we made do and perched on the arms of armchairs. We bumped elbows as we took fork and knife to the generous roast beef and sloshed gravy on the Yorkshire puddings.
We pulled the Christmas crackers, put on our paper crowns and groaned at the corny jokes that were in each cracker.
We could have been a family in a Mike Leigh movie.
Lunch was timed to end a few minutes before three o’clock so that we could always gather round the telly to watch the Queen. But as soon as her Majesty began to wish us a Merry Christmas, Uncle F declared he had to go home.
No, he wouldn’t wait for tea, he’d best be off before dark. Uncle F lived alone and had nothing to rush home for, but someone always had to abandon the Queen to drive him home.
I do miss him and the in-laws and we will toast them with sherry when P&M are here.
We have already promised that we will not serve exotic cocktails.

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