A bigger surprise was the flair Amir showed for decorating: spacing the lights perfectly, crisscrossing the red and gold garlands nicely. Hanging the plain balls deep inside, and the fancier ones on the tips. Choosing just the right length hook to allow the ornament to dangle without brushing the branch below it. Placing the fragile items up high, and the heavier, dog-proof ones near the bottom.
No presents under the tree, but everybody's used to that. Ali and Cordelia showed up eventually, bearing some cards and packages. Tazzy got a bone so big she trotted around the house several times with it clamped in her jaws, trying to figure out where to stash it. Amir won $100 on a scratch ticket. I got a jazz cd, which became the soundtrack for our dinner.
This time we all fit around the table for a gracious and leisurely meal. We toasted everyone's health and happiness with sparkling cider in the flutes I had bought for Thanksgiving, but thankfully didn't get to use for the ruinously expensive champagne. (That ended up being poured into appropriately lovely vintage crystal, which made a lovely "ting!" The flutes I had hurriedly purchased go "thonk!") Ali had made a fire in the fireplace, so we eventually ended up in the library for coffee and dessert.
The tree, the decorations, the meal, and the opportunity to gather together were my gift to my family. The food was delicious, if I do say so myself. With no lights except the strings of twinkly bulbs, the fire, and lots of candles, the house looked very pretty. Everyone was relaxed and mellow.
My kids have never whined for stuff, although they always got plenty of it anyway. I came across this note from Ali recently, typical of his sweet self:
I don't care what you get me. Thank you for reading this note, the only thing I request is for you to sign this paper so I know you read this.