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Dept. of Christmas Eve

Fighting Against the Dark

I'm sitting here, listening to extremely eclectic Christmas music, the Best Tree Ever bright and shiny to my right, my beloved BB and FB in front of me. It's Christmas Eve, and, as usual, I haven't gotten everything I wanted to get done today actually done. But, as is not actually as usual, I'm not too worried about it.

I got the faux mince mix done, and it's marinating now, ready to be put into a pie tomorrow morning. I got the cranberry relish made, and I made the two dressings (a sausage dressing and one that's nominally vegetarian, although it's hardly got any vegetables in it, just loads of artery-hardening yummy fat-soaked carbs, because it's my Nana's traditional sage dressing, and I should probably end this overloaded parenthetical ark right here) and they are baking now.

Tomorrow, it'll be time to cook the goose, the corn casserole, the mashed potatoes and the Berghoff-style creamed spinach. And maybe a pumpkin pie, although one guest is bringing cheesecake, and another one is bringing a Sicilian cake. And of course it will also be time to race around, trying to make the place look a little better before the guests arrive.

But tonight ... tonight, I'm very happy.

I looked back at a few of my past Christmas posts, and I wish that I could replicate some of the elegance that occasionally glinted out from my prose. But this year, I don't have much that's elegant to say.

Tonight, we will be watching The Snowman, and It's a Wonderful Life together  (if the three of us don't conk out ... it's gotten late, and we're all exhausted.) Both of these are Christmas traditions for us.

Folks who know me know how much I love It's a Wonderful Life. It's a complicated, sophisticated, deeply realistic but ultimately hopeful little cinematic myth, and it says so much about family, love, anger, disappointment, hope, the turning of rage into joy ... it's all about fighting against the dark, and I never get tired of it, I never stop crying, or laughing, or ultimately being made that little bit happier by it.

Years ago, I wrote three little vignettes based on the movie. It's a Wonderful Life fanfic, I suppose. I present them again here, with love. (They aren't under a cut, because I can't seem to make cuts work tonight. Forgive the word dump.)


The building was cold and drafty at the best of times, the high ceilings and ornamental columns of its main room conducive to nothing more than the slow leach of heat to the outside. Tonight it was, perhaps, colder than usual; he'd let the employees go early because it was Christmas Eve, and ordered the janitor to damp the furnace. He didn't care. He'd be warm enough with the fire his man had built up in the study's fireplace.

He rolled his chair closer to the hearth, and leaned as far as he could into the warmth, then looked back at his desk. The telephone hadn't rung, not for two hours. Not since that fool had banged on the window and screamed a greeting at him - crazed smile, five o'clock shadow and wild hair, no topcoat - then disappeared.

He had felt a sour glee at that point. It seemed obvious the man had lost his senses. But his  heady victory had gradually ebbed in the dark and the silence, replaced with nagging questions and unsatisfied, fearful curiosity. Where were the sheriff and the examiner? Where were the reporters? He brought his fist to his mouth and scowled, resisting the urge to send his man to find out what was going on. He tried not to listen to the clock.
The fire died, and the room grew cold. He rolled himself around and back to his desk, retrieved the envelope he'd stuffed into a top drawer.
Eight thousand dollars. Such a small thing to him, and such a large and fatal weapon - he had thought - to his nemesis. Such a poison as would - he had thought - silence the fool and bring him to ruin in the eyes of the rabble.
He had thought.
Outside, the silence of the snowy evening gave way to something else. He heard snatches of song, the tinkle of a bell. For a fleeting moment, so quick a one that he could easily insist it had never been, he thought he heard his mother's voice. The music faded, and the laughter braided through it, and the bell.
He stayed where he was, his heart not yet ripe for the picking.
Ever since Laura (who laughed with, not at; who loved; who left too soon), the dream had been a recurring torment.
He would be walking down Main Street, a Main Street lined with people, everyone he knew. They would all be laughing. No one would speak to him. No one would let him in to the office. He would run to his home, and it would be empty, all the animals gone. He would wake, tears streaming down his face, with the memory of his brother's disapproving eyes.
(His brother had never had those eyes, of course. Nor had his sister-in-law, nor his wonderful, brave, boss of a nephew. They all loved him, and so he got through with strings on his fingers, and the occasional snootful.)
When he lost the money, it was as if he had stepped into the nightmare. He had cried on his desk, the animals around him as he tried to remember where he'd left it, and tried to forget the fury in his nephew's face.
He wasn't a praying man - none of the men in his family were - but he felt as if a prayer had been answered when she knocked softly at the door and asked what had happened. Then she asked for his help, looked into his eyes and said it wasn't his fault. It took a heck of a woman to make him believe that, but he did, mostly. And off they went, making telephone calls, and telling those they called to call others, then knocking on doors in the snowy twilight, everyone telling everyone that his nephew needed their help. And everyone answering.
It was like a festival, or a deep breath of relief, in the crazy, crowded, happy front room at their house. He proffered his basket of loose bills like a vassal to his lord. It would have been enough for him. But while everyone was singing, and she was bringing out some unexpectedly welcome eggnog, someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned, and was brought into the tweedy, still slightly wet and doggy-smelling arms of his nephew.
The hug almost sank him, but he stayed afloat, grinning like a fool. He only had to sit down and fight the tears again when the younger man asked him - him - for forgiveness.
He forgave.
She had always known there was rage at his core. She didn't know where it came from or why it bubbled through the quirky humor and the odd decisions and the steady look in his eyes.  But she never worried, because those things were the crucible through which he changed the rage, made it into something strong and good for her and the children. And somehow she had also known there was just enough fury in her own heart that he would trust her with his.
She held two secrets in that heart of hers.
The first? She had lied all those years ago, when she said she was happier home than in New York. She was only happy where he was, and if he'd given her the choice - home, or him on a tramp steamer and only a stone on which to lay her head - she'd have nicked her brother's shortest pair of dungarees, found some rubber boots and booked passage.
The second was that she knew his secret. Not the one everyone else thought he had. Everyone else thought he'd given up dreams of the world for her and for the family, for the family business. Even he still thought that, sometimes. For a few years she had thought so, too.
But she had grown to understand the truth. It was the other away around with that man. He wanted the National Geographic Magazine, yes he did, and he wanted to talk about coconuts (and she had made herself like the stuff for him), and dream about trains and aeroplanes and those blessed tramp steamers of his.
What he really wanted, though, were all those things from behind the solidity of Mr. Gower's counter, or his desk, or from under the counterpane on their bed. The look in his eyes when he'd walked, wet and angry and curious, into their leaking living room on their wedding night; that had been her first clue. Eventually she cottoned on to it.
She never told him, and when he came home this Christmas Eve in an uncontrolled panic, with the rage untransformed, she thought she had made a terrible mistake. She wasn't even sure what mistake (Him? This life? Herself?) but it seemed as if everything she thought she knew about him had been wrong.
Until she remembered the feel of his lips on her throat, the night he dropped the telephone and gave in to her. And she put aside her fear, and went to see his uncle. They would figure it out together.
And they did, and here they all were, and she was laughing and crying, and shepherding trays of coffee and eggnog to the flock that had gathered here.
She would shake later, but not in front of the children. She would do it in his arms, now that he had come back

Merry Christmas, everyone. Good Yule. Happy Bringing of the Light.


This entry was originally posted at http://kaffyr.dreamwidth.org/392563.html?mode=reply, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. You can comment there or here; I watch both.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 25th, 2015 06:21 am (UTC)
Thank you for the vignettes, and the cut seems to work just fine (As Far As I Can Tell).
Dec. 26th, 2015 08:05 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked the vignettes (and I made a separate LJ attempt at a cut, which worked. The cut attempts over on Dreamwidth, where I first posted this, never did work.)

I hope your Christmas was a wonderful one!
Dec. 25th, 2015 09:02 am (UTC)
So happy to read these vignettes again, after my annual viewing! I think my favorite of the three changes every time I read them. This year, I think it may be Mr. Potter's story.

Blessings to you and yours.
Dec. 26th, 2015 08:46 pm (UTC)
It warms my heart to know that you continue to find this worthwhile. As it happens, we were all so tired that we weren't able to to sit up and watch the movie. I'm hoping that we can do so tonight or tomorrow night.

I can understand being drawn to Mr. Potter's story; I have never stopped wondering if his heart could ever be softened - whether he learned anything from what happened that night.

I hope your Christmas was full of peace and joy.
Dec. 25th, 2015 09:04 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you for reposting this! I was just about to go find it again. <3

Merry Christmas and happy holidays. Much love!
Dec. 26th, 2015 09:33 pm (UTC)
And a very merry and joyous Christmas to you as well - I'm glad you still enjoy these little scenes.
Dec. 25th, 2015 02:20 pm (UTC)
Merry Christmas and Happy 2016!
Dec. 26th, 2015 09:40 pm (UTC)
And I hope you had the very merriest of Christmases, with people you love and much fellowship!
Dec. 25th, 2015 09:26 pm (UTC)
*hugs tight* This sounds wonderful. Merry Christmas, dear! ♥
Dec. 26th, 2015 09:43 pm (UTC)
I mentioned to mack_the_spoon that BB, FB and I were so tired Christmas Eve that we went to bed without seeing the films we'd wanted to, and Christmas came with a broken dishwasher and a sore back - but it was still a wonderful Christmas. I hope yours was as well!
Dec. 26th, 2015 05:05 am (UTC)
Goose! I've never had goose, it's not a thing here. It is better than turkey?
Dec. 26th, 2015 09:54 pm (UTC)
Goose is very good, and it's something BB and I have had since we were introduced to it back when FB was an infant. It is all dark meat, but it isn't the dark meat one thinks of when one thinks of regular poultry meat. It's actually more like roast beef, which is one of the things that's appealing about it.

Goose has a couple of downsides that you have to take into consideration; A goose isn't built like the modern factory-farmed turkeys that are so breast-heavy they can barely move, a condition engineered because so many people like breast meat. A goose, even a large one, has relatively little meat on its bones, and you aren't going to find a goose that's heavier than 12 pounds, at least I haven't found one.

You also have remember that goose is such a fatty bird that stuffing it will leave the stuffing too drenched in fat to be edible. Instead, you cook your stuffing separately (hence the use of the term "dressing" rather than "stuffing" when one is talking about the delicious but completely unhealthy side dish made out of breads, nuts, apples, onions, etc. that normally goes inside birds that aren't geese.)

Instead of stuffing, you put cut pieces of apple, orange, potatoes, onions and prunes into the cavity of the bird, and let those fruit and vegetables soak up grease from the inside, while imparting some of their flavors to the goose. After cooking is done, you disgard them. And you have to prick the goose heavily, all over, in order to let the fat drain.

Put the bird on a rack inside the roasting pan, so that it sits above the fat, and half way through roasting, turn the entire bird over so that fat can drain from the top as well.

(Also, at least in the Chicago area, the price is hefty, meaning it's something you get only once or twice a year: $6.99 per pound is fairly steep.)

All of that sounds like it would be too much trouble and expense, but we adore goose so much that we gladly go the extra mile involved in preparing it.

There - now you know way more than you needed to!

Happy Christmas!
Dec. 27th, 2015 03:09 am (UTC)
That was amazing, I now feel fully informed (and a little put off by all the talk of fat soaking everywhere)

Also, what I took from that is that you are likely in Chicago area, like Will in Sense8 (sorry, slightly obsessed). Also I saw Wicked in Chicago once.
Dec. 28th, 2015 12:57 am (UTC)
you are likely in Chicago area

Indeed I am; I've lived here since 1981, coming down from Canada.

and a little put off by all the talk of fat soaking everywhere

I know it sounds a little icky, especially the way I wrote it, but don't be put off; there is definitely a way to cook the goose so that it isn't fatty, and the taste is truly lovely.

I remember that Wicked played for some time in Chicago (you probably saw it at one of the theaters in the Loop, I'm guessing.)
Dec. 28th, 2015 01:31 am (UTC)
i was only in Chicago a few days, back in 2006. I don't know where the theatre was my sister took me, she used to live up that way.
Dec. 26th, 2015 04:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you for those vignettes!

And this was a gorgeous post...blessings to you, honey. May you have only the best of the season!

Merry Christmas!

Dec. 26th, 2015 10:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you, my dear - I hope your Christmas found you surrounded by your loved ones, and with much hope for the future. My love and support to you, always.

*hugs right back*
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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