Monday, December 8, 2008

Tidings of Good Cheer on Evening Mist Drive

My neighbors hosted a Christmas Ornament swap. I’d never been to one but it sounded like something so simple and sweet. When I had first moved into my home I had imagined hosting a cookie exchange. I’d read about them countless times in those ladies magazines I’d read that I was excited as to actually being able to hold one myself. In my mind I imagined serving cookies, cupcakes, and finger sandwiches with eggnog. EVERYONE would love my cookies and ask for the recipes because they tasted so good. My house would be decorated in a festive manner and Christmas music would be playing softly in the background. Watch out Better Homes and Gardens I’m coming your way. Always the most amazing thing in my imaginary party was how inexpensively I’d be able to do all this. Sales and coupons would help with the cost of the food and of course I’d finally take out the paper products I’d bought from the previous Christmas.

That first Christmas in our Evening Mist Home I was busy getting ready for a visit to see my family. I decided instead to bake cookies and Darryl and I delivered them door to door. This Christmas though I knew we weren’t going to be able to throw that party. This is why I was excited about attending our neighbor’s party. Many of the ladies from the neighborhood showed up and it was bittersweet to see them all.

Terri’s home was beautiful. On the front porch she had a decorated Christmas tree and greenery on the door. I hadn’t put my tree up because I knew we would soon be moving. It seemed pointless to haul it all out just to put it back in a box.

Once inside she had two fireplaces going and a table set with a beautiful Christmas centerpiece. As people came in the door we placed our covered dishes on the table and handed Terri our ornaments. We then went to the kitchen where she offered us wine, soda, and eggnog punch. She told us she hadn’t spiked the punch but pointed out that we could with the liquor she’d made available.

I was taking it all in. She had Christmas themed hand-painted wine goblets. She had out white glass plates golden rims instead of the paper plates I might have used. Everywhere you looked her house said Christmas. In the background Christmas tunes played while we talked.

I’ve usually had one or two good friends at a time. I’ve never been a part of one of these circles of good female friends. It was quite an experience for me to be a part of a circle of women in such varied phases of their lives. One was very pregnant. One just found out she was pregnant. One just celebrated her twentieth wedding anniversary this summer. One woman was telling us about how her kids now all had driver’s licenses and one told us about an accomplishment she had just won. Look how much I’ve missed I thought. Look at how much I was going to miss.

Darryl of course was the topic of conversation for a little while. Has he found a job yet? Has he started looking yet? One of my neighbors volunteered that her husband had been out of work when they first moved there. It had taken him a year to get a job. She said he knew several headhunters and she’d email me their information. If I didn’t hear from her in a few days I should email her and let her know. I almost cried. I just couldn’t believe how much hope was spurred by those words.

I’d brought ice cream from Edy’s with me. It was one of the ice creams we had won earlier this year. I also brought some Edy’s cups, napkins, and spoons along with some chocolate syrup. Others had brought some wonderful amazing things. I had made the mistake of eating before I went. I saw all the tempting tastes and realized that my diet was official on its way to hell in a hand basket. There were cheeses I’d never seen before. One of them was a cheese with cranberries in it. Another was a cheese that had a layer of pesto. I LOVE cheese! When I worked at the deli I tried so many different kinds of cheeses. It was a real effort for me not to fill up a huge plate with samples from everyone’s dish. Instead I put a taste of each on my plate and filled a glass of white wine.

After dinner we played Dirty Santa. There are other names for the game like Yankee Swap, The Present Game, White Elephant Exchange, Rob Your Neighbor, Cut Throat Christmas, The Grinch Game, and Steal-a-Thon. If you are not familiar with the game let me tell you how it is played. Basically everyone brings a gift. The hostess will set a dollar amount and perhaps a suggestion about the gift. For example, Friday’s party was an ornament exchange and the dollar amount was $8 or less.

At the beginning of the party gifts are set on a table. Each person gets a number and this dictates when they will be able to select a gift. The person who drew number one goes first. That person must select a gift and unwrap it to show everyone what they have selected. The person who is number two can either steal that gift or select a new gift from the table. If Number two steals number one’s gift then number one gets to select another gift. The person who is number three can steal from either the first or second person or select a new gift. From then on the choice is either stealing or getting a new gift. In both games I played if a gift had been stolen three times then it belonged to the last person who stole it. You do not have the option of stealing back your gift from the person who just stole it from you.

Let the stealing begin. I was the second person and I didn’t like the idea of picking. I was happy to get the snowman door hanger and I figured that no one would try to steal my present. Some of the other ornaments were quite beautiful. Some were not ornaments like my door hanger and the snowman serving plate. The snowman plate got stolen a couple of times before it finally made its way back to the woman who originally selected it. Mine was one of the last ornaments to be selected. I had simply thrown it in the bag without tissue. When it was selected no one stole it. I have no clue if they liked it or not. I thought it was pretty. It was a blue star. Two of the ornaments were from Michelle’s were I bought mine. I recognized them because I had thought about buying the same ones.

After the Dirty Santa game we talked about the New Years Eve progressive supper. People would go from house to house each providing a part of the meal. I’ve heard of them but never been a part of one. They mentioned that they needed someone to bring salad and bread. I almost volunteered but I really don’t know where I will be on New Years or what I will be doing.

I was the second one to leave the party and when I got home Darryl chided me that I must have had a good time because I was gone three hours. I’d hemmed and hawed about going. Even at the last minute I wanted to say I just didn’t want to go. I just kept having those awful flashbacks to earlier Christmas parties. In the end, I’m glad I went. I did have a good time. Maybe one day I will have a cookie exchange. Maybe one time I will be a part of what I experienced at that party.

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