Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Linden Girls' Christmas Dinner

I'll be writing about other Christmas parties in posts to come; but this dinner is the one I was looking forward to all through the time leading up to Christmas parties, so I want to capture it for you while it remains fresh in my mind and heart ...

It all started when I got a call one day quite some weeks ago: "Karyn, this is Evange. Why can't us single girls from Linden have a Christmas dinner?" There was no reason I could see, and so the date and the choice of meat were set and I immediately began to count the days until Monday, December 7, at 6 p.m. I had no idea who would be in attendance. On Saturday I asked Max, a young single girl from Linden who comes to the TH frequently, if she would be there, but she said no. And I couldn't for the life of me put a face to Evange's voice or name. I was excited to see who would be coming to this dinner ...

And finally it was just about 6 o'clock. The dining room looked beautiful, with winter white linen, twinkling tea lights peeking out through ruby-red glass candle holders; champagne flutes bubbling with sparkling apple juice; gold chargers; silver party crackers; and the Christmas lights on the tree, the mantelpiece, the piano and the ceramic Christmas tree promising a warm welcome from the cold.

All was outshone when "the girls" started to arrive. So many of them were friends of my Mum's and I was immediately enveloped in hug after hug, with ladies murmuring to me how they missed her yet. I remembered Evangeline the minute I saw her -- how my Mum loved her, and Pearl, and so many of them!

They mingled around for a bit, helping each other with coats and checking out the Christmas decorations; and then they sat down in preparation for the evening.

"I think we'll have a table song," one of them suggested; and together they all bowed their heads and in three-part harmony sang the Doxology. The star above the manger scene seemed to glow just a little more intensely for the rest of the evening.

And then the girls settled back for some Christmas fun. First was the Christmas crackers: off they popped, to disgorge golden paper crowns, prizes like pens, picture frames, cuff links and the like, and of course the corny little riddles and jokes. Each lady put on her crown and read her riddle to the table. Little toasts were performed, with the delicate flutes clinking together across the table.

Curried butternut squash soup and dinner rolls were followed by a mixed berry salad tossed in a roasted peach and red onion vinaigrette.

And then we served the turkey. "We have turkey with mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes encrusted with pecans, green bean casserole, and turnips," I began.

With one voice they exclaimed, "Turnips!", beaming in such delight that I wanted to be adopted by all of them on the spot.

After a little break, dessert was offered: a choice between sticky toffee pudding drizzled with warm caramel sauce, carrot cake, and Skor cheesecake.

Coffee and tea and bursts of laughter and moments of companionable silence wove their way with rich hues throughout the tapestry of the evening. My dad dropped by to make sure all was well, and they called out to him joyfully: "Hello, Al! Checking up on things?" He had a plate of turkey dinner in the kitchen, perched on the little green stool in the corner; and then he went out to chat for a few more minutes to the girls before heading off back home.

My heart, which was already full, threatened to burst wide open when I mentioned offhandedly to one of the ladies that Miss Manners would not like the way I was stretching over her to fill up her water goblet. "Do you like Miss Manners?" she asked. When I confessed that I was addicted and recounted a typically pithy exchange from one of Miss Manners's books ("Dear Miss Manners, How do I walk in high heels?" "Gentle Reader, Left, right left, right."), my little lady burst out laughing and said, "I like that one too!" It turns out that she teaches grades eight and nine and tries to instruct her pupils in manners and ettiquette, basing her course material on Miss Manners's classic volume. "Outside in!" she prompted in a sing-song voice when there was some question as to which fork to use. Who knew that a gift I would receive today would be discovering another Miss Manners afficionada?!

Far too soon the evening came to a close. As these saints struggled into their coats and bundled up against the wind, it struck me that on this night Nilgiris had been transformed into a home filled with love and the true spirit of Christmas, from the kitchen where Lois, BA and I cheerfully and carefully worked to make sure everything was perfect for our girls, to "the girls" themselves with their full lives and yet their hopes and dreams and their courage in making some of them come true tonight. This turned out to be an evening that far exceeded any dream I had dreamt for my sweet little TH.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!

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