Sunday, December 18, 2011

Last Weekend before Christmas

Today is Sunday, December 18th. Christmas Eve is next Saturday. Whenever Christmas Eve falls upon a Saturday, the rush towards Christmas is never more apparent than on the previous weekend, as indeed it was this weekend. The escalating panic arises not only from the perceived need to complete Christmas shopping on the last weekend before the affair, but also from the scheduled social engagements which flourish at the same time. Everyone is seemingly possessed to complete a wide range of commitments before Christmas Eve, after which it is imagined that the world will come to a complete halt or at the very least that all profitable endeavours will be set aside for no less than a week until after the passage of the New Year. The atmosphere is universally excited, and while most complain about the fact, no one really minds having to endure the buzz of it. The air is made all the more absorbing by the never-ending plans for family gatherings some of which involve extensive travel. Whatever the reason, there is unquestionably a serious drag upon one’s time and every minute of possible relaxation is expended by one preoccupation or another.
Into this mix we added a business commitment on Saturday morning. It must speak to my entrepreneurial spirit that I always feel more whole if I can include an element of commercialism in what might otherwise be plain slackening. It gives me the opportunity to express myself in the vernacular to which I am most accustomed. Plus it involves what to the cook is a stir of the pot. My Client, although convalescing from recent surgery, was surprisingly garrulous, a feature which protracted what I had mistakenly expected to be a summary attendance. Nonetheless it was a brilliantly sunny day and it would require more than a long-winded intermezzo to disturb the buoyancy of the morning. As it turned out we were able to disentangle ourselves in good time and set about our plans for the remainder of the day.

Our first stop was a hole-in-the-wall diner in Westboro where we relished a home-made soup and superb sandwich. The portly manageress recognized us from our previous first visit and rewarded our patronage with three small cupcakes upon our departure.

Next we dipped into the local Steinway dealership where I fingered several uprights and grand pianos, none of which happily for me brought tears to my eyes. Hearing myself repeat the same tired pieces I have been playing for the past fifteen years reminded me why I had recently unloaded my own grand piano. I have at last awoken to the certainty that my relationship with the piano, like an old lover, is over. Later that evening I reasoned aloud the change in my disposition. Upon closer examination it is obvious that the piano as a source of artistic expression has become fatigued. It is no accident that other alternate endeavours have commensurately escalated during the same period of time. It does of course come as a bit of a shock to awake suddenly to the reality that the allure is gone and that there is a lack of reciprocity. The merchant in the store tried to persuade me otherwise by saying it matters not how well one plays but rather how well it makes one feel. He little knew that by saying so he had secured the screws on the coffin on both counts.

Following was a whirlwind shopping bonanza at a recently renovated delicatessen which features high-grade meats, pies and cheeses, including niceties such as P├ętes de Soeurs. Having bought several provisions for my aging parents we resolved to visit them en route home. The sugared desserts were a decided hit with the old folks who normally pay little immediate attention to anything I deliver to them. We inflated our time together by discussing whatever arose, and then finally wished one another a Merry Christmas as we will be away for the celebration. We punctuated our foregathering by snapping a photo of ourselves and then emailed it to my sister.

Saturday evening was odd in that we pushed ourselves through a somewhat stilted dinner at home in order to prepare ourselves for two subsequent events – the first a congregation of friends and acquaintances at a local restaurant/bar, to be followed next by attendance at a large Christmas party in town. Within reasonable bounds, everyone invited for the first convention arrived on time and we moved to a table for six where we soon got down to the business of gossip which was in part lubricated by the previous outing of four of our party at yet another party (a “surprise” birthday party). Prior to assuming my perch at table, I encountered another table of about ten consisting of many of my oldest and best Clients, people whom I have known for upwards of thirty-five years. It requires little imagination to recreate the scene of frivolity which such happenstance afforded! They too had already conducted themselves through the customary cocktail hour before being seated.

At our own table of six there was no lack of dialogue. In fact I believe we were developing something approaching intensity, but it only contributed to the general sense of bon vivant which pervaded the restaurant. The Christmas spirit was alive! Our sojourn at the trough was limited because we had all eaten something already, some more than others. Eventually we confessed our commitment to attend the large Christmas party in town, an event which is well-known to command the presence of 120 people or more. So we abandoned our digs in the old mill by the falls and headed dutifully to our final resort.

As expected there were burgeoning crowds of people at the grey stone mansion. From the moment one passed the threshold it was almost impossible to move and the noise level was so extraordinarily intense that nothing short of shouting would permit one to be understood. Miraculously I was greeted by the young and not unattractive hostess upon my arrival (it was utter chance that she was not more remote at the time). She took the trouble to sort me out at the bar in one of the many adjoining rooms and I then commenced the challenge of identifying anyone whom I might know and of having an intelligible conversation with them. The first half-hour was an unmitigated strain. The charismatic host later materialized and did what he could to welcome me to the throng though he was quickly absorbed back into the crowd by someone else. I accordingly made my way tentatively to a more secluded portion of the house and there found the people with whom I had earlier flocked at the restaurant. They too were doing their best to escape the pressing numbers who were positioned closer to the pantry as is so often the case at a really good get-together.

It was late in the evening when our group collectively took leave of the party, all of us feeling the need for some respite from the hours of socializing which had preceded. As usual we dawdled in the main hallway beside the oak bannister leading to the upstairs for quite a while before freeing ourselves with grace. Outside there was a light snow falling from the heavens and looking back upon the stone mansion, its yellow interior lights quietly glowed, making for a peaceful sight upon departure.

By comparison to yesterday, today was extremely uninspiring. We amused ourselves mid-morning with movie at an IMAX theatre and afterwards completed some dreary chores. We hadn’t an appetite for lunch so we resolved to have instead an early evening meal, which we did. Antecedent to putting on the nosebag, I enjoyed a blazing fire and read my book.

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