Sunday, I was able to prepare our first home cooked meal since we returned from Taiwan. In an ode to Thanksgiving, turkey breast and my Grandmother’s cranberry dish were on the menu; steamed asparagus in lemon better replaced my holiday green bean casserole and buttermilk biscuits replaced my labor intensive sour dough stuffing. Given the truncated menu, I opted to bake a pumpkin pie for dessert.
Prior to Sunday, I had baked two pies in my lifetime: one apple and one pumpkin. When I bake, I tend to find the most complicated recipe available and go with it. That is how it came to be that I spent the better part of Sunday afternoon preparing pumpkin pie that requires ice-cold vodka for its crust and ground ginger, maple syrup, candied yams, and double whisked custard for its filling.
As I was cursing the uncooperative pie dough, my thoughts turned to the holiday season. In an instant, my mind was overrun with questions. Should we have people over in December? If so, who? When? What do I cook? When will I be able to bake? What should we have for Christmas dinner? Should we buy a used tricycle for [S]? Should I hand sew a stocking for [S] this year? Does wrapping pajamas [S]’s already picked out count as a gift? What about party mix? When can I make cards for family? How will I be able to prepare an entire meal in this kitchen? How will I be able to prepare for the holidays with two young children next year? I began to panic. How will it all get done, I needed to know.
This was the first year I recall being overwhelmed by what might be. Our oven is slow. That is, unless it is fast. Every burner on our stove top is lopsided, requiring exacting attention to the contents of each pot and pan. But my anxiety wasn’t about what to cook or who to invite over. Rather, I was wondering whether I am up to the task to make this Christmas a special joyous occasion for family and friends. After I disclosed my near panic attack to Russell, I asked, “What is wrong with me?” After listening me with a half smile on his face, he responded, “Don’t forget, you never have to do it alone. We’re a team. We’ll get everything done–together.”
Later that night, as I cut into the pumpkin pie, immediately noting it could have used a bit more baking time. I bemoaned the fact, grumbling that I knew better, that I should have been guided by my instinct, rather than the timer. Russell commented that it tasted great and I should let it firm up in the refrigerator. The next day, the pie tasted even better and appeared to have firmed up just enough. And I have not received one complaint about dessert.
It was then I realized that imperfections are part of the holiday season. The baking, cooking and entertaining all will get done, be it for better or worse. But my most significant accomplishment will be enjoying time with family and friends, whether over store-bought or homemade cookies.
Here’s to kicking off the holiday season with an eye towards embracing the flaws and imperfections of life.