Christmas Eve came again this year. When I go into my closet, and turn on the light, there hangs Kim's white bathrobe, all ready to keep her warm - whether she be starting her day, or ending it - the robe waits, silently, to make her just as comfortable as can be.
Seeing it on Christmas Eve, brings me back to 1993 - the first year that I bought Kim a big, fluffy, white bathrobe. She loved robes - the thicker and softer, the better. That particular year, I had cleverly (or so I imagined) placed an engagement ring in one of the pockets for her to find.. That was, perhaps, the best Christmas I ever had. Aside from waiting for Kim to stop crying long enough to tell me 'Yes! I thought you would never ask me!'.
The other thing that made that Christmas special, was the amount of alone time we had. There had been a lot of snow and ice and we just stayed huddled, warm and cozy on our own couch. I loved this quality time. Kim really enjoyed the whole visiting family...I just wanted to spend more time with her. I used to think that was sorta selfish of me, but, in retrospect, I know that I was simply living with an urgency, making sure to make the most of each and every moment that we shared together.
This is actually the third Christmas that we are apart...and I can't seem to get the house bright enough, warm enough, cheery enough. Not for lack of trying - all of Kim's snowmen collection are stationed throughout - Autumn has added a few, too. Tonio dutifully plugs the Christmas tree in each evening. Cody and Brendon's hung the lights perfectly outside. And still...
This week, we continued her loving traditions. Tonio and I made 4 batches of biscotti and 2 batches of pizzelles. Yesterday, Mary and Ami kept the bambini smiling for me while I worked and then I joined them at their mom, Debi's, house for a lasagna Christmas dinner (and, yet again, I failed to take photos!) - they made us feel right at home. It was a good 'meal' day overall, as I also had a wonderful lunch with a friend at the book store, and we made it to Viro's earlier(where the line for cookies was out the door! Poor Rosa, she's baking cookies in her sleep!) before I dropped the kids at Ami's house.
Today, dragging, following my 24th Christmas in retail (yes, I subtracted the year that I
missed lost while Kimmy fought, trying to make it to another Christmas) putting in twice the hours I was able to last year and working on some real estate for some dear friends.
There are days that I just don't want to. But, I know that is not an option. Today was one of those days - I just hurt. But, I have to tell you, the bambini have just been dying to carry on their Mama's Christmas Eve tradition of cioppino, Kim's answer to the 'Feast of the 7 Fishes'. On my way home from work I picked up scallops (Kim's favorite - after years of dating, she confided in me that they weren't always her favorite, but, they had grown on her. She ordered them every time we'd go out to eat, many years later telling me that the reason she did that, was because they were easy to eat without making a mess, or dribbling on herself! She was so shy - she wanted to be sure that she did not suffer any food mishap when we went out to dinner and she felt scallops were easy and posed no embarrassing dangers!), mussels, talapia, shrimp, calamari, cod and clams.
They love to help!
Tonio stirs the fennel, shallots and garlic in the 'big pan'...
While Autumn peels the shrimp.
The 'big pan' is perfect for the start of this project.
Tonio expertly adds a can of tomato paste!
Once we need to add the liquids to the cioppino, we transfer to the 'nice pot'!
While it was simmering, the bambini (Cody included!) watched 'The Christmas Story' - their laughter finally bringing warmth to our house.
Autumn ate two bowls of the cioppino! We had a great batch of clams and mussels this year, with every one of them opening for us!!
Autumn creates one of Kim's Christmas favorite treats for us - pizzelles and ice cream!
Autumn added her own twist - fresh raspberries! She has Kim's intuition and personal touch!
Even the presentation feels like Kimmy...
You know I love to stumble across 'Kim treasures'. Her 'basement' beneath the bed was amazing, especially finding her portfolio of art work. And the photos in the crawl space above the garage were wonderful. The other day, I came across this video of Kim on Christmas. I couldn't wait to watch it - but, just her opening line and sweet voice caught me by such surprise, that I emitted a sound so loud,coming from so deep, that it brought Bella running from her bed - she literally leaped into my arms and hugged me (I was so glad the kids were in school at the time!).
Later Christmas Eve, after I got the little ones to bed, Cody helped me pull of 'Santa'. He made a reindeer hoofprint stencil and used powder sugar to make tracks through the living room (a Kimmy favorite!)
All of the stockings hung on our couch (Kim's being first)...and a plate of pizzelles for Santa and carrots for his reindeer!
We hauled out all of the gifts and placed them willy nilly beneath the tree.
I got to bed around 3 and slept so deeply for two hours - I woke with a start at 5, sure I had slept about 12 hours - knowing I hadn't bitten the pizzelles and carrots or drank the milk - I also had to sneak out Cody's 'surprise' gifts.
I managed to get all of this done, with minimal noise, while the little ones slept, visions of sugar plums (whatever the hell those are) dancing in their heads! They are such peaceful angels when they sleep.
By 6:30, they were raring to go! Bella particularly enjoyed cleansing the scent of reindeer prints from our floor!
The bambini traditionally start with their stockings...
And move to the tree. Bella looks like a zombie dog.
These kids are so appreciative, making a big deal out of each gift - even their socks!
They each held up their favorite gift: Autumn, a pink Juventus shirt (my favorite team in the Serie A Italian league), Tonio, Skylanders video game for Wii and Cody, a tv for his room.
We brought more Kimmy magic to life at breakfast, whipping up her famous panettone french toast!
Just as soon as I cleaned up breakfast, we got to work on another tradition Kim had made for us...
Makin' the ravioli's!!!
Tonio runs the dough through the pasta maker while I help him guide it out.
Autumn cuts the dough, places a dollop of ricotta cheese filling on each square, pinching the edges tight.
Cody has the touch - he can dial the pasta machine down to a '3' setting to get it to its thinnest without it breaking.
Autumn boiled them up by herself and covered them with marinara.
Soon after, we hurried over to Angie's house for her Christmas celebration!
The bambini made out like bandits (and I can't wait to try out the new pans that Andrea got me, a grill pan for the stove, a cast iron pan and a paella pan that she knew I needed - I'll have to post some more recipes!) - Tonio is thrilled with his big Nerf automatic gun that is bigger than him! Angie's niece, Sandy and her husband, Jack, got it for him. He built it quickly and is a whiz at strafing the room with nerf bullets!
All of Angie's grandkids and my kids played out front until dark and came in to feast on tamales, turkey, ham, nachos and an amazing array of sides. After eating, we tuned in to the Arizona Wildcats v San Diego State U basketball game. They played for the championship of a tourney in Hawaii.
At halftime, Trinity, Autumn and Breanna did a dance show for us.
And so did Bryson, Tonio, Breanna and Richie.
The game was a thriller - Arizona won at the buzzer, keeping us all on our seats. Kristie and Andrea get pretty into it, making us hold our hands up for free throws and keep the same seats that we started out watching the game in, amongst other curious ways that we could help the Wildcats win. It seemed to work!
The game didn't end until nearly 11:00 P.M. - where did the day go? I rounded up the happy, but tired, bambini for the short ride home.
As we unpacked the car, it dawned on me that they didn't 'survive' another Christmas - they had enjoyed it. They live each day to it's fullest - appreciating what they have - and the kindness shown to them by the people in their lives who watch them, help them with homework, cook for them, hug them, give them rides and get them together with their kids to play...It doesn't have to be spoken to them to learn from the lesson life has handed them - they simply have done that on their own, taking nothing for granted. I'm pretty proud of them. It was a good day. We are blessed.
Merry Christmas to you and yours!