Every year, right after I’ve recovered sufficiently from all the Thanksgiving preparations, I roll up my sleeves and get to work on the centerpiece of our Christmas Day dinner: the traditional English Christmas pudding…
It takes several hours to assemble, mix together, pack and then steam this once-a-year treat. I follow a basic recipe, adding extras of this or that, depending upon what’s at hand (or what’s not, which is more likely the case). Family members pass by, offering unsolicited advice and encouragement, and our dog stays underfoot in the hopes of some stray tidbit coming her way. Sometimes, my mother may call as I am measuring and mixing, and even though she is far away in her London kitchen, I feel her close at hand – delighted that I am “going to the bother” of constructing the pudding for yet another Christmas celebration, and sad that she will not be at our table to enjoy it.
There is always the element of surprise in our Christmas pudding. It steams all day, once again, before it is inverted onto a silver plate, doused with whiskey, garnished with a spring of holly, lit, and then brought out to the dining room table with great pomp and flourish. But, there is also trepidation. Will it emerge from its mold in one piece or misshapen? And how will it taste this year – cinnamon rich, or more nutmeggy? Will the little experiments prove to be successful – should I have stuck with the usual marmalade instead of the ginger-spiced one I discovered on the way home from Washington County? Will there be enough for everyone…a second helping for some?
But all doubts soon vanish in waves of compliments, celebration, and relief. Yes. Another Christmas pudding has passed muster. We raise our glasses and toast puddings past, pudding present, and puddings to come.
And so it is, I think, with this year that is now coming to a close. It wasn’t perfect, some experiments were more successful than others, there were risks that paid off…and others that didn’t. I tried new things, embellished old ideas, and did away with a few. I learned a lot about the people in my life, and even more about myself. I know now, more than ever, what sustains me. And i know, too, what I need to let go. There were surprises, too, some hoped for, expected and joyful, and some that filled me with sadness and even fear. There were reunions this year, and empty places. It was all part of the mix. 2013. It, too, passed muster.