Had the man from India been able to fix my Wifi extender the first time through the troubleshooting routine, I wouldn’t have been late for dinner. But he couldn’t, so I was.
MY LOVELY wife had visions of it being a nice, sit-down, family gathering so we could celebrate a Christmas that had been delayed. We had people in Italy, Sicily and North Carolina during the holidays, so rather than us celebrate as a party of two we waited for nearly everyone to get home to enjoy a party of eight.
THE FESTIVITIES got off to a rousing start when, at about 1:30 a.m., our son-in-law awoke with an awful pain in his gut. Not a simple stomach ache, not the flu, not even food poisoning. This was a doozy, so our daughter, who had an 8-week-old baby girl and her two sisters to care for, woke our son and asked him to take her husband to the Monroe County Hospital emergency room.
HER HUSBAND was in such excruciating pain he thought the wait lasted an eternity, but it was probably less than that. Nonetheless, he reported the care was good, the facilities were fine and the people were professional. The verdict: a kidney stone. He was prescribed some meds and was back home in time for breakfast, though he had no interest in eating any of it.
BUT THE two older children did, so grandpa took them out for their favorite breakfast of pancakes, hash browns, bacon and cranberry juice. After we returned home I spent a couple of hours trying to install a new tech machine but there were problems, so I texted the technical support staff.
THE MAN who responded had a foreign name. I forget, exactly, what it was but we will call him Jabar. We “live chatted” via text messaging, which I prefer when dealing with a tech wizard whose first language might not be English. It took about 30 minutes to get the device through the first setup routine, but that didn’t work so we started over.
MEANWHILE, DINNER was being served. I couldn’t hang up and join the table, say a blessing and cut that pricey piece of beef lest I’d lose my place with the tech talker. So, the meal went on without me. One of the pancake girls declared she didn’t want anything to eat, but the other one did. They disagreed about this and about that, and sister the elder bragged about one of her special Christmas gifts to sister the younger.
SOMEONE ASKED the cook if there was a salad, but that wasn’t on her menu, so she was irked. She was already up to her elbows in gravy (because the hungry child wanted it) and mushy mushroom soup for the green bean casserole. The conversation was ramping up and getting louder. Kidney stone boy was understandably under the sheets so he could not help with the arguing children.
AS JABAR was telling me to reboot my contraption, my ears picked up on a distress command as the chef nearly dropped her dinner rolls when she spotted the cat tip-toeing over the knives and forks on the dining room table. “And the dinnerware didn’t even match,” she later lamented.
ONE BOXER dog had already jumped up and put his paws on the edge of the counter to see what he might steal; the Maltese dog was growling at nearly everyone who got too close to the baby; and the beagle dog was outside barking back at the barking dog next door.
IT WASN’T the sort of Norman Rockwell Christmas dinner the chef had imagined. No fine wine to sniff and swirl and taste. A bottle of champagne was available, but this was a situation more suited to a bottle of Boone’s Farm.
ALTHOUGH I couldn’t see it from my seat at the computer, I could hear people talking about how good the food tasted. The little girls were quiet so they must have been enjoying the potatoes and gravy. An envoy from the table came and personally invited me to come and eat, but that was just as Jabar’s backup begin-again was paying dividends, as the light on the gizmo had gone from blinking red to solid white, meaning progress was being made.
TEN MINUTES later the device was working. I said goodbye to the foreigner and wandered in to the kitchen. The food was no longer hot, but it was certainly still very good. The boxer had been sufficiently supervised to deny him counter thievery, the beagle had silenced the neighbor’s dog, and the Maltese was still quietly watching over the baby. I ate by myself in the peace and quiet while the others departed to play with their still-unexplored Christmas gifts.
HOLIDAY MEALS aren’t always this eventful, and we’ve had many where everything went just right. But this one was special. All but one of our family had made it home for Christmas, and even if you celebrate that holiday two weeks late it’s a time to enjoy what you have, miss what you do not, and be nice to the chef for her mashed potatoes and gravy.
A former editor with the Macon Telegraph, Bill Weaver lives in northern Monroe County. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.