Surviving the Holidays
A short missive on finding the hygge in holiday prep.
Dear reader, a slightly different version of this piece was previously published circa the early tens in the High Plains Reader of Fargo. Whether you’re a Christmas person or not, most of us can relate to family drama and family fun in whatever gatherings and rituals we practice.
The holidays put a warm fuzzy in my tummy, usually in the form of dark ale, vodka sodas or, in the early years, Jack diets, a taste I share with both my grandfather and my father. This, I joke, is the only way I can handle everyone all at once for as long as I'm required because I am an introvert hiding in an Italian American family of extroverts (or masking introverts). "Small" gatherings are similar to that of My Big Fat Greek Wedding (15 to 20 people, many of who have the same name).
I climb the steps out of my Sunday afternoon basement cave, still in my pajamas, looking for food I am not hungry for, and I find my barely five-foot-tall mother on a step stool standing over a dough roller and a floured counter. I place my dirty plate next to the sink, open the fridge, but forgo food.
"No one gets any ravs except me! I'm the only one doing any work! They're mine," she hollers at me as I find my way back down to my sofa and a movie. My sister also at home, surfs the net across the room. She snickers something over her shoulder, but I hear her get up. (In my defense, Mom hadn't technically asked for help.)
A few minutes later Kristan yells for me.
Our family has been making ravioli for as long as I can remember. Days or weeks before Thanksgiving, aunts, uncles, cousins, got together to press dough, mix cheese, and fork edges. We each had a designated station. Traditionally, we ordered Duane's Pizza: Canadian Bacon and Pineapple. Yes. I am a pineapple-on-pizza person.
We spread out around the flour-covered dining table and the kitchen counters to make enough ravioli for the family for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Hundreds of little square dumplings stacked on trays and frozen until needed.
A few years ago my grandparents sold their house in Dilworth and our ravioli-making tradition became scattered. Since then it's been done at my cousin's in Detroit Lakes, sometimes at my parents’, a roving ravioli party. My dad, the non-Italian, has done the job himself, or so he claims. It hasn't been the same.
I begrudgingly make my way upstairs, but maybe this is perfect: just us three girls makin' up a batch of ravs. Wrong. We bicker and criticize. We each think we know the best way. But, then, I remember the holiday vodka that's been so successful at warming my belly over the years. Mom mixes us some drinks and we go about our work with giggles.
We make a hundred ravioli stuffed and sealed in an hour. (It had taken Mom two to make twenty.) Flour's spilled onto the floor and squishes between my toes like silky sand.
In his memoir, Invisible, French painter, videographer, writer, and traveler, Hugues de Montalembert, emphasizes that the "sense of life is life... eternity is now." These moments, whatever they are to you, are fleeting, so break out the booze and have a happy holiday.