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A Nice Leg of Lamb

Christmas. This one has been wonderful.

It started with me dreading "the thing in the attic" coming down when Paul first mentioned it sometime in November--and somehow in the weeks since then, the days and weeks unfolded into a bright ribbon of celebrations. I let the rubber balls drop along the way, but the glass ones all remained intact.

One of these was our tradition of going to the Furuya's after the Christmas Eve service and exchanging presents with Frances, Brian and our three God-children, Jacob, Summer-Lily and Eden Belle.

Frances puts her whole heart and soul into this evening, plotting and planning the details of food and decor weeks in advance. Nothing less than perfection will do for her. I think she reads too many Good Housekeeping magazines.

Each year she has done something different and it is always wonderful. But what we remember is being with her and her family, who we love.

It was a couple of weeks ago that she called me and asked with the excitement of a plan in progress in her voice, "Does Paul like lamb?"

I just couldn't bring myself to tell the truth. I was pretty sure that my plain eating husband didn't like lamb, but since catering to what he does like is severely limiting, I said brightly that we grew up eating roast lamb and mint sauce in England.

About a week later she called again and announced, "Lancashire Hot-pot!"

"What?" I asked.

"Lancashire Hot-pot," she repeated, "I'm making Lancashire Hot-pot with the lamb."

"Wow, that will be delicious," I said.

On Christmas Eve Frances called early in the day, full of festive spirit and wanting to know what I was doing. I was planning to wrap presents.

"Are you drinking ice wine?" she wanted to know.

"No," I said, "but come to think of it, I think I do have a bottle of Amaretto somewhere."

And we laughed about how my wrapping would go if I accompanied it with Amaretto. "The presents will be in rolled up newspaper with the ends pinched with rubber bands," said Frances, "and we'll have newsprint on our hands for days afterwards."

She shared her plans for the day with me; baking her famous ginger cake, making the hot-pot and decorating the house in exquisite taste.

After she hung up I went to find the Amaretto, but it had been so long since it had been open that after a valiant attempt at opening it with my yellow rubber gloves, I gave up and put it back in the cupboard.

A little later Frances called again. "I'm worried," she said, "It will be 8 o'clock by the time we eat, or maybe later. I hope you're not going to get hungry and eat earlier in the day."

"Don't worry," I said, "I will make sure we have a late lunch and then not eat anything else, so that we are just hungry enough without being so ravenous that we pass out."

I decided that I had better break the news to Paul about the lamb, so that it wouldn't be quite as embarrassing as him finding out on the spot.

"Oh no!" said Paul with a groan.

I suggested that we take along some of the split pea and ham soup that I had made just that day, but he felt that it might have undesirable side effects.

"No," he said, with the patient resignation of one who has lived this before; often, "don't worry."

The day went by very quickly and my kitchen was still cluttered with tape and tissue, gift bags and rolls of wrapping paper when the phone rang again.

It was Frances. Her voice was stressed and she sounded all done in. "Can we just eat cake?" she pleaded. She had burned the first ginger cake, the decorating had taken much longer than she thought and was still in fact in process with Brian's help, and she was beside herself with the thought of still having a hot-pot to make.

I burst out laughing and said that we would love to just eat cake and I told her the truth at last--that all we really cared about was spending time with them.

"Sheesh, it's not about you," said Frances, and shouted to Brian, "she's trying to tell me it's about what she wants."

And we laughed--a rubber leg of lamb, just having been dropped.


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