Hanukah, Christmas and New Year’s

originally published: 2012-01-01

Thursday, December 22nd, I woke up, got dressed, and Robin and I headed to Burnaby to pick up Graham. We continued to my parents’ place in Surrey for Hanukah dinner. Laura made the cuke and onion salad that I like, with ham and latkes, and the chick pea pound cake I requested for dessert. Knowing Graham’s proclivities for rice and split peas, I figured he would be wild about it. He was. Laura made two cakes – one lemon, and one lime and they were both good.

We got to the house, and I gave Graham a tour. He loved the “Hall of Miriam,” and browsed our SciFi in Ullrich’s office. Unfortunately, show and tell took a bit longer than I expected, and messed up Laura’s timing a bit. We sorted it out, and I lit the candles and then we sat down to our first two courses.

In the pause between the entrée and dessert, we opened presents. I got a bunch of DVDs I’d discussed with Laura, and Robin and Graham each got a holiday mug and some candy canes. I had gotten Graham a Hanukah gift – a miniature nativity scene, the size of a Christmas tree glass ornament. I enjoyed the idea of a Jew giving a Catholic a nativity scene on Hanukah. He loved it, and later showed me a picture of his tiny, faux tree decked out with candy canes, and the Scene nestled under it.

Robin, Graham and I played driedel and cleaned Robin out in about twenty minutes. We had cake, wherein I managed to marinate myself in cold Starbucks mocha, and I showed Graham a bunch of my baby photos and trip photos afterwards.

Friday, Dec. 23rd, Robin and I had our date night. We wanted to go downtown for dinner and to see Sherlock Holmes II. I lit first the Hanukah and then the Shabbat candles outside on the stoop, so they could burn down while we were out. When I came back outside after getting my purse and coat, I found that one of my two Shabbat candles had gone out. The reason there are two is that one symbolizes, “to remember,” and the other “to observe or keep.” Clearly, the “observe” light had gone out.

We walked towards the bus stops, missing both buses for two different routes downtown. I turned to Robin and said, “You know why this is happening, right?” For a wonder, he was actually buying it. My hips were also bothering me and I was wasn’t feeling that great. We went to Main Street, and tried a new Japanese restaurant, then dessert at Sweet Revenge. Afterwards, probably due to the sake and spiked hot eggnog, I was feeling a bit more cheerful, so we decided to continue downtown. Sherlock II was quite well done – I feel it’s as strong, if not even better than the first movie.

Once we got home, I stayed up all night Friday into Saturday morning. It was raining hard, and very cold. I went to shul, and the person spelling off the regular goy was late. I wound up standing in the rain and cold for half an hour. When I finally got inside, I wrung out my hat!

The service was lovely, but I had to cut out of the torah portion to snag a bit more sleep before Graham was due in the evening. Graham came over, and I went over some revisions to his novel with him while Robin made lamb curry. We had dinner, and Dave even joined us, and then Robin doused with rum and lit Graham’s plum pudding on fire for dessert. I myself just had strawberries and cream – I’m not fond of plum pudding.

Graham and I got going pretty quickly after dinner, which involved me first changing outfits, and then we headed to Christmas Eve Catholic Midnight Mass at Holy Rosary Cathedral downtown, nearly two full months since I brought food to the resisters at her feet.

As we walked up from Pender, we could hear the bells peeling for us to come and pray. It was a cold, clear night. As we got nearer, we could glimpse Mary in her niche, surrounded by small blue Christmas lights.

Once we were seated, I felt I was a bit overdressed, considering the rest of the congregants but I didn’t mind; this is part of the way I pay my respects.

Graham and I did a tour around the edge of the Cathedral and he explained various things to me. He also stopped and lit a candle for Amanda. The music started, and then the Mass proper. It was beautiful, and I participated in the stuff that crosses over between our Faiths. I also went up with him to receive a blessing, while he received communion. I think the main thing I’ve been reflecting on is the comparative religious responses to and understanding of guilt and sin.

Overall, I found the incense quite smoky. It was bad enough in the airy spaces of the Cathedral; I can’t imagine how much worse it would be on a regular basis in a small parish.

After Mass, we sat in the pews a bit longer to open our gifts to each other.

Graham bought me two books: Catholicism for Dummies and The Guide for the Perplexed – Jewish theology.

I got Graham a pocket watch. He has an outfit he calls his hobbit outfit, which he wore to Mass – a tweed dinner jacket with a plaid vest, and different tartan tie. But the man has never owned a pocket watch! I think it might actually still be illegal in some countries to wear a vest without a pocket watch. I found a watch for him and had it inscribed:

For auld lang syne
Miriam Doba

I chose Robbie Burn’s line for three reasons: the first being for the season itself – we sing the song at New Year’s; the second was a way of thanking Graham for all the memories and good times we’ve shared, especially in the past few months, but over the years as well; the third was because it could almost be an unofficial motto of the SCA, “It is [for the sake of old times] that we play our game.”

I stood at the counter of the key cutting and engraving place for a long moment, trying to think of which closing to use. “Best wishes,”? “Regards,”? “Love,”? “In Service,”? I chose “Always.” Always I wish us to remain friends and always I remain Miriam Doba. I know now that the sign I saw, after the Warrior Dash demo, that said, “Graham,” simply meant that I should pay attention to Graham, as he would have much to teach me. Graham helped guide me back to my Faith. He reminded me of who I am. In Hebrew, I am Miriam Doba, and now that I have found my Jewish self, “Always, Miriam Doba,” I shall be.

Graham and I parted ways on Cordova. He waited with me until my #N8 Fraser showed up, and then left to take a #N135 back to Burnaby. I was a bit worried about him downtown, alone, and him showing me his plans to strangle a would-be assailant with his scarf, or bark them on the nose with his Swiss army knife, did little to reassure me. We texted each other when we were safe in our respective abodes.

I went home, and stayed up into Christmas morning. Susan got up, and she and I organized breakfast for the house. I made mango mimosas garnished with strawberries, and served coffee and she made a wonderful, bright meal of small pancakes with Horstings strawberry syrup, scrambled eggs, bacon, and garlic toast. Five of the six house members (Tracey was sleeping – don’t disturb the dragon) crowded around my little basement table and ate simple food from fancy chinaware. After breakfast, we opened presents. Susan got a lot of pampered chef stuff which is great for her, but we have to store it until she and Fred move out.

For Christmas I gave Robin his own book back, signed by Larry Niven. I gave Dave the two Goblins webcomic books, signed at V-Con, and the next in S.M. Stirling’s series we’re following. I gave Susan some Disney Princess stuff, and the Frog Princess soundtrack CD. Susan gave me a crate of 24 Kinder Surprise eggs from Costco, and I gave myself the, “necklace Robin doesn’t know he bought me.” Which is a stylized Star of David I bought off Rhune at V-Con.

Everyone scattered after that – Fred and Susan to his family’s gathering. Dave spent a while on our couch, with a quiet, contented smile on his face as he read through the Goblins books. Robin put me to bed.

In the evening, Robin and I headed to his parents’ place for roast lamb. Both Robin’s grandmother and his brother Greg were there. We opened presents, I got a rather odd knitted poncho, a little cat purse, and Greg gave me some tea. Robin got some booze, and a sweater. We had the typical family roast: potatoes, squash, chard, rice, lamb, gravy, and mint sauce. Lox on lettuce with capers and lemon juice salad to start; family recipe for crumb frozen lemon ice cream treat to follow.

Dec. 29th, Holly spent the night at our house. We had dinner at Crave. We got popcorn shrimp, the tempura tuna roll, and short rib poutine to start, and the miso sable fish with shitakes, the mussels and the meatloaf as mains and then shared it all between us. I think Holly was somewhat disappointed by both her sable fish, and the mussels she wanted to try. I was disappointed by the mussels myself, but her sable fish was excellent. I didn’t really care for the meatloaf. The appetizers were amazing, but we’ve had the roll and the poutine before. The popcorn shrimp were interesting and tasty – done more like calamari.

Robin and I shared some wine with dinner. We walked home, and then watched, “Ten Things I Hate About You,” which neither Robin nor Holly had seen. I love watching movies with people who haven’t seen them. I get fresh perspective on the films that way, and get to relive my own initial enjoyment vicariously through their untainted responses.

After the movie, I went to bed with Robin.

Dec. 30th was Amanda’s Memorial Bardic nee wake. It didn’t really come together quite the way I would have wished, and there’s too much shared and individual history and memory for any one person or group to have the opportunity to have their grief process respected or upheld universally. Dr. Carus and I struggled to bring the bardic component to bare, but our efforts were largely ignored, or talked over. We got a bit of it going, and we ended with Dr. Carus and I doing a scene from The Taming of the Shrew.

I had brought my Shabbat candles with me, using the new glass candle sticks Laura won, but only one survived the night. The other was snuffed out by a careless drummer, which sounds slightly more dramatic than it was. We threw out the broken glass. Gunther wanted to keep the candles. During the evening I had to deal with Gunther, Brian, and Johan. Some of the scum and slime of the SCA, whose twisted souls Amanda had once selflessly tried to mend.

Dave was there with us, but he was largely in and out. He kept going outside for air, which I suspect was checking his phone as he was on call for work. Afterwards, we packed up, and Robin picked us and the stuff up and gave Dr. Carus a ride home.

Robin and I watched a couple of episodes of Stargate: SG1, and then I went to bed with him.

Dec. 31st.

I woke at 08:30 and headed to shul. I was deliberately a bit later than last week, because the girl spelling the goy off had told me, rather firmly, “You better think 09:45 for next week, because I’m opening again!”

The service was quite nice; I’m getting less lost each repetition. We concluded by singing the last psalm to the tune of, “Auld Lang Syne,” which I found especially poignant, given my gift to Graham. We were also celebrating someone’s birthday, so I had a wee dram of 12 year Glenfiddich, which wasn’t too bad. I also ate a hearty lunch, to tie down the booze.

On the walk home, I felt the scotch really start to kick in. Once I got home, I helped Robin unload the car so he could take Dale and Holly to Costco, and then he put me down for my nap.

When I got up at 17:30, he was already gone. I showered and dressed, did the Havdalah closing ceremony half-naked and put on my best gown and did up my hair. I decided to be especially fancy to welcome in 2012. I was also fairly confident that Graham would wear his hobbit outfit, as an opportunity to show off his new watch, and I wanted to match myself to the best dressed gentleman in the room.

I thought I would be late, but only Dale and Holly were home when I arrived. Robin was out shopping. Gradually, the remaining men arrived: Robin, Jeff, Scott and Graham. When Graham saw me he said, “You look enchanting, m’lady!”

Holly’s party was casual and intimate. Graham and I teamed up through two games of a card deck building game with an anime maids theme. We tied for last place the first game, but won the second game. I really enjoyed partnering with Graham – we seem to have compatible strategies. We always agreed with each other’s choices.

At internals, and during breaks in the game play, there was nibbling of assorted foodstuffs: bagel bites, chips, the deviled eggs Graham had had pressed on him by Azure, cookies, muffins, fruit, veggies, and spanikopita. Whenever I got bored, I danced alone and softly to whatever was playing. At one point, Robin left the room, leaving Graham and I totally alone for a few moments. I reflected that I was dancing privately for him, though I had started dancing purely for me.

We also watched some Christmas themed videos.

At midnight we toasted with blueberry grape juice for the non-drinkers, and champagne for the imbibers. Graham led us off in, “Auld Lang Syne.”

We finished up the second game, and chatted for a while. Graham did a brief lecture, complete with whiteboard, on areogel and Robin and I demonstrated the brief twist routine I choreographed for Halloween years ago.

We discussed another game, but it was getting late and Graham informed us he had to read for Mass in the morning, so we decided to pack it in.

It felt like Graham and I had spent much of the night delighting in teasing the other, and enjoying how easy it was to make the other blush. While we were gathering our things, Graham caught my hand, bent low over it, and kissed it. Sparkling he said, “Happy New Year!” Breathless and blushing, I thank him and bowed.

Robin drove Jeff and Graham back to their domiciles, and us home. We watched one episode of Stargate (we’re finally in season II, huzzah!) and then I tucked him in with some “marital relations,” and, for a wonder, “simultaneous fierce joy.” A fitting end to 2011, and a gentle way to ring in 2012. And a mitzvah!

Tonight is my first work shift of 2012. Happy New Year to All, and to All a Good Night!

– M is for Mitzvahs, be they great or small.

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