I spent the Christmas holiday visiting my children and grandchildren. It’s the one way I get to see everyone during this special season. Particularly the younger ones who must remain at home for Santa.
The first visit was the easy one — right here on Shelter Island. I was able to walk to my daughter and son-in-law’s home and have some breakfast and open presents with their kids. It’s a great tradition that we’ve been maintaining for the past 14 years. As soon as breakfast was completed, I hopped in the car and headed for New Jersey for the next two visits. Traffic was eerily light. I made it from Greenport to my first stop in Atlantic Highlands in well under three hours. Even the Belt Parkway was empty.
I had packed the car the night before so all I had to add in the morning was the Christmas roast. I would get to my son’s home and prepare the standing rib roast so we could eat at around 4 p.m. This type of roast has been a family tradition as long as I can remember. I even make real Yorkshire pudding to go with the rare meat. I know that this is not regarded as very healthy but the taste can’t be matched.
My favorite part is making the first cuts of crispy slices and sprinkling them with salt. I know -— not healthy — but what flavor! I ordered a small roast from the IGA and picked one that was prime. This was a genuine “prime rib.” So many times standing rib roasts are choice but always called prime rib.
When I arrived at my son’s house, I discovered that he was sick — suffering from a stomach bug that his four-year-old had brought home from school. So it was up to me. After my grandson and granddaughter opened the gifts that Santa had left for them on Shelter Island, I began to get busy with the dinner preparations. While the roast was cooking, I was able to heat the baked clams I brought with me. My granddaughter’d made a special request for these Island gems.
With the scent of the roast filling the house, I prepared the pudding with the drippings. That smell was enough to make my sick son spring from his bed and head for the dinner table. And I always give my famous line about it tasting the best when just out of the oven. Prime rib does not reheat very well.
So we all had a delightful dinner. And there were significant leftovers which my son agreed were not the same as the first cut meat.
The next morning I made the trip north to Maplewood. That’s where my oldest child and number-one son lives with his family. Santa had visited them the day before. But once again he had left gifts at my house, which I brought with me. I spent some good quality time with my Maplewood granddaughters. They were very excited and so happy to see me. And all filled, like the other two Jersey grand-kids, with the wonder of Christmas.
I tried to think back to when my cynicism began and Santa ceased to exist. A time when reindeer could fly and Santa knew where everyone lived. Although if he knew all that, why did he still leave gifts on Shelter Island for the kids in Jersey?
But I could not remember when Santa stopped being real for me. Although watching the grandchildren makes him very real again. And I think I’ll try to find him this year.
Meanwhile, we have an exciting new year in front of us and it’s time to say that we’re hoping that the “best is yet to come” and not that “my best years are behind me.” I hope that all of us can “carpe diem” and find Santa again.
I know that we have the winter in front of us, but what could be better than having a Shelter Island summer on the horizon?