Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Christmas Party...

The lamps on the sill twinkle while the small Christmas tree on a table in one corner is just big enough to send a fresh, evergreen scent through the air.  On a table in the opposite corner, there is a pyramid of oranges on a glass cake stand. Decadent, baked treats filled with sugar and preserved summer fruits surround their Christmas center pieces. The small dainty snacks are tasty treats stolen between dances. Glasses of warm mulled cider scented of cloves and cinnamon tickle your fancy while quenching your thirst.  

You are only 16 and wearing your first formal dress to a Christmas party. This afternoon, Mother sewed the final touch of a two inch deep trim of white lace topped with white ruched ribbon along the neckline. The soft yellow silk of your dress gently shimmers in the lamplight as you giggle with your favorite childhood friend and closest cousin while noticing how dapper a certain, young gentleman looks this evening dressed in his new frock coat.

The string trio begins to play a waltz. Reluctantly, you grant your brother a dance. The swish of your formal cage crinoline is still new to you. While swaying and twirling to the music you jest to yourself, "Surely the Queen of England could not be feeling grander than you this evening."....except this waltz is being shared with your brother. Perhaps, you will be able to partner with that dapper, young gentleman for the next schottische. 

The gathering of neighbors and family help the the wood stoves warm the hall. Music and laughter fill the evening while the crisp winter air is kept safely outside.  Hours pass without anyone paying heed. As the evening ends you are warm, flushed and filled with dreamy thoughts. You welcome the crisp winter air as you step outside in your warm winter clothes not least of which is your heavy wool cloak that is all but impervious to the wind. You say good-night to your favorite childhood friend, but your cousin,will be joining you at home this Christmas Eve. Although sad that you are leaving the party, you know there are more treats waiting to be enjoyed. Meanwhile, there is still the sleigh ride home.  Lending his hand, your brother helps you into the sleigh. You hear the snort of the horses and then feel the tug of the sleigh as Father sets it towards home. It is a beautiful starry evening as the young pair of horses pull the smooth moving sleigh over the snowy road and the hour ride is over almost before it has begun.  This evening a ride that many times has been no more than a bumpy, muddy mess has been turned into a Christmas thrill.

As Mother promised, the hired help has set the dining room table before heading home to their families this Christmas Eve. In the middle of the table, there is a tall jelly. The jelly is made from apples and preserved mulberries. It glistens in the candlelight. Mother had prayed her jelly would work, and the young, hired ladies had followed her instructions perfectly. The presentation is beautiful. The evening is turning late, but there is still time enough to enjoy more Christmas treats. You, yourself, tried your hand at fruit tarts under the watchful guidance of Mother.  You admit to yourself the tarts look to be a success. They are artfully decorative on the table. Hopefully, their taste will also delight.

The evening grows late, but before climbing the stairs to go to sleep, you and your cousin peek into the parlour to spy Christmas gifts. Quickly before your brother catches you, you shut the parlour door and head upstairs with your cousin. Rather than sleeping under warmth of a large feather tick, you and your cousin giggle and share daydreams of the Christmas treats hidden inside the stockings....