I was thrilled when I read that Sian’s prompt for this month’s Storytelling Sunday was “coming home.” The story I’m telling this month is about Art’s and my first Christmas together and the little drama that ended up creating what remains, 40 years later, our family’s must-have Christmas Eve supper of homemade macaroni and cheese and hot dogs…
Ours was a long distance romance governed, mostly, by the orders we each received as enlisted members of the U.S. Navy. We married in mid-October 1972, but we didn’t get stationed together until the middle of December.
Our first couple of weeks together were a whirlwind of activity–first, trying to purchase and install everything that was needed to set up housekeeping in the (barebones) mobile home we had purchased and second, just a few days later, traveling with Art’s children, Dean and Laura (then ages 10 and 7, respectively), to Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.
Dean and Laura were the perfect age to enjoy the attractions of the brand new Magic Kingdom and we all had a great time, but Art and I wanted to be home for Christmas. On Christmas Eve day, somewhere between Disney and our destination in southwest Georgia, we realized we didn’t have ornaments, lights, or a Christmas tree! We didn’t get back until late afternoon and by then the seasonal Christmas tree stands were closed because they had already sold out their stock of live trees. We eventually ended up at a chain drug store where we bought a fully decorated display tree that we took home and set up in the corner of our living room—truly the only thing we added to that tree was a bit of shiny tinsel. These many years later, the warm, twinkling light from that tree is still a precious memory.
So, how do we get from our first Christmas tree to macaroni & cheese? Well, while Art was dealing with the kids and the Christmas tree, I needed to come up with something for supper. I finally settled on a macaroni and cheese recipe (from my brand new Pillsbury cookbook) and hot dogs, thinking that would be the kind of tasty, comfort-food meal we all needed. [Truth be told these many years later, I have NO recollection how or why I had the ingredients for this supper at hand—it could be the lucky circumstance of our several pre-Disney shopping trips or I might have insisted on a grocery store stop before we finally got home.]
What followed, however, can only be described as accidental comedy.
Art and the kids set up the Christmas tree while I worked on supper. I used our newly purchased oven mitts to pull the mac & cheese casserole from the oven. What I didn’t know is that, in our few days’ absence, a roach (yeah, the big ugly kind) had taken up residence in the oven mitt. When I stuck my hand in the mitt, the roach fell out onto the floor and scampered off into a dark corner. Frightened, I naturally let out a bit of a screech but, somehow, managed NOT to drop the mac & cheese casserole. We finally did get supper on the table but neither of the kids would eat because I had scared them with my tiny scream (and I didn’t know at that time that Laura absolutely hated hot dogs!).
By then I was physically and emotionally exhausted and, as I scraped the uneaten food into the trash, I was stricken with an especially vicious attack of hiccups. As I worked, Art came up to me, all lovey-dovey, and made like he was going to kiss me but instead shouted “BOO” in order to scare the hiccups away. Well…let me just say, that didn’t work out quite like Art expected. I ended up in tears instead!
Eventually things settled down, the kids were asleep, and Art and I were getting ready to go to bed. We were in the kitchen, probably getting a drink of water, and that *^%# roach ran up Art’s pajama leg! Somehow that was a fitting end to stressful few days and, simultaneously, the start of a long time family tradition.
And that’s why we continue to have macaroni and cheese and hot dogs for our Christmas Eve supper.
In closing…whatever your homecoming or holiday traditions are, I wish you the best during this year’s holiday season. Enjoy!