Eating. Christmas dinner.
What I remember from my childhood - dimly - is that we would get up, spend an hour or so unwrapping presents together (leaving an explosion of wrapping paper, ribbons, and cardboard boxes all over the living room floor, the dog wandering around and sniffing at all the presents), have breakfast, go watch a movie, and then have dinner in a Chinese restaurant or at home, the usual Chinese-inflected home cooking that I have known all my life. That was our tradition. Now we are flung apart across the globe, and I spend my Christmases with friends who have their own traditions. Traditions involving vast quantities of beef, mountains of food.
For me holidays are about bread pudding, made with croissants and rum-soaked raisins. I made one just last week for a birthday party at work, and when Y. comes by I grab his hand and drag him into the kitchen for a leftover piece. This is my signature dessert, I say. I thought that was brownies, he says. (I am notorious for my brownies). No. Bread pudding. I have made it so many times that the recipe is easier to remember than my own telephone number and I usually make it in the morning before I am fully awake, eyes half-closed, hands reaching absent-mindedly for tea and milk before gathering together eggs and half-and-half, vanilla and sugar.
The day slips by, another Christmas, another day. Out for a walk, a movie, and then home to grab the cooled pudding (which I will reheat later) and head off to dinner. The house is be-wreathed and the hall is bright with poinsettias; a glittering tree seems to float above a pile of presents. On the table is the Christmas china that D. uses every year; potatoes boil away on the stove as the prime rib rests in the oven, fragrant with garlic. There is a towering pile of shrimp cocktails, as there always is at every family gathering. Finally it is time to eat, and as always, the adults eat at the long kitchen table while the children are in the formal dining room, because the food is in the kitchen and the grownups get first crack at everything. There are rosemary-crusted lamb chops and baked yams and sweet potatoes and salad and gravy and rich au jus for the prime rib and fluffy mashed potatoes made with a horrifying amount of butter, if you are the type of person to be horrified by butter, which I am not.
And then there is bread pudding, hot and moist and creamy and crusty on top and filled with raisins plumped with rum. Bright clementines are scattered around the table, juicy and sweet; I eat one, and then one more. Another year has gone by. What will the next year bring?