Friends at Christmas
My gloved hand places some coins into the cast iron kettle of Salvation as the bell-ringer wishes me a Happy Christmas. I pull the hood of my cape up to shield myself from the biting wind and hurry along up the crowded sidewalk, sharing smiles with the people passing by, every face a reflection of holiday cheer. Just up the hill to the right I see my destination, frosted windows glowing, a holly wreath on the door, one of my favourite lunchtime cafes, and the most festive spot for a Christmas lunch with an old friend.
The bell on the door jingles like a laugh as I enter.
Such a treat of the season, these lunches and teas, dinners and brunches. No matter our schedules throughout the year, Christmas is the time when my friends and I make those special appointments to meet face to face, over Earl Grey or coffee, mulled wine or Diet Coke. It is quite Dickensian, I know - for who can forget the reformed Mr. Scrooge inviting the astonished Bob Cratchit out for a discussion of his greatly improving circumstances “over a Christmas bowl” - but this time of year, a phone call just won’t do. I do so love these holiday get togethers.
There is tea with the witty friend who seems to handle everything in life with a wink and laugh. We discuss shoes and boys, health care reform and climate change, make-up, skin care and which actor makes the better Mr. Darcy on film... in short, a real girly- girl lunch with a side order of seriousness. Lots of drink refills and lots of laughs.
Then there is the brunch with the Southern belle, the equestrian - she who wants me to take up riding again - who loves dogs and antiques, old houses and grand design. We discuss travel and books, dogs and horses, paint colours, Christmas ornaments and fabric swatches. She has the best stories, the best gossip, the best tall tales of the eccentric South.
There is the lunch with my oldest friend, the lovely photographer. She is the friend with whom I speak in shorthand, who knows what I am thinking before I speak, who laughs at my jokes before I tell them. She is the one who wants me to write a book, who believes I can do anything. Oldest friends are sweet blessings indeed. We have shared so many Christmases together.
And then there is the friend from the low country who arrives every year for a Christmas visit. She is the one who loves Keats and Hardy, who speaks French and longs to reside on the Ile Ste Louis. We always visit used book stores and knit shops, see a movie, and linger over long, long breakfasts.
There is the chap who shows up on Boxing Day with a truckload of firewood for a Christmas gift. There is the Songwriter's boyhood friend who sneaks up on the front porch on Christmas Eve to silently leave a sackful of gifts to rival anything Santa ever dreamed.
One of the many treats of the festive season.
One of the many reasons I love it so.