A: the crinkle of wrapping paper, the scent of the tree, the echo of carols, and the flavors of a Christmas meal. As commentator Caroline Langston recalls, her mother's Christmas meal was not all that memorable - with one exception.
CAROLINE LANGSTON: My mother was a terrible cook. Weeknights were bad enough. Dinner, in our pine-paneled house, meant a pack of minute steaks, Jell-o, and a can of English peas dumped into a saucepan and heated on the stove. I don't blame her. In another era she might have gone to law school and just bought carryout, the way I do sometimes, or married the kind of man who does the cooking, like all my friends.
: sugarplums and rich roast beef, and all the homemade pies. Every year, I asked my mother to bake the gingerbread house from the Time-Life Foods of the World cookbook and every year, she refused. Instead, each Christmas, we sat down to the same bland Butterball turkey that no toll-free number could save, the same dried-out cornbread stuffing, the good crystal glasses filled with iced tea because we were Southern Baptists who didn't drink. Even way back then, my siblings and I were plotting to be the kind of people who were going to feast differently - with wineglasses brimming Cabernet, Stilton cheese, and a tray of toast points and caviar. Nobody was going to call us unsophisticated. And as soon as my sisters were old enough to take over the cooking, the innovations began.
: My mother has Alzheimer's now, and has no memory of the rum cake or any of the other meals she once cooked. This year, I will make that rum cake in her honor, serve it alongside the Stilton and the Cabernet. I will remember her bustling in the kitchen, her face smiling with surprised joy.
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: Caroline Langston is a writer and mother of two in Cheverly, Maryland.
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