Christmas in Cali for Smartmom

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They had a little fight about it. Smartmom said they couldn’t afford to go. But Hepcat prevailed. It had been two years since they’d spent Christmas in California and Hepcat wanted to go.

Ultimately Smartmom gave in. She knows that Christmas means a lot to Hepcat and it had been a while since he’d celebrated with his family: last year, Smartmom’s dad was in Mt. Sinai Hospital between Christmas and New Year’s. And the year before that, Manhattan Granny’s health necessitated that they stay in town.

So it was decided. Hepcat charged the tickets ($2,000!) and they were good to go. Smartmom knew the kids wouldn’t be thrilled at first because they like to be around their friends during school vacation. But they’d adjust.

Even Smartmom got used to the idea. She decided that loads of together-time as a family was just what they needed. For seven days, they’d be stuck in a big house in the country with nowhere to go; they’d eat every meal together and have loads of time to talk, play Scrabble and do jigsaw puzzles.

It sounded like heaven to her.

Hepcat was thrilled to be going home for Christmas. That’s not to say that he didn’t enjoy his two Brooklyn Christmases. He loved buying Christmas trees from the handsome Vermonter who sells them on Ninth Street from a tent blaring jazz music, and he loved the Christmas lox and bagels brunch with Diaper Diva, Groovy Grandma and various members of Smartmom’s extended Jewish family. And he always seemed to love a Christmas Day movie at the Pavilion and Christmas dinner at Hunan Cottage on Union Street.

But Smartmom wouldn’t be Smartmom if she couldn’t tell that her big old California farm boy was homesick. He pined for the smell of eucalyptus leaves in the garden, the whistle of the Southern Pacific freight trains in the distance, the braying of his mother’s goats, Flora and Miss America, out in the pen.

You can take a farm boy out of California, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy — especially on Christmas.

Teen Spirit and the Oh So Feisty One liked their Brooklyn Christmases, too. It was fun to wake up on Christmas morning to find their filled stockings tied to the dresser in the living room. No matter that there’s no mantle. In Brooklyn, it is believed that Santa Claus enters through the dumbwaiter or disguised as one of the delivery guys from Coco Roco.

On the night before Christmas, Smartmom and family arrived on Hepcat’s family farm (after an unusually long flight which included a refueling stop in Salt Lake City) tired, hungry and ready for sleep.

For a nice Jewish girl from New York City, the scene couldn’t have been more perfect. As always, there was a towering Christmas tree festooned with vintage decorations; Mexican crèches placed tastefully all over the house; and roaring fires burning in not one, but two, fireplaces.

Yup, it was nice to be back.

OSFO popped out of bed Christmas morning. Teen Spirit was harder to rouse (he’s 17 after all). They opened their gifts and hung out with their cousins who they hadn’t seen in more than a year.

It was a jigsaw puzzle and Scrabble kind of day topped off by a bountiful Christmas super, which included ham, oysters, sweet potatoes and great conversation. Smartmom couldn’t stop eating the pannetone, almond roca and coconut macaroons and swore to be back on Weight Watchers by morning.

She could tell that Hepcat was enjoying himself big time. His mother went through bags of old photographs while his sister regaled them with hilarious stories about her new chihuahua.

In the days after Christmas, Teen Spirit and OSFO pretended to be wildly bored. But Smartmom knew it was good for their creative juices. Teen Spirit spent much of the holiday writing songs while OSFO practiced a Bach minuet on the piano and used her grandmother’s potter’s wheel.

As promised, the family ate every meal together, played plenty of Scrabble and did jigsaw puzzles. They spent loads of time in each other’s company.

Sure they got on each other’s nerves.

Sure they had a few fights.

But it was Christmas in California. Seven days with nothing to do but be together. What could be better?

Louise Crawford, a Park Slope mom, also operates “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.”
Updated 5:10 pm, July 9, 2018
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