Christmas in July

I hate it when people say that, Christmas in July. It’s not that I’m against gifts – I tingle at the sight of an unexpected package (the more stamps, the better). But if Christmas happened a second time, wouldn’t it be in June? I mean, calendar-wise? But Christmas in June just doesn’t have that nice ring to it.

Anyway. On Friday, Christmas showed up on my front porch. (And it’s July.)

Most years, we spend Christmas with my husband’s family. I can count three with my family in the eleven years my husband and I have been together, and this is a good thing: Christmas in my family is a convenient time to hang out, a time when everyone has the day off, a good day to ski and drink hot chocolate and gloat about the lack of a lift line. My mother’s Jewish, so despite her ability to spread the guilt on thick in other situations, late December doesn’t come with strict familial duties and pressures, which means we’ve always had a fairly easy time balancing the holidays. My family’s just as happy if I visit in January.

Here, my husband is lucky. Because in his family, Christmas is some of the expected religious pomp and circumstance, combined with (what is to me) a massive family reunion, plus parties, diligent Christmas morning traditions, and copious quantities of cheese, all jammed into two or three days.

Each year in Vermont, where we often celebrate, someone hosts a Christmas Eve party. We’re talking upwards of 20 people, gathered in one house in sports coats and cable-knit sweaters, jabbering and drinking and eventually sitting down together at one massive table. I love it all. This year Kim hosted; she’d set a table for 24, I think, with what I took to be some fancy china, personalized place cards, gifts for each person, etc. She could have given Martha a run for her money.

But when the tenderloin came out and dinner got underway, I picked my plate up and was surprised to find that the plates were plastic. She’d found them in Chinatown – Who wants to wash twenty-four fancy plates on Christmas Eve?, she reasoned – for cheap. I swooned. She offered to pick some up for me the next time she saw them, and I instantly forgot about them.

But a couple days ago, when a package showed up on the porch with her address on the return label, squeezed next to twenty-seven (I counted) stamps of various monetary values, I knew just as instantly what was inside. Christmas in July, indeed.

My husband did warn me that writing about the peacock cups might generate a landslide of ancient dishware from his side of the family. A natural dish gradient, if you will, unused dishes mailed to and fro across the country according to gravitational pull.

It didn’t happen (I should probably be thankful), but these – oh, they are just right for the chairs. (And I’d just decided my husband was right; buying plastic plates for outdoors in the summer was too frivolous. Ha!)

If I set them the long way on the fat arm of my adirondack chair, I can even cut on them without flipping the entire plate into my lap, like I did a few nights ago.

Oooh, just wait ’til you see them.

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