It is the day before Christmas Eve, and I am squashed around a table which is just too small for the purpose of housing it’s 10 occupants.
My family has gathered at my eldest sister’s house to celebrate Christmas – nieces, nephews, sisters, in-laws and my Dad, and quite frankly the whole thing is bloody lovely (because everyone has just arrived, and no one’s pissed anyone else off yet! As much as my family love each other we are after all, human!)
My eldest sister Laura, along with her husband of forever are hosting and catering the whole three days of celebration. Casseroles, soups, roast potatoes, turkeys, ham, Quality Street, toilet roll – quite literally everything you could possibly imagine you might want or need to celebrate Christmas in Britain, my sister has provided.
Now I’m the sort of person who lets somebody else cater for her (who’s surprised?!)
I bring the fun and organise the games while someone else worries about when the roast parsnips need to go in the oven or how full the dishwasher is getting.
Don’t get me wrong, I help out, but catering is not my thing and I am more than happy to offer moral support to Laura in her catering endeavours.
Jenny, my other sister is different. She, upon hearing that there was quite literally nothing that she could bring with her “yes we have enough Gin and no we don’t need any more pickles for boxing day” pushed back and insisted that she bring something.
“Okay” Laura said down the phone to her, desperately searching for something Jenny could contribute to the dinner table, “you can bring a Yule Log!”
Side note! A Yule log is a European thing – it’s basically a chocolate sponge rolled with butter icing of some description into the shape of a log and covered in chocolate to resemble, you guessed it, a log. Something to do with branches being used way back in the day to adorn a house at Yule time which now that I’m typing this sounds a lot like a Christmas tree to me but whatever the story, History I welcome your chocolate log on my desert plate.
And so it was that my sister Jenny was put in charge of the Yule Log for the Chadbourne Family Christmas gathering of 2018.
Which brings us back to the dinner table the night before Christmas Eve.
We have just finished eating a beef stew prepared by Laura (which, rather impressively my youngest niece has somehow splattered in my hair. We aren’t even sat next to each other. Or near each other. Amazing!) and as the plates are cleared away, Jenny announces that we are all to wait in the lounge while she prepares dessert.
Obediently we pile out of the kitchen/dining room and some time passes.
And some more time.
And then some more time.
I think to myself, what the fuck is Jenny doing in there.
Laura and I exchange raised eyebrows.
We can hear sounds of bashing around, the odd muffled swear word, at one point she pops her head around the door and asks Laura where her icing sugar is, does anyone have a lighter (?) and finally, she calls us in.
And bugger me! Did Jenny take that one lowly task of providing a Yule Log and make it the feature of Christmas. Music started playing as soon as we walked into the dining room (We Are The Champions by Queen), an electronic disco ball (which I suspect she bought especially for the occasion) lit up the walls and there on the dining room table surrounded by tea lights and glitter was a Yule Log, three flares exploding from the top. Chocolate snowmen and reindeer acted as pillars to the silver cake stand that the Yule Log was perched on, like an offering to the Gods.
You get what you give. What you put into things is what you get out of them. - Jennifer Lopez
Here’s the thing about life. There are parts of it at times that seem unadventurous, even plain. Like something as simple as a chocolate sponge, rolled and covered in chocolate. Simple. Boring. Dull, even. But what we bring to life, what we decide to adorn life with, how we attack it, how much love and excitement we bring to our life day to day has a massive impact on the experience we have. My sister reminded me of that. She could have walked into Laura’s house and reached into a Tesco’s (Coles) bag and pulled out a standard oversized, overpriced mini roll (which is really all a Yule Log is). And we’d have eaten it. But it wouldn’t have brought the fun and delight and ceremony that she insisted on adding to this seemingly mundane dessert. It’s not what you put on the table but how you put there that counts. Thanks for the reminder Jen, that life is totally and utterly, what you make it.
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Thank you very much for reading.