Christmas hasn’t happened for me yet.
It matters not how expensive the foie gras, nor how crisp and chilled the champagne. These things do not Christmas make. I am painfully aware of this fact after spending a profoundly unfestive weekend at the In Laws’ place.
The Frog is an only child, and this means that around the dinner table on Christmas Eve(ning), when Christmas dinner traditionally takes place in France, were Mr Frog, his parents and I. Tadpole was sleeping. No festive decorations adorned the table, and dinner was, quite frankly, nothing special. Either MIL is losing her touch, or I am not quite so easily impressed as in days gone by when Mr Frog and I first met. The foie gras lacked gros sel to sprinkle on top, the salmon looked rather forlorn without a marinade, or at the very least a wedge of lemon. Main course was a minuscule caille (guineau fowl) and there were no vegetables, only salad. I don’t think the EVILs are fond of the traditional French yule log dessert, bûche, so there was a rather bland ice cream version.
The FIL proudly uncorked his bottle of Pauillac Grand Cru Classé and proceeded to steer the conversation on a familiar tour of all the usual subjects: why Mr Frog and I need to find time to do some sport, why we need to buy a flat immediately, why we shouldn’t go on a wintersun holiday because skiing holidays are healthier, repeat to fade… Any controversial statement was backed up with ‘I saw it on the telly the other day’. Mention of television made me think wistfully of Eastenders’ double bills and other UK delights I would be missing.
Mr Frog manages to remain unruffled as his father tells us to how to live every aspect of our lives. I on the other hand, emboldened by a few glasses of claret, tend to get quite defensive and irritated. Pray tell how Mr Frog is supposed to find time to go a gym when he works 14 hour days and rarely sees Tadpole and I as it is? How can an armchair traveler who has never taken a plane and rarely left France tell me what to do with my precious holiday time? On the subject of buying an apartment, I do agree with him on the necessity to buy sometime soon, except I’d like an attractive flat in an old building, similar to the one we currently rent, and FIL would like to see us in a functional, characterless 70’s block of flats.
The meal was rounded off nicely with the exchanging of gifts. Mr Frog had virtually nothing to unwrap, as he had not yet made up his mind exactly which bag he wanted me to buy for him (a posh rucksack, not a French manbag, I hasten to add), nor which ski gloves he wanted his mum to buy (to keep his hands warm when traveling to work on his Vespa).
I, on the other hand, was spoiled rotten. I am now the proud owner of a waterproof poncho and an electric stapler.
Okay. I’ll admit that I have been saying to Mr Frog for quite some time that it is impossible to steer a pushchair and hold an umbrella at the same time, meaning that ferrying Tadpole to and from the childminder’s place in inclement weather can be rather a moistening experience. But there are some things which are just too practical and boring to be given as Christmas gifts. Surely? As for the electric stapler (pink, batteries not included), well, words fail me. The last thing I need on my desk at work is something to remind me that MIL is going a bit loopy as retirement beckons. Mr Frog has one too (blue) and is as perplexed about this choice of gift as I.
Perhaps it can be used as a weapon?
I may have criticised your Christmas dinners on occasion (I am referring specifically to my comment that it was ‘a glorified Sunday lunch’, whereas French Christmas dinner was more elegant and refined) but I now take it all back. I’d prefer your overcooked meat, roast potatoes and lashings of veggies any day. No matter how much bickering there might be between my sisters and I, no matter how tipsy dad will get, this weekend has brought home to me forcefully that you lot are what Christmas is all about for me.
Can’t wait to see you all tomorrow!