“I don’t think I can do this again,” Pearl took off her washing up gloves and wiped her forehead with her handkerchief. “It must be over 40 in this kitchen, but at least it’s all cleaned up.” She smiled at Nancy, her daughter-in-law, who smiled back.
Clarry, her husband of thirty years, stuck his head in the door. “Boil the kettle for us, will ya luv? We’re parched out here.”
Pearl sagged and Nancy suggested, “Why don’t I make the tea while you go out there with the others and cool down a bit?” When it looked like Pearl was going to object, Nancy added brutally, “If you stay out here any longer, you’ll make yourself sick. You should have some cold soft drink out of the fridge before you even think about tea.”
“That would be nice,” Pearl allowed and quietly went.
Later the two women spoke privately again. “We could have Christmas dinner at our place instead of here,” offered Nancy. “It’s bigger and we’ve got a dishwasher.”
“We’d still have to cook dinner,” pointed out Pearl.
“Not on the day,” pointed out Nancy, “if we had a cold buffet. Cold chicken, ham, salad and cold desserts. No hot kitchen.”
“We wouldn’t have to get Clarry to carve anything,” said Pearl hopefully. “He always insists on doing it, but he can’t carve anything properly.”
Clarry objected. He didn’t want to lose the roast Christmas dinner with all the trimmings he’d had all his life, even if roast chicken didn’t have to be an occasional meal any more.
“Then you can stay out in that box oven of a kitchen all day and make yourself sick from the heat,” snapped Nancy while her husband, Charlie, staying judiciously out of the conversation.
Clarry tried to rally support from his brothers who all spent Christmas with their own children and grandchildren these days.
“Sorry, mate,” said Jack. “Glad hasn’t cooked a hot Christmas dinner on the day for years. She doesn’t even do the Christmas pud, our Gail’s Joe makes it and the custard and brings them along.” He dropped his voice conspiratorially, “It’s a better pudding than Glad’s ever was, but I never told ya that.”
Tom laughed. “We’ve been having a cold seafood spread for a few years now. Frannie makes a pavlova and a trifle. Young Elizabeth brings along a Christmas pudding ice cream and we all give Mike and Kim our money and they hit the fish market on Christmas Eve for us. Works out well.”
The rest of the family was no more supportive.
Clarry grumbled about it in the lead up to Christmas and was only slightly mollified by the baked dinner Pearl cooked for him on Christmas Eve. He was still grumbling when he walked into Nancy and Charlie’s house and even when he picked up his plate to start serving himself. Something happened as he ate. The grumbling slowed and then stopped.
Finally, as they sat around the table, happily full, cool with no hot blast of air coming out of the kitchen and drinking tea, he said, “Why ever didn’t we do this before?”