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July 8, 2020 | Rome, Italy

Surfeited and sassy

By | 2018-03-21T18:52:17+01:00 December 9th, 2012|"Suzanne's Taste"|
Kids first...

hy do I get the blues at Christmas? Well, not exactly the blues; more like the grays or maybe the dull browns. I know, I know, you’re supposed to love the holidays, invite the family over, cook up a storm, and make sugar cookies and jellies and jams to give away with a holiday smile to friends and relatives.

I used to do that.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I once made colored popcorn strings, handmade cards appropriate to each and every gift I wrapped, and glitter stars to tuck into the tree branches among my mother’s ancient and lovely glass ornaments (including exquisitely feathered birds and little wooden toy trains and angels). I lovingly saved these eons-old perennials in well-used tissue and pulled them out annually.

So where did it go, the small electric buzz of an impending holiday season that grew with the tree’s decoration until the final silvery star was placed on its crown?

I hope it’s not age, because the a-word has been banned from our vocabulary. Plus, there are now the grandkids to create the buzzes and help kick-start the season. But even they, after having opened myriad little packages, are off on a new bike or absorbed in a new game while we adults sip the last of our wine and long to get to bed and wake up to find it all over for another year. Hurrah!

Bah, humbug? I hope not.

Maybe, I think to myself, I should just turn this thing around. I mean really give it a spin in a new direction. Float a loan and try to find Beluga in one-pound cans and call in the neighbors, or sell the children and take a sexy week-long hiatus in the Caribbean with my honey on a rented yacht, crew included. Make that hunky crew.

At least there would be no kids to fall overboard.

How about meeting all my friends for a few days in Saturnia, Montecatini, Baden Baden (you name it), and languishing in eucalyptus oil massages, line-erasing facials, hot rock healing trances and food from a starred chef, culminating in a holiday toast of Dom Perignon and then, surfeited and sassy from relaxation and the stress of huge family gatherings, back to reality.

Maybe there should be a special space in a house, apartment, studio for a Christmas/holiday chair, isolated by four (temporary) soundproof walls and containing Bose earphones, CDs or a favorite book, a glass or cup or mug of some preferred libation and a cuddly security blanket. When you’re in that space, no one is allowed to knock, peek or enter for at least two hours. Maybe three. Make that four. Breaks are allowed but those who see you have to pretend they haven’t. When you ring a little bell or come out on your own, socializing and holidays can begin again.

I have endless fantasies about how to handle the closing of the year, but in the end I’m enchanted anew by the tinsel and the twinkly lights of the beautiful city in which we often spend holidays. I find myself reading every event announcements on walls and doors to find Hayden or Bach’s best chamber or chorale or a celebration symphony, conducted perhaps by Rome’s beloved British borrowing, Antonio Pappuano. My senses swim and drown in the tantalizing smell of roasting chestnuts on city street corners. My defenses weaken and collapse completely as I buy little warm packets of castagne, roast chestnuts, planning to savor them dipped in melted butter and salted at home.

And then, as I meander toward the warmth of my home through Rome’s winter splendor, the sweet, seductive sound of the Abruzzi bagpipers winds its way toward me, and I find myself surrendering to the holiday madness and magnificence, yet again.

About the Author:

Suzanne Dunaway
Suzanne Dunaway, a longtime major magazine writer and artist, is the author and illustrator of "Rome, At Home, The Spirit of La Cucina Romana in Your Own Kitchen" (Broadway Books) and "No Need To Knead, Handmade Italian Breads in 90 Minutes" (Hyperion). She taught cooking for 15 years privately and at cooking schools in Los Angeles, and now maintains a personal website and a blog. She divides her time between southern France and Italy.

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