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Oh, Christmas. It is now forever entwined in a crack of dawn mad rush to Heathrow wherein I try desperately not to miss my flight. This year it was closer than ever as I had forgotten to get one of the things The Mom specifically requested I bring home for her neighbours, one of whom used to live in the UK. Sainsbury’s own tea bags. The cheap ones. Every time I was in Sainsbury’s during November and December, as I entered – and sadly, exited – the shop I thought, Must buy teabags. And I never remembered.

As I raced through Paddington for the Heathrow Express, I spied the Sainsbury’s sign glowing orange and checked the time on my phone. How forgiving was Air Canada likely to feel? Forgiving enough to let me check my bags in an hour before departure? I decided against risking it as it was one thing to explain forgetting teabags, quite another explaining to The Mom that I would be spending Christmas in my friend’s empty flat in London.

Being at home is always fun, even when it’s a bit boring because what I miss most when I’m over here in England is my family and their various strange, annoying and bewildering habits.

It was good to see that L’il Sis still keeps her Marigold gloves in the spider plant, though I didn’t see much in the way of evidence that the swamp is encroaching on other, drier areas of the kitchen counter.

And it was also good to see that the salt and oil supplies were still going strong. I believe they now have – combined, mind – at least fifteen different jars. I used the fancy pink salt which is apparently not at all that fancy, despite the fact that it comes from the Himilayas. Seriously. I believe you can also buy this in regular shops.

I stood with The Mom in the kitchen one morning when Crazy D and L’il Sis were out working or gymming. And together we marvelled at how different things were now, with my siblings in residence and me back across the pond.

“Seriously,” I said. “What’s the rationale behind the salt? What am I missing?”

The Mom shrugged. “Got me. I still keep my boring old table salt in the cupboard.”

“You’re allowed?”

She glared at me. “I insisted.”

“Why is the cast iron muffin tin sitting there, with a lid covering it? Has it been shamed? If so, why?”

“Ah,” The Mom said proudly. “I know this one. Your brother bakes eggs now.”


“You’ll recall I gave him hilarious muffin cup papers for Christmas?”

“I was wondering about that but forgot to ask.”

“It’s to save what’s left of my muffin tin and L’il Sis’ sanity.”

“Go on,” I said.

“Basically, he bakes a dozen eggs in the muffin tin.”

“Why? Why would you do that?”

“To take them on bike rides in the dead of winter,” she said, mimicking, I assume, the amount of disbelief Crazy D himself would have shown.

“You want cold, baked egg cups to sustain you at -28C?”

“I don’t, he does. And he was baking them au natural if you will before, which led to your sister spending hours scouring the damned tin until it was clean. To her standards not mine.”

“Obviously,” I said.

The Mom’s kitchen has taken on a whole new level of intrigue since my siblings have moved in. I can hardly identify half of the things kept in there now, but not wanting to ruin the surprise for future visits, I restrict myself to a certain number of questions at a time.

One of the other things I had planned to bring back with me was one particular kind of salt The Mom and I deduced Crazy D and L’il Sis did not have in their collection. Their strange – to us, anyhow – habits are more entertaining when we get to participate, and though neither The Mom nor I quite understand why it’s necessary to have more than one thing in the kitchen from each of the basic food groups (which would be: wine, popcorn, ice-cream, chocolate, and chicken) the collecting aspect to their fervour is something to which we can relate.

But all in all, as far as gifts went, I did well on the procuring end. None of the gifts I gave needed to be returned – that it would have been impossible to do so is to miss the point. I, however, must remember to be more specific next year, as, after gleefully opening my gifts that were quite thoughtfully procured, I realised that they weren’t quite right. And when things are even a tiny bit off of what I require them to be I get jangly, and I am not on good form when jangly.

Crazy D gave me a backpack as requested and it was a brilliant one that would have outlasted a nuclear attack and I probably would have been buried with it. Unfortunately, it was a bit too technical and the strap that went across my chest was not going to work with the arthritis (which, when a flare is in progress makes it hurt to breathe, thus a strap across the chest is problematic to say the least).

L’il Sis made me exactly the kind of skirt I wanted, but there was an issue with the fabric – the wool she’d chosen was a bit too Christmassy for me to wear year round in England. Thankfully she is more than aware of my level of precision and didn’t make the skirt up until the fabric was settled on.

The Mom got me, as requested, a coat that looked like it wanted to be waterproof and was doubtless quite warm. Unfortunately, the hood, which was a selling point, academically, did try and suffocate me, thereby relegating it to the returns pile.

At any rate, the important bit is that I got to go home and be with my crazy people and their craziness and their weird pets for three weeks. Which is the best bit of all. Nothing says happy Christmas like eating leftover turkey in your track pants with your whole family (who are also, it must be noted, wearing their track pants – I mean, it may be Christmas, but it’s still winter.)