There's something satisfying about buying large quantities of food. My daughter and I went to the wholesale club first and filled a cart until it was overflowing. For our holiday punch, for example, I bought four gallons of cranberry juice, sixteen liters of Fizzy Lemony Drink that Comes in a Green Plastic Bottle, eight containers of frozen lemonade, and six lemons. I actually make the punch in a normal size punch bowl and keep adding stuff as the punch disappears, but sometimes I am tempted to mix it all up in a big new garbage can like they do at college frat parties.
I usually hate grocery shopping because it's boring – buying the same stuff every week – but shopping for a party is fun. The wholesale club is this huge warehouse so Beautiful Wonderful Smart Daughter and I brought cell phones and kept calling each other, even when we were in the same aisle. I can imagine that the customers around us found our witty dialogue far less amusing than we did.
We brought home a carload of food from the wholesale club, and then I went by myself to the local grocery store to get all the produce I needed. I've shopped in this same store my whole life, which means I run into people I know all the time. Normally, almost everyone in the store follows the same path, so shopping is somewhat orderly. Near the holidays, though, everyone is buying specialty items, and shoppers are going in all directions, circling back for things they forgot and stopping to talk to each other.
I saw my third-grade teacher. She is making fish for Christmas Eve. I saw Nurse Friend, who was in her role of social worker, helping someone else shop. I saw Monking Friend, whose oldest son came home from college just after midnight last night. I saw Older Woman with a million kids. She is making turkey for the Christmas meal. As I stood in the check-out line, I could women all around me talking about what foods they were making for holiday meals and which relatives would be home for Christmas.
I like getting hugs as I grocery shop. And I like cooking for a large group of people. I spent the morning chopping up vegetables, stirring big vats of chili. My husband was cleaning the house, with this noble idea that it should look nice for our friends, and kept coming into the kitchen area with random questions like, "How can I cover up the hole in the wall? Tape a Christmas decoration over it?" I'd like to say that my wonderful children were also pitching in and cleaning like crazy, offering to help cook, and helping with everything, but I don't want to give parents of young children who read my blog any kind of false ideas about what it will be like when your kids are teenagers. Maybe there are parents out there somewhere who can get their teenage kids to help clean without resorting to bribes and threats and guilt trips, but so far, I am not one of them.
Yesterday, I did the food preparation, as much as can be done ahead of time, my husband did the cleaning, with some grudging help from the kids, and then we went off to a holiday party in the evening. Today, the kids are still asleep, and we are doing all kinds of last minute stuff before our party tonight. We've got food enough for a large crowd and a fire crackling in the fireplace. It's a grey, overcast day, but inside the house, everything is warm and cosy.