: views from the Hill

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas was everything I wanted

The younger younger guy flew in from Boston late -- after eleven -- on the 23rd. He found me snoozing in the wait lounge when he arrived. Luckily his nibs was awake. I'd been up past my bedtime for the previous two or three nights and had crashed.

We got back to our place and got to bed after midnight, more like one a.m. or so. I was up before seven-thirty (being careful not to wake up the younger younger guy who was asleep on the living room floor) to head down to Liguria Bakery for focaccia for us to snack on during the day before our big Christmas Eve dinner and for a couple raisin focaccia to take to the family Christmas.

But it turned out I wasn't the only one with such plans.

After over an hour and a half in line, I reached the front door around nine-thirty and discovered the bakery had just sold their last piece of my favorite rosemary focaccia. I winged it with the two raisin focaccia I was planning to bring to Christmas brunch, plus one each of garlic, rosemary garlic and two tomato/pizza. Turns out they mixed up the order a bit and I wound up with onion instead of the garlic. I prefer the garlic to the onion (others have the exact opposite preference), but we survived the mixup.

Who knew that focaccia on Christmas was such a big tradition for some people? There were people standing in line who were buying twelve sets of tomato focaccia for Christmas Day. People had driven over from Pacifica and up from the south bay, and that was only the people I talked to or overheard a couple spaces ahead or behind me in line.

I don't know if the people still in line behind me got the focaccia they wanted before Liguria ran out for the day. You snooze. You lose. Now that I know their Christmas Eve hours have them opening at 6 a.m. (instead of the 7 a.m. opening hours that are "normal" for weekends), I'll know to be on their doorstep at 6 a.m. on Christmas Eves in the future.

The older younger guy and his guy drove up from Santa Cruz in the afternoon and we chatted and sat around. I made cheese danish coffee rolls (from scratch ... yeast and knead and raise and all) while the others read until it was time to walk over to the HOPR (hopper) AKA The House of Prime Rib on Van Ness for a Christmas Eve dinner.

Dinner reservation was for 10 p.m., the earliest we could get. We were seated fifteen minutes, a half hour late, but that was okay. The time in the bar area gave us a chance to watch the passing crowd, and what a motley crowd it is. The HOPR is a favorite with a wide variety of people.

Dinner was exactly what we expected. How could it not be when the menu is pretty straightforward and hasn't changed since it opened fifty-plus years ago. The only recent change is an option for the vegetable side: you can now order creamed corn in lieu of the creamed spinach, a result of the E.coli spinach problem earlier this year.

Who knew that Christmas Eve dinner at HOPR was a long-standing tradition for some families? I didn't, although it may become one for us. More than one family party left, saying "Thanks. Good-bye. See you next year." to the wait staff.

I swear the guy and his son who were standing in front of me at Liguria were waiting for a table with the wife and daughter of the family.

Filled to the brim and carrying our bright red HOPR bags with our uneaten pieces of prime rib stored inside, we walked back home.

We didn't get to bed until after midnight.

Up bright and early, we turned on the sparkling tree and had focaccia and cheese danishes for a snack before we opened our presents to each other, to and between the five of us.

Oddly enough, the presents were book-book-book-(gift certificate for book store)-book-book-(magazine subscription)-book-DVD-book-book-mug.

Theme here?

After the opening of presents, we loaded up both cars with presents for the rest of the family and focaccia (and hard sauce to go with it) and cheese danishes and what-not and headed off to the Towse family Christmas in the east bay. Over the bay and through the tunnel and up to the water and east and ... we arrived.

The day was good. Far better than I could've hoped for. I missed Dad, of course, but it was good to see us all together and together.

My present for the matriarch was a box of mixed XOX truffles, which she loved. I mean really loved. Great! Now I know what to bring her for a treat when we visit.

Christmas was everything I wanted. We didn't get or give loads of gifts. There were no piles of presents, no conspicuous consumption. I had what I wanted: family and peace and having us all together. Everything and all that I wanted. Here's to magic. Here's to wonder. Here's to family. Here's to love.

Good night. Good peace.

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