Early morning, happy snoring sounds in bed with Dawn—then mom and I by the banquette watching the birds gather outside by her window. We stayed up late playing Dan Fogelberg songs on mom’s tablet, Dawn and my mom both crying to the lyrics, video stills of valleys filled with waterfalls and spring flowers that just made me want to puke. By afternoon everyone was going down for a nap and then the sun came out, so I walked to the cemetery, stopped at Friedrich Kollmar’s grave (they named a road after him in the Innenstadt), and sat on a bench by the monument to all who died in the two world wars, a statue holding a broad sword with its head bent low, the dates in stone behind it.
Christmas Eve, mid-afternoon, and there’s no one in town but me and a smattering of tourists and immigrants. I took one of my favorite routes along the edge of the village, from the cemetery past the old stone backhaus where they still bake bread and cakes (they use vine prunings for the fire, one of my favorite autumn smells)….I walked to the far wall that overlooks the fields, the river, all the places we walked: they have the scale, the look of a train set when I was a kid, the tiny houses and rooftops, with people out waving hello in their Christmas coats and hats. Everything looks perfect like that from far away, though it isn’t real.
I stress-drank in the kitchen with the turkey. It wasn’t going well, the pan didn’t fit right in mom’s oven and I had to jimmy it sideways like a piece of furniture through a doorway. It was smaller than the recipe calls for, and we let it sit out a long time after I prepped and buttered it: mom took over the oven for her gratin and it wouldn’t be done until 4, later than I wanted to start the turkey. The turkey gets oven roasted on high heat, the James Beard method where you take it out four times and flip it so it cooks evenly (kind of a manual rotisserie). But it’s dangerous because the bird gets really hot and leaks, and you need to use a wad of paper towels to handle it; the truss can come undone and let all the vegetables out of the cavity—so I plug it up with a foil ball.
The breast was temping right but the thighs were uneven, one side in particular, and when I propped it up a final time the V-rack I rigged collapsed, the bird flopped on its side, the pan wouldn’t fit square for some reason, so I said fuck it and just let it go another five minutes. And it was perfect, more or less.
I said to my family we’re just lucky we have our health, our happiness and one another. It’s rare you get all three.
We talked about Jean Shepherd, and the kids wanted to watch the Christmas Story movie but I went to bed—and in the morning the clock tolled eight times before I got up, the latest since we’ve been here. I came downstairs, turned on the heater/blower, put on Harold Budd the ambient artist, then wrote a card for Dawn, put it under the tree.