Gathering together for food and fellowship on Christmas Day

Susan Manzke
Christmas dinner, cookies from home followed for dessert.

I hear from friends and relatives that they gave their pets gifts for Christmas. Most even wrapped them so the dog or cat could rip the paper off, which I thought was a bad idea. The next thing you know your pet will be ripping open people packages, too, just in case there was a dog toy inside.

My pets were remembered at Christmas, too, but their gifts were treats. My inside cats, Car-E, Cruella, and Barn-E got a few extra treats, as did Sunny, my dog. They seemed happy with that, though they did beg for more, as usual.

The barn cats got an extra-large serving of canned cat food, along with their kibble. I might have overdone their Christmas breakfast as there were leftovers, which never happens.

My three hens even got a special treat. They received pieces of bread and some grapes, too. They seemed delighted with both and quickly pecked through their bit of pampering for the day.

Christmas dinner for us humans was supplied by my sister-in-law, Ginny. Neither of us had to cook. We just heated up the holiday meal purchased from the deli at Don’s Market in Seymour. It was the perfect size for us and two more. Rebecca and Andy planned on joining us, too—our big family gathering is set for January.

The odd thing was that early Christmas morning, after video chatting with grandchildren and seeing what was under their tree, I felt like I should be cooking.

During every other holiday, I had at least bread to bake to add to the potluck meal. This time nothing else was needed. All I had to do was to remove cards and papers from my kitchen table before guests came. Cookies were baked days ago.

It was ten-thirty when everyone arrived, so we had plenty of time to visit. Rebecca and Andy took turns holding Barn-E, trying to convince him they were friends.

All my cats think I’m the only person in the world. They continue to be suspicious of visitors, even ones bearing treats. Usually they head for the hills or under the couch to hide from everyone else. On Christmas Day they came out to check on the newcomers, even if they had no intention of making friends of them.

Around eleven-thirty, Rebecca started warming our meal. One by one, our ham, potatoes, and green bean salad went into the microwave to bring them up to temperature. That didn’t go as quickly as possible as my machine is on the weaker side.

As the food warmed, I stacked plates and silverware in a heap on the table, counting so we wouldn’t be short.

Andy pulled the table away from the wall, before picking up the plates. “Is anyone else coming to eat with us?” he asked, a puzzled look on his face.

“No, just us,” I said.

“Well, there are settings for five here and a chair against the wall.” Andy held up the extra plate.

Now, how did I do that? I wondered. Soon I realized what I had done. I accidentally added a setting for Bob.

When company came in the past, I always started counting place settings at two for Bob and I and then adding the number of guests coming to the table. That’s exactly what I had done on Christmas Day.

I know some people do include a seat at a feast for a departed loved one, but that has never been our custom. The extras were put away, but I think Bob still joined us for our meal.

I had never done this before in the two years since Bob’s passing. This act stays with me so that’s why I’m sharing it here today.

Wishing everyone a healthy new year, filled with good memories of your loved ones and maybe an extra place reserved for them at the table.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;