It's getting to be that special time of year again. I will leave the reasons behind its specialness open to interpretation. Holiday party invitations start showing up in one's mailbox the moment the turkey baster has been dried and tucked away in a drawer. Concurrently, this is the time of year when egg nog starts to muscle its way into your local supermarket's dairy case.
Egg Nog. It's a heart-stopping, cholesterol-laden, alcohol-spiked, phlegm-producing cup of Holiday goodness. And I'm a huge fan. I always have been.
As a child, the appeal was obvious; what eight year-old is going to say no to a sweet, creamy dairy product? I imagined I was drinking melted nutmeg ice cream. Given the ingredients, I didn't know how close to the mark I was. I would drink several glasses at holiday gatherings. If I accidentally got into the rum-spiked nog for adults (which was understandable since the crystal punch bowl full of alcoholic nog looked exactly like the cardboard carton that contained the booze-free liquid), so much the better. Open a container, pour out its contents, mix in a little rum, and get the party started. Egg nog punch is that simple. Or was, until I had my first taste of the real stuff.
It wasn't until I was well into adulthood that my family would pay a call on my stepmother's friend Charlene and her family, who had a sort of open house party every Christmas Eve. The house was always dressed to the teeth in holiday drag, complete with a sort of Christmas-on- Main-Street, U.S.A. recreation in miniature spread out over the tables in the living room and onto the grand piano. I'd peek into the tiny cellophane windows looking for any signs of domestic unhappiness or violence, but was invariably disappointed in my search. Booze-spiked cocktail wieners, prawns, and every kind of dip imaginable were there for the taking, and our hosts were always warm and in a festive mood, which is just the thing my family needs during the holidays. For me, the two main attractions of the party were the Presentation of the Egg Nog, and the Wheeling-in of Grandpa. This quiet old gentleman was missing one of his legs and an eye. At least, I assume he was missing an eye since he wore an eye patch. This in itself is nothing unusual, since it it very likely that he suffered from diabetes, though I never asked. What I always found interesting was the fact that he was always parked against the wall near the center of the main room, slightly to the right of a parrot cage, which hung near (but wisely not over) the dessert table. He was, to me, a sort of pirate centerpiece to the party.