(continued from the previous entry)
So we knew not to go to Blue’s for dinner on Christmas Eve. That left us with something of a quandary: should we go to the Holiday Inn (the only other game in town for Western food) and pay extortionate prices for a set meal? Or should we do nothing?
And then the Christmas Miracle happened: Kerry’s parents sent him a box of assorted seasonal goodies: a plastic Christmas tree; a couple CDs of carols; eggnog and mulled wine mixes, and a bottle of spray-pine scent. That pretty much settled it: Christmas was at Kerry’s. We’d do a Secret Santa thing, and listen to Christmas carols, and drink eggnog and mulled wine, and damn well make a merry Christmas of it.
And this we did; I arrived at Kerry’s to find Ben and Adam already there, the eggnog already made, and the mulled wine simmering fragrantly. Adam was wearing a Santa Claus hat with bizarre Pippi Longstocking pigtails hanging from the sides. There was a delicious-looking gingerbread house that Kerry had gotten at the Holiday Inn on the table (we all cast longing glances at it every few minutes), and a plate of bread and ham and cheese, and a bowl of Triscuits, and another bowl of nacho Chex Mix.
Blake and Natasha arrived stylishly late, as is their wont, and after a plate or two of honey-glazed ham and a fistful or ten of nacho Chex, we set down to opening presents.
Blake went first. He took his present (from Kerry), weighed it for a moment, then tore off the wrapping to reveal a black flask with a silver portrait of Stalin on the front, and a small embossed portrait of Lenin on the cap.
Then Ben went, then I. Natasha was left giftless, since her secret Santa had failed to show up, but she took it much better than I would have.
Then Kerry took his gift (from Ben), studied the wrapping for a moment, and opened it to reveal: a black flask with a silver portrait of Lenin on the front, and a hammer and sickle on the cap.
There was laughter all around as Kerry and Blake held their flasks side by side, studying and comparing them. Everyone present deemed the flasks perfect gifts for the hard Manchurian winter.
Then it was Adam’s turn. “This is my first Christmas present ever,” he announced, and we were all appropriately appreciative. He took his gift – a box, from Blake, that had “Genuine Russkification Kit” written on the side in faux Cyrillic. It took him a moment to get the box open, but when he did, he withdrew from it:
A dark brown Russian-style fur hat.
A bottle of something-skaya vodka.
And a black flask with a silver relief portrait of the Kremlin on the front, and Lenin on the top.
We all sat there and laughed, and sipped our mulled wine, and nibbled at Kerry’s gingerbread house. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” came on the stereo.
And maybe it was the fake pine scent, or the gingerbread, or the Chex Mix. Maybe it was Adam’s ridiculous Santa hat, which now lay in a corner, forsaken for the Russian one. Maybe it was just a surfeit of seasonal cheer from the eggnog.
But for a moment, it felt more Christmassy than Christmas at home.
Then the next day, my school took me out to Christmas dinner and I ate roast silkworms.