In the days before email was the communication norm, waiting to find out when my appointment for a green card interview was to be scheduled, I would wake up before dawn to call the American Consulate in Naples, where my application was being considered. My attorney had suggested I called, repeatedly, as, by the time I would get the letter, the appointment date would be too close to book a reasonably priced flight (or even past – the Italian mail is notorious).
Day 0 starts with a lot of nervousness but goes off with military precision. I leave the house at 5:30 am armed with newspaper, Gary Shteyngart’s autobiography (because the man can make me laugh) and crossword puzzles. I know there will be a lot of waiting around and, in the end, it is the crossword puzzles, forcing me to think hard without letting other thoughts in, and some breathing exercises, that restore my calm. By the time the doctors wheel me into the operating theatre, with a healthy dose of a happy drug in my veins, I am positively giddy and without a care in the world.
I cherish rituals and, every year, between December 27 and 29, I empty my battered 30 year Filofax of its one-page a day diary and insert the refill I bought back in October. I go through the pages half- filled with pencil scribbled notes, hunting for friends’ and family’s birthdays to annotate in the pristine new diary: even if Facebook and my phone do remind me in much more technological ways of these festive events, taking the time to copy them over makes me feel closer to the people who crowd my heart, while evaluating the year that has just passed in the space of 15 minutes.
It took exactly four hours. As my mother predicted. Four hours of kneading pasta, rolling it, cutting it, filling it and twirling the little buggers around my index finger, before placing them gently on a baking sheet. Four hours of hard labor and mind-numbing boredom, the tv humming in the background to offer some relief, the same exact way my mother does it.
The holiday spirit finally deigned itself of an appearance. Up until then, I could only focus on the annoyances: the fake cinnamon scent greeting me in every supermarket, the tacky reindeer on roofs all over town, the worsening traffic. I haven’t purchased a tree or a gift yet. Life was just bumbling along in all its normality, until Friday night when, after having whipped up the most perfect sabayon at a client’s house whose holiday party I was catering, right while all the guests were sitting down to enjoy their desserts, I dipped some fresh raspberries in the leftover custard and I tasted the holidays.
Last time I was in McGregor I got a vicious virus that was stalking the little village. Hit my stomach in the middle of the night and laid me low for almost three weeks. The upside is I lost a couple of pounds, the down that I couldn’t bear to look at food. I also had no energy and was generally flat, miserable, negative and cranky. Not a good combo. Our pal Tracey is here from the UK and we’ve repaired to McG to repair. Me from the virus that morphed into a chest infection, and her from a year of challenge that saw her embarking on a hell of a journey. That is her story to tell one day – but suffice to say she pushed herself to the limit and needed some time doing nothing much but listening to her iPod through her Dr Dre Beats headphones. Apparently these are the new big thing in headphones, and I knew nothing about them: so I am officially old. (Side bar – love how Dre saw that Apple made terrible headphones and turned that into a business.)