DEAR GRANNY NUISANCE
ANNE STENHOUSE ©
“Sean,” Caro said. Realising instantly he couldn’t possibly hear her above Peppa Pig and assorted friends belting out of the TV, she tried again. “Sean!”
“Okay, love. What’s the problem?”
“Your mother has sent me an e-mail about Christmas.” Caro scanned the lines again and handed the phone to her husband so he could read it for himself.
“Right,” Sean said. “And?”
Caro sniffed, sniffed again, and gave way. Tears filled her eyes and flowed across her cheeks.
“I think it’s the nicest letter I’ve ever had,” she managed as she tried to blow her nose and fend off an assault by something furry launched from the settee.
“Really?” Sean sounded mystified and Caro had to remind herself that many non-cooks had no idea of the magnitude of upscaling Christmas dinner meant. He’d already been to the wine shop on the corner and ordered everybody’s particular brand of fizz, beer, gin, tonic and white, red or rosé. It would be delivered in good time and that was it. Job done.
“Dad wants a dry sherry,” Sean spluttered. “Where am I going to get that?”
“The supermarket had one last week. I nearly put it in the trolley, but you were so…”
“Pleased with myself for getting my share of the preparations out of the way. Well, thanks, Caro.” Sean handed the phone back and sank onto a chair.
Caro resisted the temptation to apologise. After all, it was Sean’s fault they were landed with feeding seventeen people and keeping track of five toddlers and three Dachshunds. This was why she had two spreadsheets of timings, one for shopping and one for cooking, tormenting her. He was the one who’d got into one-upmanship banter with his sister and, Caro now suspected, been taken for a ride.
“Why don’t you ask Abi to get it. She did say…”
“If there’s anything we can do. What she meant was if you losers can’t even sort Christmas…”
“Forget it,” Caro snapped, the warmth created by her mum-in-law’s e-mail evaporating like snow off a dyke. “I’ve got a supermarket delivery slot and I can add dry sherry to the list.”
She watched the conflicting emotions cross her husband’s face until he sent her a rueful smile.
“Sorry, Toots. I’ve let us in for more than I knew.” He took the elephant out of her hands and the giraffe from the floor and tossed them back to their two over-excited off-spring. “What exactly is it about Mum’s mail that’s so touching?”
Caro scrolled the mail back and read it through again.
‘Dear Caro, Pete and I are so much looking forward to Christmas Day. He says it will be such a pleasure to relax with his dry sherry and not have to worry about finding enough ice/mixers/nibbles while I stress in the kitchen. Having done thirty Christmas dinners myself, I’ll bet you’re reaching the point of wondering why you ever took it on.
‘I’d like to make my contributions based on my earlier experience. You may find them a little weird, but I think when you look back from Boxing Day, you’ll see the point.
‘You asked me for a spectacular dessert, but I propose to bring:
- The potatoes, peeled and part-boiled, ready to go into the oven
- The carrots and parsnips, peeled, sliced and part-boiled
- A large dish of cooked red cabbage
- Several plastic boxes containing: sliced lemons and sliced limes, the batter for the pop-overs, brandy-butter, turkey gravy and jelly babies (these always raise my moral)
‘The point is to take out the nuisance stuff and leave to you the chance to have time to make a lovely pud (and get the praise). I cannot tell you how mortified I was when I forgot to par boil potatoes and we all had to wait forty minutes after the starter for the main course!
‘Let me know if this would help, please. If you would genuinely prefer a fancy pudding, then I’ll do that, of course. Love Tania, aka Granny Nuisance.’
“It’s the love,” Caro said finally, “And the understanding. Mum was on the phone within minutes of getting our invite to say she’d bring the crackers and the table napkins.”
“Well,” Sean said, “That helps a bit with all the extra shopping and crackers for seventeen can be expensive.”
Caro thought about that. He was right, of course, and she needed to be more appreciative. Starting off from a point of designing ‘her’ table, she’d seen her mum’s offer as trying to take the limelight, but thinking about it with Tania’s letter, the offer was designed to take the strain. Her mum had also done around thirty Christmas dinners. A more appreciative phone call to her was needed later.
She clicked reply on Tania’s message and began, ‘Dear Granny Nuisance…’
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