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And all the while you smile

December 18, 2006

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Mr. Sundberg and I were supposed to spend the evening together wrapping gifts and sipping wine. "Romance Night," he calls it. But a friend of his called early Saturday afternoon in need of a ride home from his cabin. Apparently his truck died right there in the woods and his wife was on a plane to Norway to visit her sister so he called Mr. Sundberg, who loaded up and drove away without a second thought, and since the kids were on a youth group outing
— Christmas shopping in Minneapolis — and no one would return before 10:00, once again it was up to me. A mountain of gifts and a pile of paper and a tangle of ribbons and bows.

Wrapping gifts is a meditative thing. You take something from the pile, a bottle of cologne or a soccer ball or a pair of red silk boxer shorts, and you measure out and cut the paper that best fits the person, and you wrap and tape and festoon until it looks just right. You add a tag with a name, and all the while you smile, thinking about the person to whom the gift will be given, and what they might say, and there's a bit of a rush of excitement as the pile of wrapped gifts grows. Add a glass or two of Riesling, and "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" on the radio, and you're set.

Somewhere along the line the phone rang, and it was my mother. She was tired and unsure about what to make for Christmas dinner at her house next Saturday and I said I thought lasagna sounded fine and sure, I'll bring an hors d'oeuvre and some bread. There was a bit of quiet and I thought she might have dozed off. "One more thing," she said. Yes? I asked. "What is it you REALLY want for Christmas?" she asked. Hmm, I said, and told her about the beautiful red stoneware mixing bowl at the kitchen store, the one you could bathe a small child in. "Well, yes," she said, "but what I mean is, if you could wish for any one thing to happen this week, what would it be?" Then I heard my dad holler, "IT'S ON!" from their living room. "I'll call you tomorrow," she said, and that was that.

So I've been thinking about it, and don't have an answer quite yet. Things come to mind, of course, but some things I wish for I don't know that I want — that it will snow this winter as much as it did when I was a kid, or that Mr. Sundberg would sign us up for tango lessons. Some wishes are just plain silly. And then there are the big ones: may my kids lead long, happy lives, and may there be world peace, and may I, just once, win the Pillsbury Bakeoff. And a very few I keep secret. They aren't on the list on the fridge, and they never will be. Seems the best gifts come without the asking. And if they never come to pass, that's fine by me. It's good to have something to long for. Makes for a happier life, to be sure.

We have this dip every year on Christmas Eve, just after church and just before gift opening. It's good on New Year's Eve, too.

Chipped Beef Dip

8 oz cream cheese
2 T milk
1 package chipped beef
2 T chopped green pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp onion salt (or more, if you wish)

Combine ingredients. Pour into shallow casserole or 8 x 8 pan.
(I like to garnish this dip with a tree made of green pepper strips).
Warm 15 minutes at 350.

Doubles easily. Serve with Fritos.


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