We attended the 8 o'clock Christmas Vigil Mass last night, as the first bands of rain passed over of what would, in the small hours after midnight, be a prolonged and very windy storm. Father S. and the two deacons looked like angels in their golden vestments!
We had our old friend JH over for a 2 p.m. Christmas dinner. We went with Piggy's this year for our Christmas ham, and it was excellent, with sautéed green beans and heavenly potatoes au gratin, Ronda's version of the Williams-Sonoma Waldorf salad, (yogurt and a touch of horseradish instead of mayonnaise, with dried cranberries instead of raisins), and a pumpkin pie from New Leaf Market for dessert.
Ronda gave J. My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times, by Harold Evans. J. is a professional journalist, and Evans's book is a memoir of old-school British newspaper reporting. J. gave Ronda Abide with Me, by Elizabeth Strout, and Home, by the award-winning author of Gilead, Marilynne Robinson. J's book group at the Neumann Center is reading Home. Ronda gave me The Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany, by Graeme Gibson. I gave her Bono: in conversation with Michka Assayas.
Book talk followed. J. said that she used to buy her fiction, but that it's so easy to reserve and renew books online now at our library that she's become a regular library user. She works downtown, so it's also very convenient for her. She recently read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a popular choice of book clubs. I had not known that it is an epistolary novel. She said she began to enjoy it about halfway through, but that the correspondence had an anachronistic, e-mail-ish quality to it. I said that we had recently seen the movie of 84 Charing Cross Road again on television after many years.
The conversation turned to Mary Doria Russell, whose book, The Sparrow, Ronda had read. J. talked about Russell's novel of WWII and the Holocaust through Italian eyes, A Thread of Grace, in a way that made me want to read it. She had not cared much for Dreamers of the Day, set in Cairo after WWI, where the British, Churchill and T. E. Lawrence among them, are drawing the map of the modern Middle East.
J. took herself off, with other stops to make. I cleaned the kitchen and deboned the rest of the ham. Ronda fed our neighbors' cat, Betty, (they are away in New Jersey, returning tomorrow). We took a walk to decompress after the Christmas push. The sun had lost the battle with a grey winter sky, and fled down the horizon. Returning home, I called my father in Eustis to wish him a merry Christmas.