Cecil & Bea Host Christmas Dinner
The third installment
It was late-morning Christmas Day.
Cecil was out in the garage organizing the recyclables from the boxes and gift wrap.
Bea was in the kitchen checking on the turkey, boiling the vegetables, and sorting through her thoughts. As she did so, she was grateful that Cecil was in the garage. She needed her space as she multitasked and, God love him, Heaven forbid that Cecil should try to give her a hand. Oh the madness… and the mess! No, it was best that they each had their own corners to which to retreat, their own chores to which to attend.
She was excited to be having all the kids under one roof - even if only for a few hours. She chuckled to herself as she realized that she was also thankful that it would truly ONLY be for a few hours too. She loved them dearly, but all of them at once could prove to be a lot. So many personalities.
There was Lana, Cecil and Bea’s first-born and only daughter. Forty-nine years of age and single, Lana was a career woman who had neither the patience for nor the inclination to engage in a long term relationship, let alone have children of her own. She loved other people’s children, but only in short bursts at long intervals.
Then there was Cecil Jr, or CJ as he came to be affectionately known. Forty years old and divorced, he had custody of the kids this year for Christmas, so Bea was out of her mind with joy. Vera was 9 and the spitting image of her Aunt Lana. Identical twins Chuck and Dave were 4 and polar opposites in personality and demeanour. Chuck was the logical diplomat of the duo while Dave had a comical yet uncomplicated view of life… provided his needs were immediately met. Yes, those grand babies were Cecil and Bea’s reward for all of the hardship and challenges they had faced in raising their own children. Plus… when they were done having fun with them, they could send them home.
And of course, 38 year old, unemployed and unattached Gus still lived at home. He’d had various jobs and girlfriends over the years but had failed to thrive with either… and hence his current living arrangement in the Gravel Street residence basement.
“Jeezus!” screeched Bea as she finally realized the potatoes were boiling over. She was so engrossed in her reverie, that she lost track of what she’d been doing.
“What’s wrong? What are you screechin’ about?” came Cecil’s voice from the porch door. “Are ya alright?”
“Don’t come any closer. I’ve got it all under control…” she reported as she flitted about with a damp dish cloth and a hand towel, tidying up her mess.
“Very well,” he said relieved. “What time did they say they’re coming?”
“Well let’s see,” Bea offered. “It’s going on 11 right now… I’d say they’ll be here around 1 or so. I’ll get this under control and then I’ll put on my nice clothes. Um, you could stand to do the same…”
“What’s wrong with what I’ve got on?” asked Cecil, incredulously, standing there in his old cotton track pants and fleece mackinaw jacket.
“Nothing… if you’re in prison, I s’pose. Now go on, I won’t be far behind you. Put on some clean jeans at least… and the sweater Lana gave you for Christmas”.
“Fine,” he grumbled, half smirking, half mock-annoyed. “Since you asked so nicely.”
By 12:45, Cecil and Bea were sporting their Sunday best, the veggies were keeping warm on the stove, the turkey was sitting countertop in the roasting pan all ready for slicing, the floors, mirrors, and windows has all been cleaned, and Cooter has been out for about 5 nervous pees: they were ready for company.
Cecil was just about to crack open a cold Labatt’s when Bea gave him “the look”. Without saying a word, he placed the can gently back in the fridge.
“Gussy! You ready?” Bea shouted towards the basement steps. “They’ll be here any minute.”
“Yes, Ma,” came the response as Gus sauntered up the staircase in a new blue sweater and beige khakis.
“Well now don’t you look nice!” bubbled Bea. Turning towards Cecil, she asked “Now why can’t you clean up like that?”
“Because I don’t have to, Bea. What you see if what you get. And since he’s my son, he can carry the burden of being the handsome, dapper one in the family. It’s exhausting. Consider the torch passed.”
Hearing a car pull into the driveway, Bea announced with no lack of enthusiasm: “They’re here!”
“It’s showtime,” announced Gus, nodding towards Cecil.
Little Dave, followed closely by his slightly more reserved brother and sister, burst through the doorway. “Merry Chrimbus, Nannie and GrandDad! Merry Chrimbus, Unka Gus!”, he pronounced, slamming a big hug around his grandmother’s legs. “We brought you a present! But Vera won’t tell me what it is…”
“Merry Christmas to you, Davey!”, roared Cecil, his eyes lighting up and his heart bursting with pride. “And to you too Chuck and Vera! Now get over here and show me some love!” The kids gladly indulged their grandfather, scooching in for a group hug.
“What about us?” came the call from the entryway in Lana’s voice, her brother CJ by her side.
As Bea made her way to the door to greet her daughter and son, Cecil teased “Hey, thanks for dropping off the kids! See yas in a couple of hours.”
“Be careful what you wish for, Dad…” mused CJ.
“Get in here! Good to see ya,” reaching out for a hug. “And what do you think of my shirt, Lana? It’s itchy as old hell, but I think it looks nice on me”.
“You’re almost as well dressed as Gussy,” joked Lana, causing Gus to snicker and making Bea beam with pride.
“All my babies,” she sighed. “This is all the Christmas I need right here.”
Her moment of appreciation was quickly interrupted by the sound of an ornament smashing to the ground, followed by the dog yelping, and capped off with an echo of “ah sh*t” in what seemed suspiciously like Dave’s voice.
“Ah, there it is,” mumbled Cecil. “Now it’s Christmas.”
Chuck was only too happy to report, “Uh, Nannie… Dave said ‘sh*t’”.
Vera was quick to point out, “And so did you, Doofus”.
“Nuh-uh,” retorted Chuck. “I was only saying what he said. I think it’s called a quote. I’m not the guilty one here.”
Dave chimed in with “Why do you gotta be such a rat, Chuck?”
Vera jumped in with “Because he’s your twin, Dave.”
At this point, Lana made her way to the fridge and asked “Anyone for a drink?”, to which all adults present replied in unison, “Yes please!”
So as the youngest kids bickered back and forth using the excuse to repeat the risqué word of the day, Cecil, Bea, Lana, CJ, and Gus raised their glasses of wine and cans of beer in a toast.
“And God bless us everyone!” led Cecil.
“Indeed,” said Bea.
“Absolutely,” said Lana.
“Oh for sure,” said CJ.
“Yup,” said Gus.
“Sh*t,” said Dave.
“See?” said Chuck.
“Oh shut up,” said Vera.
“Woof,” said Cooter.
“I think it’s time for another drink,” said Lana, draining her glass.
This went on for an hour or so before they gathered around the table to feast upon Bea’s carefully and methodically prepared meal.
“Wait!” shouted Dave. “You didn’t open your present yet!”
Cecil soothed “Ah, but Nannie worked so hard on this meal. We’ll open your gift when we’re done eating.”
Dave looked disappointed. And so did Chuck. Vera was a bit out of sorts too.
Bea suggested “Oh, a couple more minutes won’t hurt… if no one minds, let’s open your present. Then we’ll eat.”
Dave was only too pleased. “I can’t wait to see what we got you!” he said clapping his hands. “Me too, a little,” said Chuck, and Vera cheerfully pulled the present out of her book bag, proud to have wrapped the gift herself.
“Here you go, Nannie,” said Vera as she handed over the special item. “It was a team effort. Daddy and Auntie Lana had the idea, then me and boys worked at it. But mostly me.”
Cecil placed his arm around Bea’s shoulder as she untied the ribbon and peeled away the paper, revealing a picture in a handmade frame. It was a picture taken a couple of years ago: of Bea holding the twins in her arms, Cecil holding Vera on his knee. Cecil and Bea weren’t looking at the camera or at the children. Their gaze was fixed on one another. A feeling of “can you believe we did this?” emanated from the image.
The large, wide frame that surrounded the image was a collage of drawings made by all three grandchildren, fused together. Colourful and distinctly unique.
“That’s it?” Chuck and Dave said together, rather disgusted.
“You made a big deal about THIS? Look, you made Nannie cry,” announced Dave.
“Don’t you like it?”, asked Vera, hesitantly.
Taking a deep breath and wiping away her tears, Bea responded, “Oh, my darling. I love it. It’s my very favourite. I’m only crying because I’m so happy.”
“Could’ve fooled me,” mumbled Dave, who promptly received a punch in the arm from Chuck.
“What? I’m just saying,” grumbled Dave.
“Alright, that’s enough,” asserted CJ. “Mom and Dad, the kids wanted to give you something special. And I think they hit the nail on the head.”
“They sure did,” signed Cecil. “One of a kind. Our friends will be so jealous.”
Vera smiled. “Merry Christmas, Nannie and Grand Dad”.
“Merry Christmas, sugar,” cooed Cecil and Bea.
“Can we eat now?” asked Dave.
“Indeed we shall,” replied Cecil.
And so they sat down to share a wonderful repast, laughter, and occasional kicks under the table. They were all too full for dessert, but of course they each tried some pumpkin pie anyway.
Later that night, once the dishes were done and the company had left, Cecil and Bea snuggled under the covers, exhausted but content.
“Did you have a good Christmas, sweet Bea?”
“Ceese,” she paused. “I think I had the best Christmas ever.”
“Me too,” he said. “It just gets better every year. Much like ourselves. We’re like fine wine, you and I.”
“We’re like oil and water, Ceese,” she guffawed. “But somehow, we make it work.”
“Indeed we do. Forty-nine years and counting. Let’s do it all again next year, eh?”
“Good night, Cecil. I love you.”
He pulled her in closer and kissed the back of her head.
“Good night, my queen. I love you too.”
Blessings of peace, ease and comfort to your family.
Season’s greetings to all from Cecil & Bea.
And that’s a wrap for the holiday season - but certainly not the last you’ll see of Cecil & Bea.
Thanks for reading! SC xo
About the Creator
Ms. Carroll is a 40-something year-old veteran public servant and mother of three adult children. She and her partner Hal live in Amherst NS with a sweet, anxiety-ridden rescue dog. Shelley loves running, red wine, and laughter.