It hit fast and unexpectedly.
I awoke early on Boxing Day all set to begin the preparation for Christmas dinner, the day after edition. 15 people. 15 individually wrapped Christmas crackers all set to be pulled apart. 15 serviettes each with a thought-provoking question waiting to be answered once our guests sat down at the table which I had yet to set. My friend Wendy had given me the serviettes for Christmas. I was excited to put them to use.
I made coffee but the thought of my usual Christmas eggnog brew turned my stomach. ‘What’s up with that?’ I wondered as I walked into the office, opened up my computer and began to make my grocery list. The grocery store opened at 8. I wanted to be first in line.
I didn’t make it.
By 7 I was back in bed.
‘I think I’ve got the flu,’ I told C.C. as I crawled back under the covers. My body was shivering in spite of the fact I felt like I was burning up.
‘Oh Oh’, he replied cautiously moving as far away from me in the bed as he could get. ‘Whatever you’ve got, I don’t want.’
Ah, how quickly the blush of newly wed first-Christmas as a married couple bliss evaporates at even the hint of the flu.
‘It’s okay,’ he quickly rallied. ‘I’ll do the shopping. You rest.’
I was kind of hoping he’d say we’d cancel.
In between visits to the bathroom, I wallowed in self-pity and thought about all the things that needed doing before dinner was served. Would C.C. do the yams the way I wanted? Would he remember to serve the cream corn (He didn’t by the way, but not his fault. He’d put the tins on the countertop and I’d put them back into the cupboard to get them out of the way. He did suggest we were not lacking in food. I know he’s right).
C.C. set off to the grocery store and I got up to set the table.
I didn’t think I could trust him to make it look as inviting as I wanted it to be. Dressing the table is ‘my thing’, know what I mean?
I love to not just set, but decorate it. And Christmas is the best excuse for over-indulging my Martha Stewart aspirations. Sparkles, stars, shimmer and glitz, it’s all okay at Christmas.
Except, my annual gluttony of over the top decorating took back-seat to my desire to keep my stomach from hurling itself outside my body. I kept my gestures small and kept the decorating simple.
It looked lovely. Especially the hand-crafted Christmas crackers set at each place. I’d spent hours over the past month creating them. They were filled with all the usuals, plus a blessing I’d written for each person. On each, I’d affixed name tags so the crackers could do double duty. A festive touch and a place marker.
By the time C.C. got back from the grocery store, I was back in bed wishing I hadn’t gotten up in the first place.
Note to self: Being compulsive does not sit well with flu. Flu always wins.
As I lay in bed bemoaning my fate (why oh why did someone have to remind me at the Christmas Eve gathering we were at that 30 million people died from influenza at the end of the First World War?), I could hear C.C. humming along to Christmas tunes, rattling pans and chopping vegetables. I wasn’t worried about the dinner. C.C. is amazing in the kitchen. I just wanted to be there with him.
It was not to be.
I did rally a couple of times. I had to make the special casserole for the vegetarian/gluten free guests and I needed to make biscuits for the ham.
I know. I know. Compulsiveness is the last thing to go, even with the flu.
And I did manage to visit for a bit with our guests and even opened gifts. I did not, however, manage to eat even a tiny morsel of the amazing meal C.C. created and to which our guests all contributed.
But when it came time to answer the question on my serviette, I knew what I needed to say. “What is the best decision you’ve ever made?”
To find value in all things. To know that no matter what decision I’ve made, what step I’ve taken, what life-happenstance has appeared, to find value in the outcome of my decision and the things that appear on my road.
And the value of having the flu for Christmas dinner?
I got to appreciate my husband’s willingness to jump in and create a meal everyone enjoyed. And even though I didn’t feel up to sitting and chatting and being part of the festivities, it was sheer delight to lie in my bed and listen from behind my closed door to the voices and laughter of our family and friends gathered together under our roof. It felt comforting. Warm. Like I was immersed in a warm bath of love and friendship. And I was.
And bonus, I got to spend three days in bed reading and watching Netflix without one ounce of guilt spoiling my indulgence.
Now that’s a holiday ill with benefits!