Ideal Comfort

Dickens Village 2010The weather outside is, in fact, frightful. The temperature is six below zero Celsius, the snow is beating against the windows and blinding our view of the city and it has been pitch black since 4 p.m.

The only thing missing is a loaded .32 and a book of Sylvia Plath’s poetry.

But inside the mood is far more pleasant. We are in a warm room, comfortable, listening to mildly upbeat jazz and the cat is curled up on an armchair sleeping in content. We are sipping Jamesons Irish and a hearty venison stew is simmering on the stove.

There is a sense of familiarity to this scene, and at first I can’t put my finger on what that might be. I refill my glass of denial juice (tomorrow is not Monday) and let that feeling recede. But the euphoric calm peeks through as we toast baguettes and talk books and movies. I have enjoyed this before, but when?

I rack my brain until it’s time to eat, at which time I forget all thoughts that are not primal.

This scene may be familiar, but it’s mainly familiar from the outside. I have seen this ideal evening in the sweater section of an L.L Bean catalog. It showed an Irish fishing lodge full of beautiful men with trimmed beards wearing roll-neck sweaters, drinking coffee and talking about the day’s catch. Or it could have been on the cover of that 1970s Christmas album: Christmas Songs from an Irish Fishing Lodge…and other things white people like.

I suppose I have always bought into that search for the ideal situation. The problem is that this ideal usually only exists in Lifetime Christmas specials, romantic films and L.L Bean catalogs.

Life, as we all know, is far less ideal. For the cozy Christmas means being surrounded by your family. It means answering questions about your life, being constipated and finding moments of solace in the garage. The romantic evening is rarely the minute-rice perfect combination of sex, love and friendship that films depict. It usually involves minor arguments, condoms, badly timed thrusts and the dreaded post-coital realization that instead of talking about your feelings in bed, you’d rather be at the pub talking about anything else.

The Irish fishing lodge in the catalog is surely full of the hacking coughs of pneumonia, depressed drinking and fist fights.

We finish the stew and settle back with another drink. Despite the reality of the norm, looking around the room at this well-fed, comfy atmosphere, I admit that once in a while, life mocks these ideals.

It turns out that venison stew negotiates one’s intestinal tract to make them a rectal symphony. Thus, my friend lets out a series of potboiler chair explosions and I follow in suit. There seems to be a terrible contest sneaking in between our discussion of books and teaching.

This contest, nobody wins.

The Jamesons begins giving me heartburn and the cat realizes that we have eaten all of the venison without offering her any and goes on to exhibit her irritation in a series of long meows and hisses from beneath the couch.

With some grumbling, my friend gets his things together and steps out into the freezing dark night. I let him out and scurry back upstairs to my flat.

Two minutes later, A Christmas Story is on the television.

  1. #1 by collin on December 10, 2012 - 7:00 pm

    I had to stop reading after I saw Jamesons.

  2. #3 by Andy on December 10, 2012 - 8:47 pm

    To this day, one of my favorite “Life actually mimicking LL Bean” holidays was the Prague Orphan’s Christmas of 2006. Between Popkey roasting a duck, Bill supplying good wine, and the random assortment of folks that found their way to our flat that year, it was as close to “traditional” as I’ve probably had. It may not have been grandma’s house, but it was definitely “over the river and through the woods” as far as I’m concerned. Good memories.

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