Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Book Club Comes for Dinner

Once a year my AAUW Evening Books group (American Association of University Women - you have to be a college grad from an accredited school to be a member) gathers at my home for an annual potluck dinner. Other months of the year we trade around what house we visit. But December. Well, it's always at my house. I have a big kitchen and this enormous 12 foot square island which makes easy work for a buffet dinner. And a dining room table that seats 12 with ease. And a view of the twinkly lights looking towards Newport Beach and Palos Verdes. I enjoy the Christmas decorating too. Everybody brings a salad, vegetable or salad, and a few people sign up for desserts (otherwise we'd have too many) and I provide the beverages (red and white wine, soft drinks, etc.) and an urn of coffee.

We enjoy our dinner - always lots of raves all around - we have some very good cooks in our group - and the desserts with coffee, then we gather in the living room, around the fireplace and tell stories. Or read a passage from a book, about Christmas. We don't read a designated book in December. Nor do we do our normal sharing of other books we've read. This is just a time for reading aloud an article or very short story about the Christmas season. Some years people don't have much to share; other years we have several who do. In many of the past seasons I've not shared because I didn't have anything I thought appropriate. But this year I found a new book - A Family Christmas. See the red covered book below. I can't say enough nice things about it. It's an anthology compiled by Caroline Kennedy, with chapters divided up by aspects of the season: Santa Claus, Deck the Halls, the Christmas Feast, Winter Wonderland, with related poems, the words from Christmas carols, that pertain to these subjects. There are stories that could be read to children, others that are more complex, some almost academic in nature, about the history of Christmas, and lovely illustrations too. I have read about half the book so far and have pink stickies poking out of it in many places. All possible reads for the book group in coming years.

Speaking of Christmas books, I must share another book I own. Valerie in our book group brought this one December, and I had to have it. Seasons Greetings from the White House. It's an absolutely charming book about the history of Christmas cards sent from the White House. Lovely photographs, fascinating history, and a nice coffee table book to put out in December. We've received 3 or 4 White House Christmas cards and I keep them in this book.

Ever since reading that book I've watched the Christmas special on HGTV, the one that shows the frantic decorating that goes on at the White House starting a few days after Thanksgiving. And it usually includes a segment about this year's Christmas card. The White House Christmas 2007. Hundreds and hundreds of workers come in, working 24 hours a day, to get the White House completely decorated before the first Christmas celebration held at the White House every year, usually on December 1st. My Tivo has been programmed for a couple of weeks for this show - it's on Sunday night, the 16th at 8:30 pm.

But, back to Caroline Kennedy's book: if you're still looking for something for someone on your Christmas list, this might just be the perfect answer:

So, I'll close this particular posting with the first page in this book. It's a letter found in the Kennedy family archives. Kennedy finds it "really embarrassing, but everyone else insisted we use it in the book." It was Caroline Kennedy's letter to Santa, December 19, 1962. She was just 5 - not old enough to write it herself, but dictated it to her mother, Jacqueline. It was to be her last Christmas at the White House.

Dear Santa:
I would like a pair of silver
skates - and one of those horse
wagons with lucky dips - and Susie Smart and
Candy Fashion dolls and a real pet
reindeer and a clock to tell time and a
covered wagon & a farm and you
decide anything else -

And interesting planes or bumpy thing he can ride in or some
noisy thing or something he can push or pull for John.

Love from Caroline
PS I would like a basket for my bicycle

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