When we heard the weather forecast for Christmas weekend, with high temperatures in the 80s, we decided to cancel our winter getaway to Galveston and stay closer to home. Instead of dedicating more than 11 hours of our holiday time to driving, we went to Cedar Hill State Park, where we managed to get a site at the eastern shore of Joe Pool Lake. It wasn’t the same as being at the gulf coast, but the combination of warmth, wind, and waves made it a close approximation.
We arrived on Thursday in the early afternoon, and were able to take a nap before cocktail hour. For dinner, Chef Cliff grilled pork chops and steamed cob corn to perfection. We enjoyed watching a recording of the 44th Kennedy Center Honors, which paid tribute to Justino Díaz, Berry Gordy, Lorne Michaels, Bette Midler, and Joni Mitchell. Of particular note was Brandi Carlile’s cover of Mitchell’s “River,” Brittany Howard and Herbie Hancock’s rendition of “Both Sides Now,” and Billy Porter’s medley of Bette Midler’s greatest hits. As expected, the entire program was a tour de force and a true celebration of the arts in America.
On Friday, while just about everyone we knew was celebrating Christmas Eve, we were keeping Date Night. After enjoying sunset cocktails, grilled ribeye steaks, and a satisfying Whiplash red blend (compliments of our friend Venkat), we snuggled together to watch our favorite holiday film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Frank Capra’s 1946 classic starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed (widely considered one of the best American movies ever made). Interestingly, although the film is now closely associated with Christmas, it wasn’t initially intended to be released over the holidays. But because the studio’s “Sindbad the Sailor” wasn’t ready, Capra was asked to rush production for a pre-Christmas debut. Capra didn’t consider it a “Christmas movie,” because it had universal themes that transcended any particular religious observance. It only became associated with the Christmas season after it entered into the public domain in the 1970s and began getting broadcast on every channel every year.
Our Christmas Day began with a call to Jon’s mom and sister, Cliff’s stepfather, and other points of contact with relatives and friends. After an excellent Christmas feast of Greenburg’s smoked turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, steamed carrots, and dinner rolls, we enjoyed a viewing of “A Christmas Carol,” TNT’s excellent 1999 production starring Patrick Stewart as Ebenezer Scrooge. We ended the evening with port wine, Lindt Lindor white chocolate truffles, and a late-night call to Cliff’s seminary classmate Bud.
Sunday found us engaged in our typical pursuits: watching “CBS Sunday Morning,” reading The New York Times, enjoying breakfast cocktails and brunch, napping, and dining al fresco. Chef Cliff prepared grill lamb chops for supper, which we enjoyed while watching “Being the Ricardos,” the new Aaron Sorkin biopic about a week in the life of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Our one-word review: Meh. Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem were somewhat flat in their portrayal of Lucy and Ricky, and it seems Sorkin has lost his writing edge. With Lucie Arnez and Desi Arnez Jr. as executive producers, it’s no wonder their parents were presented as somewhat bland, one-dimensional caricatures with only a hint of the inner demons that drove them apart.
Monday’s mild morning weather was ideal for packing up and heading home. While we didn’t make it to the gulf coast, we managed to add hours of what would have been drive time to our long weekend. With the Omicron variant spiking Covid infections, Jon was instructed to spend the next week working from home. So we’ll return to our familiar pandemic routine.