Sunday, January 5, 2014

Blankets, Brews & True Love

As strange as it may seem to mention, sometimes it is good to be reminded that Christmas is not a competition. There are no prizes or even rankings for spending the most money, attending the most church services, eating the most turkey, attending the most concerts and recitals, setting up the most decorations or choosing the most thoughtful gift.

But if thoughtfulness at Christmas was a sport, there is no doubt in my mind that Audrey would not only be the champion, but she would be very likely to retire undefeated.

Just as an example, consider this year: since we visited Hudson's Bay this summer, and immersed ourselves in our country's history and that of the fur trade and the Hudson's Bay Company (an organization whose initials are reputed to stand for "Here Before Canada"), I thought this would be the year to bite the bullet and get Audrey the multi-stripe point blanket I know she has long desired.

Over the years I have seen many of my attempts to surprise Audrey with gifts thwarted by her keen insight, near-prescient abilities, and possibly witchcraft. This year, I got the enormous piece of fabric into the house, wrapped and secreted deeply behind the tree before she even knew it was there. (I really had no choice, as it was far too big to hide anywhere unwrapped. It wouldn't even fit under the bed.). As part of a promotion, the blanket came with a large coffee table book about the HBC (pictured), which successfully distracted her from thinking about what might be wrapped around it, so the look on her face when she realized what it was really made my day.

The Hudson's Bay blanket is a great fit: it addresses history, national pride, quality workmanship and references a geographically significant part of Canada that many of us will never see, and that we were very fortunate to experience this past summer with Parker and Belinda. Game, set and match for the husband, right?

The last gift I opened Christmas morning was a box about 18 inches square and extremely heavy. I peeled away the wrapping paper to reveal a cardboard box that had been repurposed but the lid was a bit bent from containing what was in it.

It turned out to be a dozen different beers, all wrapped in white paper to conceal their nature, and with that note resting on top of all of them. My darling bride had found a way to lengthen the experience of my beer Advent calendar for another dozen days; she had given me The Twelve Beers of Christmas!

About a week before Christmas she had been struck by the idea around 1:00 in the morning, and had quickly emailed the gist of it to Sherbrooke Liquor, the beer Mecca in these parts. The next morning they had responded that their best guy was on the job, and had chosen a likely beer for each verse of the famous carol and slotted it into one of the 12 compartments of the box, in the appropriate order, by the time she arrived three days later. All she needed to do was wrap them and replace them, and she was all set.

So much thought, effort and insight that even my spot-on blanket paled in comparison! Like I said, it is a good thing Christmas isn't a competition, or I would have to surrender the court and move on to Easter. As it is, I defer to her gifting ability and imagination in reverence and gratitude, and thank all the stars, Christmas and otherwise, that she is my wife.

As to the beers themselves, well, the good folks at Sherbrooke had to admit that some of the selections had very tenuous associations to the subject matter of the song, but I think it shows a tremendous effort, especially given the timelines they had to work with. I present the complete list here in reverse order, as you would hear in the final verse: The Twelve Beers of Christmas!

"On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
12 drummers drumming,
(True, no drummer appears on the label, but they were a staple of the both the period depicted and the band behind the label.)

11 pipers piping,
(Again, no instrument visible, but the outfit is impeccable, as is the beer itself.)

10 lords a-leaping,
(Audrey's suggestion was to find something either lordly or 'hoppy' (for the leaping), which I thought was decidedly clever on her part (since she readily admits to not being entirely sure what hops are or do), and absolutely brilliant on Sherbrooke's!)

9 ladies dancing,
(It could be yoga, but given the dress, I think she's dancing.)

8 maids a-milking,
(This is the only one I predicted, and had the privilege of having it on tap at The Underground a couple of night's prior.)

7 swans a-swimming,
(Not only a perfect fit for day 7, but the prettiest label of the lot.)

6 geese a-laying,
("I don't get this one," I said, "Bock means 'goat', but even a double-goat doesn't get you a goose..." "Isn't there an 'egg' on there somewhere?" Audrey suggested helpfully...)

(The Celts knew a thing or two about golden rings...)

4 calling birds,
("Sorry, I thought you said, 'for cawing birds'; who's a bird got to call?")

3 French hens,
(Three French hills? Darned close! And a delightful strong beer to boot!)

2 turtle doves,
(The biggest stretch; it was thought that the label shape closely resembled a turtle, some of which must surely live in Fiji, where the beer originated. Who are we to say otherwise?)

And a partridge in a pear tree."
(Not technically a beer, you say? Find someone who cares, you nit-picking killjoy, is my response.)

I unwrapped beer 12, The Trooper, this morning and drank it today at lunch; a brilliant finish to a wonderful holiday that still leaves me shaking my head wondering what I could have possibly done in order to deserve such delight in my life. It's like living inside The Princess Bride: "This is true love; do you think this happens every day?"

Only if you are very, very lucky, my friend, as I appear to be.

1 comment:

  1. This really resonates with me. I got Carol a Hudson Bay wool coat a few years ago for wearing by the bonfire on chilly evenings. I also snagged a couple of nice vintage Hudson Bay blankets a few years ago that are nicer and a bit more durable for the truck back seat than the typical beach towel or similar.

    Here in Minnesota there's a rich history of both Hudson Bay Company and Woolrich blankets and coats. Thus I am always on the lookout on Craigslist for an additional blanket or coat to stick in our closet for friends or family visiting.