Jan 02

“No amount of planning can ever replace dumb luck”

 So true.

XmasApt2Take Christmas Eve. I do an Italian feast, and it ain’t easy serving 8 or 10 from a NYC apartment, even if you could hire the entire staff of Downton Abbey. So I plan it to a fare-thee-well (Does anyone say that any more?), running around with a royal blue clipboard that holds the menu, recipes, shopping and To-Do lists. Polish the silver anyone? Get the poinsettias! Trim the tree! Don’t forget the anchovies.

Things went well enough. My family showed up on schedule, more or less—my brother Ron, even with a bad cold, my niece Jenna, with 3 hours of sleep after her plane from San Francisco had been diverted to Montana or something, my nephew Benny and his girlfriend Bahia from Beirut, my 98-year-old mother who managed to stay awake through dessert and her Jamaican aid, Nadine, who loved the cheesecake, a real crowd pleaser. There were no disasters like kitchen fires or the antipasto falling on the floor.

And most important for a family event, no shots were fired. A Christmas miracle itself, others more jaded than I might say.

Of course, in spite of all the planning, there were a few glitches. We all forgot to take a group picture! The special Burata mozzarella I got was a gooey mess (I think you are supposed to keep it refrigerated). I put the drippy candles on the table instead of the dripless ones with totally predictable results. Hey, only Allah is perfect.

But then, just as we had finished dessert, having been joined by our friend Lenny and by Gavin, who had been helping me serve the meal, and weren’t having the after dinner drinks I had forgotten about even though I had carefully washed the cute cordial glasses earlier that day (having a helper, I had perhaps helped myself to one too many glasses of Prosecco and was getting more forgetful than usual, which is pretty forgetful), the doorbell rang.

SantaDressingIt was our neighbors, Steve and Joanne, who hoped they weren’t interrupting our family fun and wanted to ask a favor. Could my husband play Santa for their children, who were starting to get suspicious that Dad and Santa were never there at the same time?

Spoiler alert: Lou said yes, and put on the elaborate Santa costume, from whitest beard to blackest boots, and did his thing.

The next morning, as we were cleaning up and getting ready to go to Christmas Day dinner with Lou’s four daughters, their spouses, not to mention the 12 (count ’em 12!) grandchildren, I realized that a golden opportunity presented itself: We could be Santa . . . and Mrs. Claus. Alert the media!

With a little ingenuity, and as quick as the proverbial wink, without any planning at all, I put together a Mrs. Claus costume and the rest is history.

SantaMrsI stole Santa’s wig (Lou’s hair is nearly white anyway), grabbed an old apron of my mother’s that I never wear but couldn’t bear to get rid of, and a red beret worn at an decidedly non-rakish angle. You have to admit the effect was pretty convincing.

At dinner, we dressed in our street clothes, me in a red sweater that would later complete the Mrs. Santa look, and didn’t tell anyone about our upcoming performance— except for Kim, the hostess, who hid the outfits in a bedroom and would tell us when the gifts were about to be passed out. At that point, we quickly changed and waited for our cue to appear as Mr. and Mrs. Claus, me a few steps in back of him, because as everyone knows, behind every great man there’s a woman.

When Kim gave us the signal, we emerged, bells and all, to the astonishment of the assembled masses.

It was Christmas. It was a lark. It was show time! . . .

XmasCrowdThe joint went wild, with iPhones flashing and photos madly being texted. We are a modern family, after all.


But sticking to tradition, Santa made the “kids” (aged 8 to 22, and several bigger than the jolly old elf himself) sit on his lap and swear that they had all been good the whole year. Naughty or nice, boys and girls?

They all lied.

Except for me. When I took my turn on Santa’s knee I confessed that I had been very bad, very bad indeed. Santa, without missing a beat, said that I was just the girl he was looking for.

The next day on Facebook, where we all check out each other’s life, several of the assembled masses said that it was the best Christmas ever. Aw shucks. I guess you could say that we were a smash hit.


From the youngest, Frankie, to the oldest, Mike, the kids were all right with this!

We’ve been asked to repeat the performance next year, but I doubt if we will. This was just so spontaneous, so nearly perfect, so very, very lucky.

You just can’t plan that SantaMikekind of luck.











Besides, the element of surprise was with us. Hell, we even surprised ourselves. And we didn’t plan on that either.





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