How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


Christmas, Borrowers, and Squirrels

Our traditional Polish celebration called Wigilia has changed since 2010. That year we had a funeral for our Mom on the 24th instead. Since then, we cannot replicate Christmas Eve without her, and I do not want to try. I share a house with my daughter and her family. They live on the main floor and I live in the finished apartment in the basement. We often accommodate large gatherings in my large open space.


This year, our third Christmas Eve without Mum has been the least traditional: an open house instead of a sit-down dinner. About 30 or so family members attended. My family is small, my son-in-law’s is not. The eight-foot table in my dining-room (area) sagged creaking beneath the weight of various finger foods: meat balls, devilled eggs, pizza bites, veggies and dip, turkey and ham cucumber and cream cheese roll-ups, antojitos, veggies and dip, bruschetta, a pickle / olive platter, cheese and kielbasa tray,  cabbage rolls, and pierogi to name a few. Many items didn’t make it to the table; there was too much food. After eats, the Polish kids (six grandchildren) opened gifts with squeals and mumbled thank yous. The rest of the guests watched, intrigued. My family had travelled and hour and a half to attend and the adults exchanged gifts as well, which is the norml on this night anyway. As happens when you have a large crowd of people in one area, various small groups form. Two of my sisters with their husbands and myself hung around the island in the kitchen. Not uncommon in my house, the subject of books came up. My six-year-old granddaughter had been holding court in another part of the room but wandered over to see why we were so excited. She whispered, “Babcia, did you tell them about The Borrowers (I had given the girls a copy a week previous). “Ah…no. You tell them.” “No, you.” “I believe they’d like to hear it from you. It’s your book,” Lily sprinted away. We adults continued our lively discussion about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (by Rebecca Skloot). Lily returned, flashing the heavy book over her head with both hands. “Have you guys read this book about The Borrowers?” The adults stopped and shook their heads. “It’s about tiny people who live under the floor and steal things because they can’t buy them and believe they are borrowing, not stealing.” She handed the book around. The adults oohed and awed. Then, she grabbed it back and disappeared, eyes aglow, pleased she had enlightened the booklovers in the room.


“What just happened?” someone asked. No explanation was necessary though. Everyone knew about our dramatic Lily. As the evening wound down, guests collected their paraphernalia and the room emptied. Lily came back downstairs dragging a green garbage bag. “I came to get my stuff.” I watched her, half-curious. “Why isn’t your sister helping you? That bag looks heavy.” She shrugged and threw the bag over her shoulder, staggering beneath the weight of its contents. “Need some help?” “No, I got it.”

* * *

Before I crashed for the night I’d noticed one of my gifts was missing, a red sweater from one of my sisters. Lily must have squirreled it away in her bag because she found my box in the vicinity of her Christmas stash. What’s hers is hers even when it isn’t because she likes to stockpile her belongings in her bedroom away from prying eyes and roving fingers. That’s our Lily. Do you have any squirrels or borrowers in your family? What event(s) colored your Christmas?