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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Christmas Breakfast Century

For a number of years now, the first week-end in December is my Christmas Breakfast Century ride. It is normally on Saturday as so many restaurants in this area are closed on Sunday, a token of respect to a past that no longer exists, kind of like the tip of a gentleman's hat. Some years we are able to ride all of it, some years we are able to ride part of it, and some years I have had to cancel and reschedule. Sadly, this year was a cancellation year.

Until recently, I did not put up a Christmas tree until a week or two before Christmas. By putting the tree up only a couple of weeks before Christmas, the children did not become overly excited in that way that can make them irritable and hard to please. It also was a safety precaution as from the time the children were babies, we went and cut down a live tree, and live trees can be fire hazards if left too long.

Christmas is about traditions, at least in our family. Each year we would pick a week-end to go cut down the tree. My husband would half-heartedly complain and accuse us of studying the weather forecast to pick the coldest week-end of the year, and inevitably it almost always was freezing and windy. The weather could have been warm and dry all week, but let it be the tree cutting week-end and the winds would pick up and the temperatures plummet. (Seems my ride has continued this tradition;-) Despite the cold, the children would insist on walking the entire acreage of the tree farm looking for the perfect tree. Inevitably it had a crooked trunk or some other disability that made it nearly impossible to get it to stand straight and tall in the living room, but when it was decorated it no longer mattered: it was unfailingly beautiful. Our home would be redolent with fresh pine and sugar cookies baking. And there are the other Christmas traditions: the baking of Christmas Cookies, the watching of "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, the unwrapping of the manger set, etc. In my heart, the Christmas bicycle ride has joined these traditions, though it is a tradition celebrated with my bicycling family rather than my blood family. My husband's health problems led to the artificial tree, but my breakfast century lead to the early tree trimming.

The tree may not be beautiful to others, but to me it is a string that connects the years that I have been upon this earth. It contains ornaments my children made when they were little and even ornaments that I remember making myself in kindergarten, and it is laden with memories as much as with colored balls.

I begin accepting reservations for the breakfast in mid-November. I inevitably fill up the main table. My home is small, and I limit the ride to the main dining table (seats six) and two card tables (seat eight more). I normally get reservations for more, but the weather turns and they cancel. Not many are willing to brave an entire day in the winter chill on a bicycle.

The day before the ride I get out my best china and the few serving dishes I inherited from my grandmother and set the table. I go to the grocery and make sure everything is ready for the morning. I enjoy this preparation, the shining of silver that passed through the hands of women of my family before me. There is so little I have from my father's side of the family, and I inevitably send mental blessings to my Aunt Fay who shared these with me. The cleaning leaves me tired, but tired in a good way as it will lead to fruition through sharing with my friends. Inevitably memories of previous Christmas centuries float through my thoughts: the year it rained a cold rain the entire ride, the year we got in right when night was claiming the earth, the year we turned around after 25 miles and rode back through a beautiful snow, the journey taking as long as a normal century would take.

This year the Christmas breakfast was not to be due to weather predictions for snow, weather than came true leaving an inch or more on the ground. I reschedule for January, and if the weather does not cause me to cancel that ride, I will enjoy it; but it will not be the same as my normal Christmas century. I grieve the cancellation, but it is better than seeing a friend get hurt due to my making a foolish decision.