Chapter Sixteen

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David and Maria enjoyed the comforts of their bed long after the Christmas sun had awakened them.

"I love Tante's idea of a late breakfast and then a mid-afternoon dinner." Maria lifted herself to her arms above him and looked down between her breasts at her belly. "Three meals today after last night's dinner would have me bulging." She trembled. "God! Do I ever want to see the bulge, but not from food."

"It's only five weeks now. When will it begin showing?"

"Edith said we'll see nothing before three months, and maybe not until four." She rocked her hips and sighed a deep moan. "And she told me, contrary to what some doctors say, that this is beneficial. But, we should finish now. I promised Tante I'd help her prepare the geese. Wait until you see the size of them; she said they'd take four or more hours to roast."

Twenty minutes later, as they stood under the spray from the nozzle, Maria said, "I've missed the shower. The tub is great to soak and relax, but this feels cleaner." She giggled. "Besides, it's much easier to feast my eyes on you this way. And to wash you. Turn around; let me do your front again."

A while later, as they were dressing, David said, "I hadn't thought of this, but the Jewish don't celebrate Christmas. Don't you do Chanukah around this time of year?"

"We never paid attention to those. It appears we were Jewish only by blood because we never did any of their holy days, only the common ones like Easter and Christmas." She chuckled. "But we got days off school for those."

"What about Grandma and Grandpa? Oma and Opa? Tante? They're all Jewish, yet we're forcing them to celebrate Christmas."

"I think it's for the celebration itself and for its traditions, rather than for the original meanings. I would think many people are that way with it."

David nodded as he adjusted the laces and tied his shoes. "True, the traditions around Christmas have moved a long way from the original story, and that story has been altered and embellished substantially from whatever reality was its inspiration. I think we've returned to a celebration of the winter solstice, and that was around long before both Christianity and Judaism."

Downstairs in the kitchen a few minutes later, they hugged Bethia and wished her a Merry Christmas. Then David said to her, "We've just been discussing the seasonal celebration. Should we to do something to observe Chanukah?"

Bethia shook her head and laughed. "I stopped observing those traditions many years ago, and Aaron had before I met him." She pinched her chin. "I don't know about Jacob and Maddie, though. We've not discussed it."

"What about Grandma and Grandpa?" Maria asked.

"Mary was like me; not very interested. And Michael's likely the same. It's never been mentioned, so it mustn't be strong." She shrugged. "Christmas seems to have taken over as a general tradition, rather than a religious one."

"I've not considered the religions of the team. Didn't even think about it."

"But you did, David," Georg said as he and Rachel stepped into the kitchen. "Last week, you mentioned to them we're from many cultures, and we'll each add our own traditions to the celebrations."

"Yes, you're right." David nodded as he paused to think. Then he shook his head. "But to here; Merry Christmas." He took a few steps to hug Rachel and shake Georg's hand. Then all shared in the greetings.

Finally, Bethia said, "This isn't getting the geese cooked, nor the breakfast prepared." She pointed across the kitchen. "The stove wants lighting. It'll take a good half hour to bring the oven up to temperature, and the geese will need at least four." She looked at the clock on the wall. "Let's get at it."

While Georg went to the woodshed to fill two empty hods, David kindled a fire in the firebox, and the women brought the birds from the cooler. With the fire set and warming, David joined the women at the counter. "These are huge. What do they weigh?"

"Two are a little over eight kilos, and the third is slightly under. If we can keep the oven between 160º and 180º, they should be done in four hours. They need half an hour per kilo."

"But they're a total of twenty-four kilos; wouldn't they need twelve hours?" Georg asked.

Bethia wiped her hands on her waistband towel. "No, if they're kept separate from each other, they'll all cook at the same time. The time would be increased only if they're pressed tightly together. We'll finish stuffing them, then we can get breakfast ready."

David examined the pan on the counter. "This looks new, Tante."

"I had it made by the tinsmith in town last week. I couldn't find three pans that would take the geese and fit into the oven together, so I had him make one the full size of the oven. Just a bit under to account for expansion."

"That's clever thinking." He set the pan down and watched the women each working on a bird for a short while, then asked, "What can we do now?"

"You could fetch the ham from the cooler and the Appenzeller and Gruyère from the cheesebox; we're nearly finished here."

A while later, after the grandparents had joined them, they all sat around the table drinking their coffee and sharing from central platters of ham and cheese and a basket of bread. David looked up from his coffee. "When I was training on the Salisbury Plains, we had Christmas dinner served to us by the officers and senior NCOs. Then while at Oxford, I learned that this is a British Army tradition going back for centuries."

"I've done it many times," Georg said. "I was always around the barracks at Christmas."

"We have the same tradition in the Swiss Army," Jacob said. "I was never on duty at Christmas, so I've not done it. I'd be delighted to help you serve."

Michael nodded as he listened. "I've done it only once, and I'd love to do it again."

"Great!" David said. "That'll allow the ladies to also be among those relaxing and being served."

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