And at the year's waning here we are, having survived the putative end of the world with our material lives intact, more or less. At this writing the furnace still doesn't work -- we're into, I believe, Week Three of No Heat Except Space Heaters, though I may have lost count -- but a new furnace man is coming out this afternoon to start the process all over again: look at the furnace, declare it dead, take measurements inside and outside the house, and (we hope) file some kind of claim with the home-warranty company, which swears that it never heard from the last man who came out.
I'm actually worried about that guy, to tell you the truth. The home-warranty company says that it has called him multiple times, and because Aelred also has called him multiple times with no answer, I'm more inclined to believe the home-warranty company than I might otherwise have been. Either the man has gone on vacation right at the height of furnace-fixing season -- in which case maybe he's a dope, and we don't want him messing with our dead furnace anyway -- or else something has happened to him. This latter is now my worry, and I am adding him to my mental prayer list. Of course, if it turns out that he's just dumb and/or irresponsible, then he could still use our prayers, but he didn't strike either Aelred or me that way when he was here. The more I write, the more worried I become. As all we have, however, is a telephone number which nobody is answering, it's possible that we will never know.
Meanwhile, now the oven door, which I had pulled off and then wrestled back on some time back, and which subsequently had been refusing to close all the way, is now refusing to stay closed at all. I think the home warranty covers this as well, but the thought of calling them back right now makes me feel distinctly lethargic. The open oven is keeping the kitchen nice and warm, but it does foil my dinner plans for tonight.
What I had planned was this: a party-food dinner. When we lived in England, the nearest grocery store was an outpost of a strange chain which sold freezers and frozen food, with a smattering of fresh produce and meat. When the weather was cold, especially, I shopped at this market almost daily, because the walk to it wasn't nearly so long as the walk to Sainsbury's in the center of town, and so over time I became intimately acquainted with the offerings in its aisles of freezer cases. At Christmas and New Year's, the cases closest to the entrance were filled with colorful boxes of vol au vents, mini quiches, little spring rolls, chicken on a stick with satay dipping sauce, and I forget what other heat-and-eat appetizers for your party-giving convenience. In those days we always threw a New Year's Eve party, for which I did buy a selection of these convenience hors d'oeuvres to bolster our novel American menu of jambalaya, cheese grits, and hot wings, which people lapped up with exclamations of rapture simply -- I believe -- because they weren't mince pies and mulled wine. When the party was over, we always had a few boxes of prefab party food left over, and then of course it all went on sale at the Iceland store. On more than one occasion, then, we had a family party-food dinner, a buffet of little goodies arrayed on the table before us, and it always seemed like a feast.
Lately I've been in the mood for a party-food dinner. It's been years since we had one -- ten years, in fact, since our last New Year's Eve in Cambridge. That year we didn't have a party; we had chicken pox instead, which was rather emphatically less fun than a party. But we did have party-food dinners, and we haven't had them since. Back in America, buying convenience food felt irresponsible to me -- I don't know why it didn't feel that way in England, except that life generally did sort of have the quality of a four-year holiday, with play money and play food, less reality than novelty. And then, though maybe it's just that I don't shop the freezer cases much except for vegetables, the frozen food here doesn't look nearly as fun. Maybe I haven't been listening in the right spirit, but it doesn't say party to me.
Yesterday, though, I decided that this was what we were doing for New Year's Eve, and that I would do my best to replicate the party-food dinners we had in Cambridge. And so on the menu tonight we have frozen beef taquitos, frozen cheesy potato skins, frozen mini pierogies (two flavors), frozen jalapeno poppers, frozen mini pizza pockets, and black-eyed peas, because it's New Year's, and although we are not in general all that superstitious, we wouldn't not have black-eyed peas at New Year's, because that's just asking for your furnace to break and your oven door to hang open. And we wouldn't want that.
Of possible interest: Ghosts of New Year's Eves Past
PS: Of course this is also the Eve of the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God. Aelred and a selection of younger persons are going to a vigil Mass down the road in Panacea Falls, while I'm singing for the 11 p.m. Mass here at St. Dymphna's. Tomorrow morning we get up early to drive to Memphis. I had better rise from this chair by the gas fire and go put some laundry in before the washing machine breaks down, too.