Christmas was in a matter of a week, and my family and I were far from prepared. My father still buried himself under papers in his study, and my mother was still bedridden, so this year Christmas was most likely not going to be a large or grand affair.
But at least it was going to happen, and I had something to put my energy too. This Christmas was going to happen, under my watch. So Bertha and I decided to start making the house appear more festive and jolly, so we decided to buy a handsome wreath, that just did the thing. I also decided to make the inside of the house smell festive by baking some fresh gingerbread cookies, with Bertha.
Henry seemed happier but still tense, and he finally started drinking less coffee, which meant he probably was less sleepless, which was a positive change. Today I decided to bake some fruitcakes, to add more flavor and change. I had only been baking gingerbreads for the last week. As I collected the ingredients and put on my stained and flour coated apron, Bertha entered the kitchen.
“Miss. Shirley. There are some people at the entrance that want to see you.” she said, quietly.
“Oh bother! What do they want?” I groaned as I took off my apron, and began fixing my loose hair.
“I recommend you hurry, they seem rather impatient.” suggested Bertha worriedly.
“Quick question, who are the people?” I asked curiously as I continued to touch up my appearance.
“See for yourself Miss.” replied Bertha quietly, which annoyed me.
I hurriedly left the kitchen and headed towards the entrance, I felt annoyed. The last thing I needed were some unexpected guests, especially with the state that my parents were in. When I entered the entrance way I saw two very familiar looking people, my grandparents.
My grandparents on my mother’s side were very well to do, and prestigious. They also had very high expectations, especially on Ralph, when he was alive. They had little hope for Henry and I though, I was too stubborn and selfish, and Henry was to carefree. The most important thing now was that they were here.
“Oh! Hello Grandfather and Grandmother.” I said politely, trying not to sound surprised.
“Hello, Shirley dear. We just decided to stop by, to see how you and your parents are doing.” replied grandmother, as grandfather looked around the room with disdain, probably thinking it was cheap. My father was a retired and successful professor. Which meant he was far from poor, in some people’s eyes, but was considered low class to my mother’s parents.
“Oh wonderful!” I said, trying my best to sound enthusiastic, as I gave my grandmother(a small woman in stature, who I shared a large resemblance too), a quick embrace, my grandfather(stern looking grey haired man, who had a lot of energy even though he was nearly seventy), hated affection, similar to my father.
“Well are your parents dear?” asked my grandmother as she removed her hat, which meant that she was staying.
“Well…” I was interrupted by Henry who had just entered the room.
“Hello grandfather and grandmother, how are you both? Our mother is unwell, and our father is busy.” said Henry coldly, as he leaned against a table, drinking some wine. I glared at him, our grandparents would so disapprove.
“Is she still bedridden? Poor dear. Oh and your father is too busy with his “research”?” asked our grandmother, as our grandfather muttered under his breath, “fools.” Which angered me, but then I thought the same thing about my parents at the moment.
“Oh dear I forgot completely to greet Henry! Welcome back!” exclaimed my grandmother as she gave Henry a quick hug. “Welcome home Henry.” said my grandfather, who sounded surprisingly kind, as he shook Henry’s hand.
After some small talk, and answering questions on minor things such as education, and future plans, they spoke to our father, and mother briefly, upstairs. When they returned back, they both had a face of severe distaste, as if they had tasted something horrible.
“Well it seems that you both are not doing much over the holidays, so your grandfather and I have decided to ask you both if you want to come to our home in the Hamptons. It would be a pleasant change from the city.” asked our grandmother, kindly.
How on earth could I say no, my grandparents’ estate in the Hamptons was divine and beautiful, also who knows how many social events I would be attending? Even though I sometimes disliked my grandparents, I could not reject this.
Also this would be a pleasant change from home, like they said. As I was about to say yes, Henry spoke first. “Could Shirley and I please speak over this in private?” he asked, seriously.
“Of course, no rush, we are leaving tomorrow anyways.” replied our grandfather.
“Thank you.” said Henry as he took me by the arm and led me to the sitting room. I sat down on a chair, so did he. “Henry, this is an opportunity. Going to our grandparent’s place for Christmas, means social events, which means, meeting new people, which then means having more opportunities, after all our grandparents associate with people who have prestige and status.” I explained.
“Yes I know, all of that. But do we really want to spend our Christmas associating with snobby socialites? We have to consider this very cautiously.” replied Henry, quietly.
“Yes I know. But our grandparents ignored our family for an entire year, after what happened, and now they are letting us back in.” I explained.
“Exactly, but they are neglecting our parents, actually mocking them. Which they always have done, we both know. Why do we want to associate with people of that sort?” asked Henry.
“You are correct on that, but our parents even agreed to this.” I replied.
“Of course they did, they have little sense at the moment especially mother, and father just does not want to deal with them. Besides our grandparents always have to have their way.” groaned Henry, as he laid down his glass of wine. “Don’t worry, Shirley. I am not turning to alcoholism, a man can enjoy a glass of wine here and there.” he said, when he noticed my worried expression as I stared at the glass.
“Of course I am not worried. If you do not want to go I can go on my own.” I replied, calmly.
“Yes I know you can of course…. Alright we will go. But under one condition, I will not allow our grandparents to influence or manipulate us into doing something that they believe is suitable. I just won’t allow it, they did that to Ralph, and look what happened to him, the expectations they laid on him.” said Henry, as he finally gave in.
“I won’t let them do that, you know how stubborn I am.” I replied trying to make the best out of the situation.
“Good, then hopefully you will be able to withstand their persuasiveness.” said Henry as he stood up, and gestured for me to follow, and to tell our grandparents that we would be spending Christmas with them.
When Henry told them about our decision to come with them, our grandparents lit up in life, and began to explain everything that we were going to do over the holidays, which was extensive. But at least this would be a change.
Later that day, when my grandparents had left, I explained everything to Bertha, who calmly and carefully listened. Thankfully she was not disappointed in me for walking out of our “plans” for a quiet Christmas. She actually encouraged me going, and helped me pack. Henry remained quiet for the rest of the night. Oh well… He would get over it.