Kate Flora: This time of year brings out the little kid in me. Maybe that happens to many
of you, as well. I don’t go to malls but I love holiday craft fairs and shopping in small stores that curate their displays. I love brightly decorated windows. I love passing bookstores whose displays are so irresistible I end up buying more books. I like the pop Christmas carols playing in the grocery store that make me dance a little as I shop. I like to drive around at night and see how enthusiastic people have gotten about their decorations. There is much to wonder at. How on earth do they get those giant balls of light up into that huge pine? Do they know that that giant inflatable snowman has collapsed? What, exactly, does a large dragon have to do with Christmas? I have silly lights strung on my porch, and they have many different settings from sedate to “these lights have gone crazy!”
This year I added these illuminated gazing balls to the mix:
Christmas, in particular, brings back memories of living on a farm in rural Maine. When we children, one of our Christmas rituals was to pile into the truck, and later into the Ford station wagon, and drive around, looking at everyone’s holiday lights. Then, because of the line in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, in which the fog was as thick as a soda’s white fizz, we would go to the local drug store, line up on stools at the soda fountain, and have ice cream sodas. I’m not sure we even liked ice cream sodas that much, but it was part of the tradition, and as we ate out very rarely, a special treat.
Another holiday ritual was baking cookies. We didn’t have money to send fancy presents to friends and family who lived far away, but we have an oven, and during early December, my mother would bake many different kinds of cookies, and tins of assorted cookies would be mailed. In those same boxes, we’d clip balsam boughs into small pieces, and sew pillows that we would stuff with balsam. My father, who loved everything botanical, would buy small round bowls and make tiny terrariums. He was very artistic, and often used spray cans of snow to decorate the living room windows for Christmas, a surprise we would discover when we came home from school.
It can be hard to write when my head is filled not with stories of death and detection, but the cookies my mother used to make, my mother-in-law’s Russian tea cookies, and my attempts, as a Methodist married to a Jewish husband, to make rugelach. (It turns out to be a very messy process indeed, at least the way I do it.) It’s hard to write when I want to rewatch my favorite holiday movies, including one added just this year called It Happened on Fifth Avenue. Hard to write when I want to play all my holiday albums, including a compilation of music my lovely daughter-in-law made. I don’t know about you, but I can listen to Darlene Love sing Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) many times over. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UV8x7H3DD8Y
What I like best? It’s that sense, left over from childhood nights trying to sleep so Santa would come, and later putting together toys for my own sleeping children, that there is magic out there. This year, to capture some of that magic, I went to Gardens Aglow at the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden. It was amazing. Here are some pictures:
I came home with an idea for a Christmas story which I hope to share with you later this month.
What’s your favorite holiday memory?