Recently, I was contacted by Patience Brewster to see if perhaps I might want to chime in the holiday season by writing about my favorite holiday memory. I am seriously one of those people that flips back and forth between the two radio stations that play non-stop Christmas tunes from November 1st on, so nobody has to ask me twice to write about the holidays. In fact, I have been having several sleepless nights because my best friend does not celebrate St. Nick with her daughter on December 6th and even though I get that this is a very Wisconsin thing to do and that by BFF grew up in Boston for crying out loud, I have still been jolted awake at 2AM thinking about how T won’t get a stocking. Bring on the advent calendars and the egg nog and obnoxious lights. I love it all. The number one reason that I love Luke’s girlfriend is that she loves Christmas as much as I do (there are probably other number ones … she does love pie, and well, Luke).
Favorite memory? I don’t have one. I have a tangled web of Christmas eve’s at Lolo’s house. Christmas has never been the same for me since Lolo died, or really since she moved from the home she built to a condo for the elderly. I think the reason I am so excited to have four children of my own is the thought of future Christmas Eve’s … the chance for me to embody my grandmother’s spirit and make everyone else feel loved and snug and home. Sometimes I look around this too small, falling apart house and wonder if I will ever be able to pull it off, but the dream of it keeps me going.
When we would arrive at my grandma’s house, Rudolph had already left footprints in the snow. Herring and brandy old fashions and boxes of chocolates lined the kitchen counters. The house was dark, except for the bright kitchen, and the strands of lights on the tree. Everything else was candlelit and so even the ham glowed. It smelled like burnt rolls and snow and wool. Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin always hummed in the background, along with laughter and the exchange of hellos.
I remember sitting on the floor and looking up at my grandmother, who had a pile of presents, literally a tower of presents, on her lap, and to me, she seemed like the happiest person alive.
A lot of people complain about the commercialism of Christmas and the bother and the money. To me, it’s never been about any of those things. I am not a religious person by any means. Religion will always be a bit lost on me. I do, however, understand ritual and love and tradition. I understand family and home and prayer. I understand that in the very roughest patches of my own marriage that it is the thought of these things that keeps me going. Blessed are the peacemakers … all I know for sure is that my grandmother was one of those. I know that for one evening every year, time stood still, and the true meaning of peace flooded through me.
Central to my art is the idea of home. Christmas Eve is probably the very nut of that fruit. I wish that each of you reading this gets a chance to experience that stillness and that joy and that Christmas, for you, means feeling like you are enveloped in love. I know for some of you, it’s not … that holidays are stressful and anxious with a list of shoulds a mile long. Still, my hope for you, is that for a single moment, you can feel home.
For those of you collecting ornaments or supporting the arts or finding a tradition to call your own, I encourage you to look at Patience Brewster’s ornaments http://www.patiencebrewster.com/ornaments.html and consider adding one to your collection. For years, my grandmother bought my mom a single santa from a certain designer. It was sad when the last Santa was purchased and when we knew their would not be any more. Almost twenty years ago my mom asked me which type of Christmas “thing” I would like to collect and I answered “angels.” Every year she gives me a new one at Thanksgiving. She will do that until the last angel.