Monday, December 14, 2009

Grandma's Porch

Now, I love the holidays as much as the next person. As a child, I would come in the door after school in October and beg my mom to let me play a Christmas record. And yes Virginia, we called them records. I was a true Christmas junkie. I loved the lights, the tree, the entire magical scene. I fell for the Santa tale hook, line and sinker. When my mom pulled me into a closet to disclose the truth, I practically fell to my knees for a quick prayer of, "Oh, please don't let it be true." As much as I hated knowing the truth, I felt some pleasure in knowing that I could now hold a secret over my siblings' heads. Of course, my mother would hold something over my head if I ever breathed a word of "the secret" to my two brothers and my sister so I kept my mouth shut. But the real devastation came when I came home on Christmas break after my first semester of college and saw what stood in the place of our usual tree. I crept closer to check out what looked way too much like fake needles. I touched them and sniffed the tree, only to find no pine scent but an unmistakable scent of au-de-plastic. What in the world?! I couldn't believe my eyes. My mother did the unthinkable. She took away the thrill of the hunt, the cold, wintry nights and the first, burning sip of hot chocolate at the Christmas tree lot. Never mind that I couldn't really remember the last time I participated in the tree hunt since I'd come home for Christmas vacation during college to find that my mom decorated the house without me. I still got to help with the cookies and yes, that meant eating the dough and tasting the first cookies as they came out of the oven. Our Christmases came steeped in tradition; Christmas Eve dinners at our house, the late-night Christmas Eve service, opening one gift Christmas Eve, sitting at the top of the stairs Christmas morning waiting for my parents to turn on the tree lights, the Christmas music and the light in the nativity, shining on the baby Jesus. My mom did a great job surprising us with our gifts, down to the white go-go boots one year that I never dreamed I would receive, imagining myself dancing on Dick Clark's American Bandstand. Looking back, I couldn't help but wonder how she continued every year to bring newness to the season or did my youth just see it as new because I enjoyed the season so much? I knew one thing - finding the newness now escaped me and something must be done.

Nothing says Christmas like the smell of freshly baked Christmas cookies and the scent of the balsam or fir. Who doesn't get all aquiver with the prospect of trekking through the tree lot, toes frozen to your socks, nasal hairs dripping icicles and then the fun of tying the tree to the roof of the car, only to have it slide over the driver's side of the windshield on the way home? And the cookie press!! With all those little attachments that allow you to make cookies shaped like bells, bows and Christmas trees, a person can actually feel like Martha Stewart herself. Who can pass up the lure of powdered sugar, vanilla, pecans and pretty little sprinkles, much less the warm, happy feeling you get from spending this special family time in the kitchen?

Well, we can. Sharon and I sit on Grandma's Porch and don't see why we should put up with the work and mess of making Christmas cookies when a perfectly good Swiss bakery sits just down the road. The warm, happy feelings abound when we lift the lid of the bakery box to see beautiful, pink-iced Napoleons and chocolate-covered meringue balls. To keep up the spirit of Christmas, we can ask them to throw in some marzipan elves and bite those little elves' heads off as soon as we get into the car. We can't even say "Jolly Old St. Nick" before the nice lady boxes up our pastries and we scoot on out the door. Then we'll take our haul back to Grandma's Porch, put our feet up, play "Mele Kalimaka" on the CD player and sit back with full bellies and satisfied spirits. We might even come to life long enough to go into the kitchen and whip up a batch of Rice Krispie treats as a nod to home-baked Christmas goodies. We'll toss in a little #40 red food dye to make it more festive and eat 'em right out of the bowl. Why dirty an extra pan? We'll just butter up some spoons and have at it. It'll be a little slice of heaven. You're welcome to come by Grandma's Porch and we'll share . . .or maybe not. It all depends on whether or not we feel sated. At the very least, we'll let you scrape the bowl as long as you take it back in the kitchen and wash it when you finish with your tasting. After all, we all must do our part.

Merry Christmas from Grandma's Porch,
where the carols are playing, the wine is mulling and things are just fine.