that’s right, i’m a scrooge. i don’t deny it. but it’s not that simple, let me explain… it’s october second and i can see christmas decorations. of this, i am not pleased.
my earliest holiday memories included the last quarter of the year. we would bid g’bye to the summer with a labor day bash and settle in for the winter with family, friends, fires and festivities. the seasons would (actually) change, the leaves would fall and that was the cue… that the holidays were to begin. october brought us halloween. candy and costumes! what’s not to love, right? november would peek in and before you know it, we’d all be gathered together for thanksgiving!! more family, friends and food. snow would fall (somewhere, it’s too hot where i live) and december would bring the best holiday of them all: christmas. more family, friends and food — but this time, with GIFTS! and since you all know me so well, you know i’ve always looked forward to the new year. not really the year as much the party to issue in the new year. but these days.. i just want to change the calendar and move on. i’m frustrated by the holiday season and it bothers me.
i spent the larger part of my childhood with my grandmother in a sweet little suburban southern california town. she had a group home for developmentally disabled men. there were no less than six of us in the house during those years. she cooked breakfast lunch and dinner for all of us, everyday. by herself. she also entertained the larger part of our extended family for the holiday seasons. she was an excellent grandmother and she excelled at all things in the awesome homemaker category (i could be a little biased).
we decorated the house for halloween as conservative as possible. usually just two carved pumpkins at the top of the stairs leading to our front door. sometimes with that spiderwebby stuff. on halloween night, my gramma would open one of the windows and play a spooky halloween record — you know the one with the creaky door, the ghost moans and chains. good stuff. classic. we always had our porch light on, we always gave out candy and she always let me go trick-or-treating door-to-door as long as i remembered to stay away from “those” houses. which houses? it’s hard to say… my grandmother had an innate sense of OHHELLNO and didn’t like certain things for her own reasons. i think i have it too. but either way, halloween tradition carried on until the bestie and i determined that we were too old to go. saying goodbye to october meant november! and thanksgiving!!!
thanksgiving was a situation. it was intense. my grandmother would start her round of calls early in the month to check in with the family and find out who’s doing what. she would pull the dinnerware from the shelves and cabinets and start in on the cleaning and polishing. that’s right!! polishing the silver. a lost art, if you ask me. such a time consuming chore, so full of detail but the reward that comes with a full table, completely set and everything aglow with it’s own shine and sparkle is worth it (again, if you ask me). it obviously was to her.
the days of november would dwindle. my gramma would collect her head count and about a week before, there was the shopping. the mountainous, endless, heavy, grocery shopping. the menu never varied so the list was always the same. she would put everything away, count the sleeping spaces, wash the linens and prepare herself for thanksgiving week.
tuesday of thanksgiving week was beginning prep: the cleaning, pruning, and dicing of any and all ingredients. tuesday evening she would bake a pan of cornbread, the size of a twin-sized bed, to the most beautiful golden brown with dark edges and burnt corners. she would set it out to cool, always scooping a corner out for herself to “try”. wednesday was when the kitchen really started movin’… for this was the day she made DESSERTS!! sweet lord baby jesus the desserts!! again, always the same: peach cobbler (mmm!), sweet potato pie (mmm!), pecan pie (mmm!), lemon ice box pie (mmm!) and POUND CAKE (i just had a heart attack!). sadly, there weren’t many dessert leftovers. she would end the day by greeting the over-nighters, helping them get settled and finally putting the turkey in the oven.
on thanksgiving day, my gramma would be up before the sun. i don’t think she slept much as she would get up periodically to baste and check the turkey. when the rest of the house was brushing it’s teeth, she would be assembling all of the need-to-stay-cold items. and from there it was nothing less than master chef. she really was amazing:
- turkey with giblet (eww!) gravy
- a HAM! (with cloves and pineapples, and NOT from honey baked)
- sage cornbread dressing (i would slap you r’now for some)
- mashed potatoes (lump free!)
- green beans
- okra (uhh, i don’t like okra)
- cornbread (but i DO love cornbread)
- dinner rolls
- cranberry sauce (i like the cranberry salsa or chutney or something that the bestie’s dear sweet aunt ruth used to serve with pillsbury crescent rolls)
- waldorf and carrot & raisin salads (fruit + mayo = wth?)
- black eyed peas (occasionally)
she did it all herself. we didn’t help much, she didn’t ask for much and everything went as planned. i remember one year having about 12 or 14 people at the table. we had to add two leaves to the table and still didn’t have enough room. my grandmother’s china collection was stunning and when it all came together (at one o’clock) it was truly divine.
there would be laughing, playing, tv watching, cheating at cards and general familial mayhem. my gramma didn’t drink much so we didn’t have too many drunken outbursts. everyone would hug and love and just enjoy the day. most of the family would leave at sunset — stealing my desserts and always loving her up for feeding them so well. the next day, the only clue there had been a thanksgiving FEAST would be the leftovers. by the middle of the next week: homemade turkey soup. ahhhhhhhhhhhhh– the good ole days.
and in begins the christmas season. we used to go to a christmas tree farm (obviously weeks prior) and have them cut the tree that we had chosen. we would spend the evening decorating a live fragrant dirty dusty sappy beautiful christmas tree. we used the same ornaments for as long as i can remember. they were always carefully placed and stored in the same boxes marked “xmas”. the tree would be lit every night from dusk to bedtime. on christmas eve we would turn the lights on and they would stay on until the end of christmas day.
my grandmother always played santa and surprised me with something that would be over-the-top. my most favorite christmas morning surprise was a HUGE box of books. really? yes! it was a box from May Co. and it was big enough to hold king sized bedspreads, so, IT WAS HUGE and it was filled with books. i still have some of them.
the christmas spirit, leftovers and remnants of packaging took us through to new years eve. we always watched dick clark and we would light the christmas tree (for the last time) and waved to the year gone by. sometimes i made it to see the new year, other times… not so much. on new year’s day, we would disassemble the holiday season, pack away our holiday cheer (and every last decoration) and make resolutions that we never intended to keep. 😀
but NOW! now, we can hardly get through august without seeing ribbons and bows peeking through. and as i pointed out, on october second there are decorations hung for purchase in the local stores. what kinda $h!t is that? why would you do that? to sell more? are there really people out there just frantic to buy decorations before the rest of the free world? they don’t have anything from last year? why? there are people still putting up those nasty huge bulbs (i call um ghetto bulbs) from 1982!!
my list of questions could go on for days, but the point i’m trying to make is that selling things and marketing have taken away my holiday cheer. things change as we age and mature and especially when we have kids. but for me, the real holiday season was wrapped up in everything i just mentioned. in the family and friends. the celebrating. not in the buying, the receiving or black friday (which i avoid like the black plague). i can carry on with my family traditions, but it’s not the same and i don’t think it will ever be that way again.
the holidays used to be a warm time: filled with family, friends, food and good cheer. it was a way of celebrating the old year and celebrating the new year. it was a time to reflect and pull fond memories and share them with thoughtful gifts or handmade goodies. a time to forgive, to bond, to share. but now it’s just a marketing scheme. a horrible gaudy expensive marketing nightmare. people camp out in parking lots to buy the new craze or they just bogart the local toys ‘r us with pepper spray and take what they want. thanks, but no. i’ll stick to sugar cookies and turkey dinners with the ones i love. you can bombard my senses with your holiday crap but i refuse to accept. i can’t see your ornaments or fake trees. and i certainly don’t smell those God awful cinnamon scented migraine inducing pine cones or hear that holiday music. i’ll have my christmas when i’m ready, thank you. right after thanksgiving. you can take your marketing scheme and shove it, i’m not shoppin’ here no mo!