10. The lights, both tasteful and gaudy: I’ve been to Plano, Texas during Christmas and people there spent more than my annual salary on exterior illumination. They were very nice, but I’ve also driven through trailer parks where the people had much less money to spend, and used their imaginations to make the best of what they had. It doesn’t take a lot of money to do something extraordinary.
Our whole family always got together to put up Christmas lights at my mom’s house the day after Thanksgiving which was always special.
9. Christmas music: Elvis’ I’ll Have a Blue Christmas is one of the saddest songs and always makes me take a moment to reflect, and remember those who are hurting at Christmastime.
8. Santa hats: Whenever I see anyone in a Santa hat it always makes me smile. I wore one in the Christmas parade last week and the kids thought I was Santa.
I asked one little girl who was about seven years old what she wanted old Santa to bring her. She didn’t miss a beat — an iPad. Her mother’s eyes got as big as saucers. I fought back the urge to tell the kid I’d bring her one.
7. Sears catalogs: When I was a kid, I spent countless hours drooling over our Wish book. My first guitar came out of that catalog. It was the mother lode for kids in rural America back then.
6. Bubble lights: again, when we were kids, my mom bought a strand of bubble lights. It took them a while to heat up and bubble like an alka seltzer, but I loved those lights.
5. Christmas movies: It’s a Wonderful Life. Seeing all Jimmy Stewart’s friends and neighbors coming to his rescue at the end of the movie makes me weep. I love that show.
4. Decorating the Christmas tree: We wait until a few weeks before Christmas to put up our tree but it’s always a special event that I look forward to each year. I put on Christmas music, we sip egg nog and reminisce as we hang the ornaments we’ve collected through the years. Jilda remembers the origins of every ornament, and the story behind how we got each one. The ritual always brings out smiles and tears. (OK, I know I’m beginning sound like a weepy wus, but Christmas does that to me.)
3. Baking Christmas cookies: We always have our nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews over to cook and decorate Christmas cookies. Well actually, Jilda facilitates all the actual work, I usually take pictures, observe, and spend a lot of time smiling.
2. Fruit cake : I’m not talking about the kind you buy at Sam’s, but the kind my mama baked. Hers had fruit like the mass market ones you buy, but she also put in toasted nuts and a lot of other special ingredients. The bottom of her fruit cakes were browned, caramelized and a little gooey. They were sweet enough to put a healthy kid into a coma. The taste coupled with the risk a sugar overdose boosted them to another level of scrumptiousness that was unattainable by the store bought variety.
1. Christmas dinner at Ruby and Sharkey’s house: Ruby and Sharkey were Jilda’s parents. In 1968 when we first started dating, I was 17 and she was 16. I was welcomed into their home that Christmas, but her daddy kept his best eye on me. Her folks knew how to do Christmas up right. The presents were always secondary there. The focus was on family and food.
This is my list. What things are on your list?