…COVID-wineteen

The hunt for quarantine wine

(This story was written while in quarantine for the COVID-19 pandemic. I have been blessed to have my daughter at home with me for the duration. Tara is a comedic writer with her undergraduate degree in the Psychology of Comedy. She has been a stand-up comedian and has written numerous plays and short stories with her particular slant toward absurdist comedy. This piece is a collaboration that we spent days toiling over, laughing about, and, of course, drinking wine as we worked. We hope you enjoy it.)

While others have spent their time hunting for cases of toilet paper and gathering bread-baking supplies, I’ve developed the survivalist strategy for my isolation essential. Wine. All-purpose flour? Yeast? How ‘bout a nice Chardonnay.

This panic buying, where people have irrationally decided what they suddenly can’t live without, has caused a complete disintegration of our social norms. Rushing into stores wild-eyed, stalking other shoppers to see what they’re buying, arms flailing as they grab everything remaining from the shelves. Do these folks not remember high school? The cool kids strolling with confidence across the campus on the lookout for signs of weakness? The bullies who relished throwing the outcast up against the lockers or, better yet, into the lockers? The mean girls who scoffed and sneered at the spaz and the dufus? People, calm down and stop looking ridiculous. I don’t want to have to kick your ass.

First, remember to lead by example. Face it. You reek of “uncool” if you race up and down aisles in search of Merlot. Others can smell fear, so never let them know how terrified you are that you may have to resort to Shiraz.

Second, plan ahead. Know your area stores and develop a spreadsheet of who works in each store, what their hours are, and the date you last shopped there. Spend hours on your makeup, cover it with a mask, then visit Bobby at ShopRite Liquors and Jake at Joe Canal’s. Go see Cal over at Bottle King and Sam at Wine Republic. Maintaining your supply of wine is crucial, but experts say safeguarding your mental health is just as important. If you’re stuck in isolation without regular doses of flattery, your state of mind is at risk which means you’ll drink more wine. You’ll feel better, sure, but there’s a fine line between self-medication and simply being wasteful.

Third, look into delivery services as well. My husband gave me a wine subscription gift for Christmas. I’m scheduled to receive six minuscule bottles (570 ML as opposed to the standard 750 ML) a month but, given their tiny size, that equates to what, maybe 1.5 regular bottles? Whatever the math, they’re a nice supplement to your in-person purchases. As I realized that we could be in quarantine for a long time, I started another subscription so I could get twelve bottles per month. But, on the second one, I gave the subscriber name as Docelyn Jorgan so the UPS guy wouldn’t know it was me.

And, fourth, you can increase your purchase amounts when necessary. I was on a lovely schedule of adhering to that 5 o’clock rule, counting down the minutes until I could pop the cork. But, one night as I watched time tick so slowly that I wondered if it was actually standing still, I had the impulse to break every single one of my clocks. That’ll teach them. The following morning, when I realized I wouldn’t know when 5 o’clock struck, I decided to play it safe and drink all day. Then I realized why brunch was invented. I could add a little sparkling white wine to my morning orange juice, and that entire 5 o’clock issue ended up in the trash. With my clocks.

Now that you know how to procure wines, you need to know their countless benefits. The thing I love to do most, after drinking wine, of course, is to eat. I would eat morning, noon, and night if I could. In quarantine, turns out I can. However, if there’s one thing I hate more than being sober, it’s exercise. You might think I should worry about the caloric content of wine. But it’s a fact that drinking wine causes your blood vessels to constrict. The more they constrict, the skinnier I look. So, wine consumption is actually a form of dieting. That’s science.

Some women have a signature perfume that, when they enter a room, their very scent causes heads to turn in recognition. The same holds true for wine. You need to develop your signature wine that becomes an extension of your identity. These days, when I enter a room, I no longer need to yell, “Pinot!” until somebody gives me a glass to stop the screaming. Now, a glass magically appears in my hand.

Wine is not just an accompaniment for all of your meals. Learn to use it generously in your dishes, too. For an appetizer, try a delicious Swiss fondue made with a bottle or so of high-quality dry Riesling. For your main course, I would suggest Swiss fondue made with a bottle or so of high-quality dry Riesling. For dessert, you can try cupcakes with a light champagne frosting or, if you prefer, a Swiss fondue made with a bottle or so of high-quality dry Riesling.

To look at me, you might not guess that I’m a highly accomplished rhymer. Whenever my friends or family need a good rhyme, they call me. I’m going to leave you with a little ditty that I’m particularly proud of.

When you confine, don’t forget the wine.

I like to wine and dine. My husband likes to dine and whine.

Stop giving the wine to a porcupine.

You better stop, the wine is mine.

Spine.

Decline.

Panty-line.

Documenting History, Personally

When I was a little girl in the early 1970s, I picked up a diary one day while at the bookstore with my mom. I chose that particular one because the cover had pink, fluffy fur, and it came with the requisite lock and accompanying key. After all, by the age of ten, I had deep inner thoughts that I needed to safeguard from my teenage brothers and, most importantly, my mother.

Sitting cross-legged on my canopy bed, I ended each day by pouring my profound musings onto those pre-lined pages. Mainly, I liked to gossip. I recorded all of the happenings at school and of the neighborhood kids. I kept running observations of who said what about whom, which boy I thought was cute, who started the fight on the playground and who won. As I got older, each day’s entry got longer as life became more complicated. I needed to comment on Lori’s new shade of eyeshadow or Lynn’s cool hip-hugger jeans or that Tammy played her new 45 “Beach Baby” a gazillion times or that Jackie stayed overnight at my house. These seemingly trite happenings were big to a young girl.

I’ve long since lost that diary, but even over forty years later, I remember what an essential part of my daily life it was. When my children were in elementary school, journaling was woven into the culture of their Quaker education. They learned to be still with their inner thoughts and record what was on their minds, even during extracurricular outings. I grew to understand the importance that the act of journaling provides for the individual. It allows reflection of the day’s happenings and the opportunity to put those thoughts in order. It is meditative — a time to force quiet into a busy world. And, it has the potential someday to be a glimpse into a way of life that expands past the historical name/date/place recorded in textbooks.

When my mother passed away in 2005, I was in charge of cleaning out her house. After I’d weeded through the usual piles of clothes, shoes, jewelry, and collectibles, I began to uncover the real valuables. Seemingly countless photos from every branch, limb, and twig on my family tree. Earnest correspondences from mothers to sons, daughters to fathers. Ardent love letters chronicling the courtship of my maternal great-grandparents. Deeds, documents, and journals. These were what interested me. These were irreplaceable. I had a veritable trove of history – specific to my family, yes, but also a view of society through the generations, dating back to the Civil War.

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John Pell Corsa, my 3rd great-grandfather, was born in 1830 in New York. His daughter, Jeanettie, was seven months old when he enlisted in the army and was sent to Fort Pulaski in Georgia. John would never see her again as he perished of an illness that spread through the encampment. After his death, he might have been reduced to name/date/place (John Pell Corsa/b. 1830, New York/d. 1862, Georgia) by this point in the 21st century, except that John wrote home regularly to his young wife while he was in the war. I have every one of those letters. They were filled with details of daily chores, military exercises, and the new friends he had made in his unit. More importantly, they narrated his state of mind. Early letters were filled with hope — “when I come home” and “give the baby a kiss for me.” As the months passed, his tone became more resigned as he reported on the death of yet another friend.

With those letters, I also have the only surviving portrait of my great-great-great-grandfather. Hand drawn with charcoal and pencil, it captured a serious young man with light eyes and a goatee, slicked-back dark hair, and a formal three-piece suit. The picture and letters from this man born nearly two hundred years ago were stored carefully in a leather folio that protected them through the decades so, by the time they made their way into my possession, they remained in near pristine condition. The heartfelt words and detailed portrait have immortalized John Pell Corsa/b. 1830, New York/d. 1862, Georgia as a three-dimensional, flesh and blood husband, father, and Civil War soldier.

As I sifted through the treasures that had remained buried in my parents’ home for fifty years, I found the most meaningful of all. Written in his recognizable handwriting were stacks of journals that my father had kept from his teenage years through his service in the army. I poured over them, riveted by words that came from his innermost soul. I learned that his lifelong passion for baseball began with the birth of Little League Baseball in his hometown of Williamsport, PA. Every statistic of every game was meticulously recorded, including every major league game he could tune in on his family radio. I learned about his parents and brother as viewed through his boyhood lens. I felt his frustration in wanting to leave behind the industrial town in which he grew up in search of higher education. From a poor, working-class family, his only route would be military service then college on the GI Bill. I read how he joined the army, his excitement of being stationed in Panama, and the camaraderie with his unit. I was scandalized to learn about the 19-year-old boy, who would later become my father, flirting with and dating the local girls.

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Dad passed away in 1989 and, although he will be alive as long as my brothers and I are, he could quickly fade into name/date/place when we’re gone. Those journals, though, will be passed to my children and niece who may have never known the man while he was alive but will cherish the words of the boy who became their grandfather.

Throughout my life, I’ve intuitively turned to writing as a means of expressing myself. In recent years, I’ve learned how valuable that expression is in reflecting and recording the humanity behind basic facts. As I write this piece, the world is in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. No one knows what to expect when we come out on the other side of it. History will record the name/date/place of it all, but what about the human story? The comparison to this being like a world war isn’t lost on me, and I am reminded of how Anne Frank’s detailed and stark writing while in hiding from the Nazis brought a singular personal perspective to the Holocaust. Movies have been made, stories have been written, but it is her diary that remains the centerpiece of the Jewish experience from 1942 to 1944. With this in mind, I started my own journal for the first time since that pink fuzzy diary I had in 1970. It is a place for me to talk about my daily life – from the routine and ordinary to my worries and fears. My children are living in the epicenter of the crisis – New York City. What if they get sick? My husband’s business is mostly shut down – what will this mean to his employees and us financially? My cousin’s husband suspects he has the virus, but no tests are available to know for sure. He’ll likely be okay, but will others I know be affected? A week from now; a month from now. These are the types of questions that keep me up at night. Multiply this by millions of people, and we are all living through this frightening time with similar concerns.

Other friends have joined me in writing down their thoughts. I know poets who are putting their feelings into verse. An artist friend is releasing her anxiety through her paintings. On the internet, creativity is exploding through videos. Worldwide, drones are photographing empty streets in the most popular tourist destinations. Undoubtedly, people across the country and around the world are keeping personal records of their own experiences. My journal is just one tiny piece in this collective effort to record the history we are now living. Our ordeals will live more richly than merely the names/dates/places that will be relegated to the textbooks, because this is how those who came before us did it, too.

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Buying Back My Childhood

There on the shelf, buried behind a couple of decorative German beer steins, a barnyard full of glazed animal figurines, and a set of daintily flowered miniature teacups and saucers…obscured by an oversized porcelain cupid, the brightly colored vases, and hand-painted snuff boxes…nearly hidden by the carved witch with the warty nose and the antique wind-up mantel clock, I spotted my long-lost youth. A set of four glass tumblers, each with a different “Love Is…” cartoon stamped on it. A nearly identical set had been a fixture in the kitchen cabinets of my childhood home. That cartoon strip, a favorite in the Sunday funnies, is as emblematic of those carefree days of the 1970s as watching Dark Shadows and Speed Racer weekday afternoons and learning Chinese jump rope and Cat’s Cradle with an elastic cord on my elementary school playground.

Love Is

Without hesitation, I snatched those glasses off the shelf and toted them to the checkout counter at the antique shop. As I dug out my credit card and handed it to the cashier, I paused and turned to my mother. I suddenly wondered at my impulse purchase. I didn’t need any more glassware. That cartoon had never held any significance in my relationship with my husband. I doubted my small children, who had likely never seen “Love Is…”, would find the set to be as endearing as I did. So why this urgent need to buy them?

Mom, with that knowing smile on her face, stated with infinite Mom-wisdom, “You reach a certain age and you start buying back your childhood.”

Was that it? Had I reached that stage in my life when I would soon start sentences with, “I remember when…” or “When I was young…”? Had I become my mother?

I brought those glasses home, excited to share my pop culture find with the family. Even though my husband is from the same era as I am, he wasn’t impressed. He prides himself on not looking backward, the way he claims I do, but moving forward with the times. Was he right? Was I stuck in the past or simply sentimental? I had to admit that I tend to search the radio for the Beatles or Fleetwood Mac, singing along with dewy-eyed nostalgia to “Here Comes the Sun” and “Landslide”, while he’s bopping to the likes of Kesha and Justin Timberlake.

My children, on the other hand, thought those naked little characters were intriguing. Not because they felt the same pull toward times of yore as their mother. They were nine and six at the time and were developing a fascination with the birds and the bees. Nonetheless, I seized upon the opportunity to share the joys and wonders of my own childhood with my kids because, obviously, stuff was better back then.

My daughter Tara suddenly found she had inherited my old Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. I read her the accompanying books, including the one where they meet the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees, but within days, dolls and books were all relegated to a shelf and forgotten. I had loved my Mrs. Beasley doll until she fell apart, so Tara found a brand-new version under the Christmas tree one year. But, not having lived through the Family Affair age, Mrs. Beasley’s spectacles were promptly lost, and she was soon pushed into a closet with the door shut. I got Tara the Barbie and Ken dolls my feminist mother never allowed me to have, but instead of dressing them in their stylish outfits or taking them on a trip in the camper I bought, Tara only wanted to strip off their clothes and put them in the “jacuzzi.”

My son Avery was soon the proud owner of every matchbox car I could lay my hands on, from sporty race cars to hippie-style VW buses to backhoes to frontend loaders. There were Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. We had vintage Legos and spent hours building entire cities for those matchbox cars to explore. He was more receptive to the toys and influences from the “olden days” and loved my metal jack-in-the-box with the jester painted on the side. We bounced down the driveway on a Hippity-Hop inflatable ball and made beautiful pictures with Lite Brite and a Spirograph. I taught the kids to use a pogo stick and how to throw their voices while entertaining with a Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist doll. We played Candy Land and Mouse Trap and Operation and Twister and Battleship. And, happy was the day when my son decided he was a fan of two of music’s greatest – The Who and Eric Clapton.

Was my insistence at introducing my young impressionable children to the treasures of my youth solely because I’m suspicious of all things post-1970s? Actually, I realized that I was doing precisely what my own parents had done for me. I grew up with their youthful interests swirling through our house, unconsciously influencing my biases. From music to the brimming bookshelves in every room and hallway to their television program choices to art projects to the toys and games we were given, my parents’ leanings were fingerprinted everywhere. After they passed away, I cleaned out their house with its lifetime of hobbies, passions, and memories and got a clear understanding of how family traditions are perpetuated. I sorted through LPs and 78s, overflowing with the musical social commentary of Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger, and Peter, Paul and Mary; the political satire of Tom Lehrer; and, the complete collection of Shakespearian plays theatrically narrated and recorded long before audiobooks were even a thing. I found Dad’s collection of political pins, from Harry Truman to Walter Mondale, and Mom’s handmade wooden Christmas ornaments that she’d painstakingly decorated with oil paints and colorful sequins.

Pop culture, social attitudes, and holiday traditions are one thing, but my favorite ritual passed from my parents to me and now to my children is a love of live theater. As a child, I became a fixture in the local venues and some of my most cherished memories are cemented there. I grew up with the classics – staged versions of Mary Poppins, Camelot, and West Side Story. I saw countless Shakespeare productions – comedy, tragedy, and history – and when rock operas rose in popularity, I saw Tommy and Jesus Christ Superstar. There were yearly Christmas showings of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol. But my favorites were the comedic operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan. I’m familiar with all fourteen, have watched most, and have seen a few multiple times. I can recall the side-eye I’d receive when standing on the sixth-grade playground belting with gusto, “I am the very model of a modern Major General.”

Imagine my excitement when perusing this year’s offerings at our regional theater and found The Mikado as a featured performance. It was a novel Victorian-era twist on a classic set in Japan and every bit as wonderous as I remembered. As the lights in the theater dropped and the audience fell silent, I could picture my mother sitting on my left and my father to my right. In my mind, I could hear my father’s gentle laugh at the silliness of the plot and imagine my mother softly humming the melody to herself. By intermission, I was high on the experience and turned in excitement to discuss the first act with my husband. His glazed-over eyes and telling yawn indicated that he wasn’t as enthralled as I was. How could he not love it? He hemmed and hawed, unable to articulate why he wasn’t connecting with the musical, and it hit me. Did I love it on its own merits, or was the show so intricately woven into the warm memories of my childhood that I was unable to separate them?

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I don’t care. I may be “in a rut” as my husband claims, or start too many sentences with “I remember when…” There’s a richness in holding dear those meaningful influences of our youth – the ones that transport us to a special place or a time of innocence. So, if I buy a couple of dusty glasses with cartoon characters on them…if I encourage my son to browse through the classic rock section at the local record album exchange…if I point my daughter toward books by Louisa May Alcott and the Bronte sisters…if I turn on my lava lamp at night so I can find my way to the bathroom at 3 AM…if I drag my husband to a Paul McCartney concert…so what? If I dance around the house singing “A Wand’ring Minstrel I” after seeing The Mikado, does it make me old and stuffy? Isn’t this how future generations learn about and honor the past? So, in my mind, I’m not a fuddy-duddy; I’m a pop-culture anthropologist.

 

 

 

Holiday Traditions

 

My mom was big on holiday traditions, especially the Fourth of July and Christmas. Her closet was filled with bedazzled American flag t-shirts and a collection of ugly Christmas sweaters that were the envy at every holiday party. Each year, on the day after Thanksgiving, Bing Crosby crooned “White Christmas” on the stereo console, repeating “treetops glisten, and…treetops glisten, and…treetops glisten…” until Mom moved the needle past the scratch in the album. Dad was no slouch in the holiday celebration arena, either. Just twenty hours after downing copious quantities of turkey with stuffing and all the trimmings, he was covered in cobwebs in the crawl space under the house, dragging out tattered cardboard boxes filled with ornaments and our artificial Christmas tree frosted with semi-realistic looking snow.

Dad’s job was outdoor Christmas decorations. What should have been a two-hour endeavor achieved with holiday cheer inevitably stretched into an entire Friday of swearing and grumbling. He pulled out string after string of outdoor lights, the extra-large, opaque kind in red, blue, green, and white, that somehow were a tangled mess despite the care with which they’d been stored the previous year. I loved watching him stretch the strands across the recreation room floor to check for outages, replace the faulty bulbs, mutter under his breath when those didn’t work either, then beam with accomplishment when everything lit up properly. Just as eagerly, I’d watch his frustration as he’d drape them around the 18’ White Spruce he’d planted by the front door the year my parents bought the house. Inevitably, as soon as he’d reach the top of the “A” shaped step-ladder, an entire section of lights would suddenly go dark. The stream of curse words that accompanied his up-and-down the ladder to locate replacement bulbs and twist them into the sockets put me right in the festive spirit.

Mom was one of those crafty types whose projects adorned our house year-round. The blown-eggs at Easter time were painted with artistry and care, then arranged in our table centerpiece. In the spring, tissue paper flowers bloomed in the living room. Or, flowers constructed from wire shaped into petals, dipped in some sort of goopy molten plastic, dried, then twisted together to make tulips and irises. Even Mom’s paper dolls were works of art. Christmas was when she pulled out the big guns, though. She’d start in September, buying pre-made kits of wooden ornaments that required the painting of her steady hand to bring them to life. Or, the satin balls that she’d embellish with ribbons, cords, beads, and sequins. Then, there was the year of the intricately nipped and cut snowflakes created from high-quality vellum paper that she’d sprung for at the art boutique. Our tree always carried the traditional glass ornaments that were popular in the 1950s and 1960s, but each year’s theme was based on Mom’s creative whim-of-the-moment.

My two older brothers and I were assigned the yearly job of finishing the tree with shimmering silver tinsel. I remember waiting for Mom’s signal, telling us it was up to us to put on that finishing touch. My stomach got a tingly excited feeling, knowing that with this final act, the Christmas season was officially ushered in. Every year it was the same. I gently lifted the tinsel, delicate strand by delicate strand, to hang them individually over each branch. My brothers grabbed handfuls of the stuff and threw it in the general direction of the tree, hoping some would stick. I’d scream at them. They’d laugh and tease me. I’d burst into tears. They’d call me a crybaby. Mom would yell at them to knock it off. I’d hear my father somewhere downstairs, cursing and swearing. I’d scream louder. Mom sent my brothers to their room, which was precisely where they wanted to be anyway.

As the actual day approached, pots of Mom’s favorite flower, the poinsettia, would appear. They took over the recreation room windows; they inhabited every open table surface; they even crept up the base of the railing on both sets of stairs. Reds, pinks, whites, mixes of all. Food for the holiday began appearing in the kitchen with notes reading “For Christmas – do NOT eat!” taped to it. Every year, the menu was the same — a glazed ham; baked, New England-style macaroni and cheese based on the recipe Mom had received from her late grandmother; green bean casserole with crispy, fried onions on top; canned cranberry sauce; fresh from the oven Pillsbury dinner rolls. My grandparents would show up about noon, my aunt and uncle soon after that. Following our feast, the grown-ups would loll on the couch, my brothers would disappear to play with their new Major Matt Mason toys, and I’d be left to entertain with a magic show. Through the years, my tricks became more complicated and my theatrics more absurd, but how I loved donning that top hat, whipping out my magic wand, and dazzling my snoozing family with the jug that endlessly poured water.

Christmases of my childhood were magical. As I got older, some traditions fell by the wayside; some were altered to adjust to changing times. Mom lost the stamina to create complete sets of ornaments each year, so she began reusing old ones. Dad compromised with the outdoor decorations by purchasing fully-assembled manger scenes, reindeer cut-outs, and life-sized Santas secured with stakes. My brothers were “too busy” to help with the tinsel, so the tree trimming fell to me. I loved the newfangled sparkly garland that I could put up in minutes, allowing me to hurry back to spending hours on the telephone with my girlfriends. Late night church services interfered with my social life, so I’d cajole Mom into going to the 7:00 service, instead. We cut back on the poinsettia overgrowth when Mom learned that they’re poisonous to cats. One thing that remained through shifting family dynamics – marriages, divorces, deaths – and changing times was the macaroni and cheese. That was always Mom’s secret weapon to ensuring she could get us all to the Christmas dinner table together.

When I started my own family, and the building of new Christmas traditions fell to me, I reached back into my childhood for inspiration. The weekend after Thanksgiving, we brought the bins of decorations up from the basement. I assigned my husband the responsibility of adorning the outside. I’d even searched out those retro extra-large bulbs in red, blue, green, and white. The kids helped put up the tree. Since I didn’t inherit my mother’s gift of craftiness, we started our version of collecting ornaments. We’d brave the mad rush of shoppers to find our yearly Hallmark ornament for the family, and each of the kids would pick out one for themselves. I began collecting nutcrackers, displaying them on the tall staircase in our foyer, lined up against the banister going all the way up, just like Mom used to do with the poinsettias. I created a tree skirt and, every year, would trace my children’s hands on felt, cut them out, then glue them to the skirt, marking whose hand it was and the year. I’d long since given up meat, but I continued making Mom’s New England-style macaroni and cheese for our Christmas dinner.

Christmas skirt

My children loved and anticipated Christmas the way I always did. So much so, that their excitement would wake them up by 2 AM, cause them to sneak downstairs to see if Santa had come, then grab their stockings and race back to their rooms to open the only gifts they were allowed until their parents got up. Unfortunately, that meant they’d be waking us up by about six because they could no longer contain themselves. You’d think they’d have learned over the years that a sleep-deprived mother makes for a lot of the same cursing and grumbling I learned from my dad. But, no. Cranky Christmas Day Mom became part of our family tradition. And, that sibling teasing from my youth was passed down, too. It began the year my daughter, about five at the time, slipped on the top step. What we heard from the family room below was a series of boom-boom-booms, accompanied by clackety-clackety-clacks that seemed to go on for hours. When the noise finally stopped, and we were no longer frozen in shock, we leaped to our feet and ran into the foyer to find Tara laying on the floor surrounded by an army of nutcrackers. She had fallen down the full flight of stairs and wiped out the entire line of nutcrackers on her way. My son, being the concerned older brother, made sure she was uninjured before whooping in delight about the “glorious sound” that Tara had created. To this day, Avery gleefully recalls the “glorious sound” of those nutcrackers crashing down the stairs with his sister.

My mom passed away several years ago, just before Christmas, and knowing her love of poinsettias, I bought out the local nursery to bedeck the funeral home for her service. Since then, I have given up decorating with poinsettias for the holidays as those flowers now hold painful undertones for me. Many of the other traditions have evolved, as well. My children’s hands are no longer growing, but I continue to use the tree skirt with their handprints all over it. They each have bins of their own ornaments that we collected as a family since they were babies. We don’t put them on the tree at our house, but my son and daughter have them for their own homes, now. The kids still return home for the holidays, still expect their stockings to be filled, but now stay up until 2 AM to sneak down the stairs to grab them before racing back up to their old rooms.

This year, traditions continue to evolve. I still make Mom’s old New England-style baked macaroni cheese but now include a non-dairy version, too, for the vegans in the group. Also, my son’s girlfriend will be joining us and, since her religious background is Muslim, it will be fun to have her experience Christmas for her very first time with us. I hope she enjoys the traditions we’ve built; I hope she likes the macaroni and cheese that’s part of our heritage; and, I hope I get to sleep past 6 AM.

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