Though I’d recently stocked the house with Christmas knick-knacks and swag, I wasn’t feeling the ol’ holiday cheer until yesterday, when we put up our tree. (I was going to say, “erected” the tree, but I didn’t think the baby Jesus would approve.)
Here’s a photo of the end result, although I’m not sure I’m in love with this year's theme of "hodge-podge of totally unrelated items:"
Every year I have visions of decorating the tree while It’s a Wonderful Life glows in schmaltzy black and white glory in the background, or maybe I’m listening to Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas CD--the gold standard for holiday music as far as I’m concerned. As one who worked retail (TOY retail) for seven Christmases past, I know my holiday music, and I have very strong opinions of such. The hippopotamus Christmas song? Akin to having knitting needles plunged repeatedly into my ear canals while being force-fed head cheese in the ninth circle of hell. (I have the same visceral reaction to Elton John’s best-known Christmas ditty—and I like Elton John.)
Back to my decorating fantasy. In these holiday visions, I’m sipping a delectable eggnog or piping hot Tom & Jerry when I take a break from draping lights on the tree. Large, fluffy snowflakes tumble outside the window. A cheerful fire crackles in the fireplace, and J and I share memories, chuckling fondly at tales of Christmases past.
Now let’s look at what really happened. Listless brown snowbanks melted into the gutters outside. My vision of crackling flames will have to wait until we either move to a home that has a fireplace or we decide to burn the kitchen table and chairs. The television was tuned to Comedy Central, which was running back-to-back episodes of Reno 911. It’s no Christmas Carol or Miracle on 34th Street, but it was a step above Christmas 1988, when my brother, sister, and I decorated the tree while watching Deliverance. (Nothing sets sugar plums a-dancing in your head like having “Squeeeeal like a pig!” on a horrific mind-loop before bedtime.)
I did pour myself a glass of eggnog in my futile attempt to capture that elusive craft-magazine Christmas vibe: Southern Comfort “Vanilla Spice,” which tasted like a glutinous, throat-constricting batter of pancake mix, corn syrup, and artificially-flavored vanilla pudding. My taste buds wept inconsolably until I promised to whip up a Tom & Jerry. We’d actually purchased a tub of the frozen drink base earlier in the day, but since I'm kind of cheap, I decided against buying one of the key ingredients (brandy) because, “We have a whole bottle of rum at home. It’ll taste fine with just that.”
So I poured boiling water into a mug containing a tablespoon of frozen Tom & Jerry mix and added some rum. Well, a lot of rum. To make up for the missing brandy. I whisked the mix into a frothy approximation of delight and grated some fresh nutmeg on top.
How did it taste? Hmm. Have you ever tasted sweetened nail polish remover? Neither have I, but I’m pretty sure it would taste like my Tom & Jerry last night. My dear husband, who felt our alliance had been tainted when I admitted to hating the pancake batter eggnog that he just had a religious experience over, could only smile smugly and say, “I knew it would taste like crap.”
Sadly, I drank half of it—stubbornly—before my digestive system raised the white flag.
There’s a show on right now about a guy trying to survive in the wilderness on snakes, beetles and twigs. This is my cue to write out Christmas cards, so I’ve got to run.
May your decorating, shopping, wrapping, card-writing, and baking be merry. If you need help, here’s a cheery picture of Donna Reed to get you in the holiday mood.