Sunday, November 13, 2016
The Sunday Squirrel and Seasonal Baker...Fixin' to Find the Holiday Spirit
I’m one of those seasonal bakers. It happens every year around this time. It begins with an otherwise disorganized kitchen and pantry, and is transformed into a well-oiled machine, with an assembly line-like set-up. It’s like one of those pop-up shops coming to life as I unfold the banquet table and set it up alongside the window, where it will remain until after the holidays.
I guess it’s my way of welcoming and ushering in an otherwise melancholy march into a season that brings with it a holiday spirit that cannot be tamed or explained. A spirit that is fickle and unpredictable…like when I am reflecting fondly on a memory of my Granny’s brown bread baked in vegetable tin cans…and then suddenly find myself too full of emotion and lost in thought as I stare beyond the glow of warm lights on a Christmas tree. Holiday Spirit is indeed a mischievous one, but always finds the right time and place to reveal itself…not necessarily in the timing you would like, but like a willful child, you indulge it because you know there is a unique beauty and peace if you just go with it.
I do wonder, though, why there is such a delicate balance and fine line between warm reflections of holiday memories and the point at which said reflections turn quickly into a quiet kind of sadness.
For me, Christmas has always brought great promise each year. Not because I have led a charmed life or that I’ve never experienced heartache or disappointment. I’ve had a little of both (as we all have). I think the difference is that there is a part of me that has always had this fascination with magic and the belief that the impossible is achievable, and any setbacks along the way, are merely resting points in moving forward to reach greater heights.
And no one leads the charge for lost causes better than Old Saint Nick. As a kid, he was omnipotent, and always the Hail Mary I counted on for my Christmas wish list. And he never disappointed…there was always at least one gift under the tree, for which I’d whispered to him, sitting in his lap at the local grocery store or mall.
In my adult life, The Hallmark Channel has further helped to feed my passion for the holiday season, letting me join marathon movie nights where I can count on a flawless execution of happy endings. I make no apologies for indulging in the cheesy nature of these plots, and find no shame in letting some of the emotion of the season spill over and onto my cheeks. I actually think that Hallmark (like Bradbury) might have figured out the real “medicine for melancholy.”
For more on Ray Bradbury’s version, go to
https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/b/bradburys-short-stories/summary-and-analysis-medicine-for-melancholy/a-medicine-for-melancholy . It starts and ends with love. Doesn’t have to be the romantic kind, just a sense and general good will for everyone you meet (I think we could all use a little more of that right now). Bradbury put it more eloquently in his illustration…and I love the literary nature of the dance. Personally, I’m no Camillia, and so I’m perfectly content with living vicariously through the Hallmark characters and the wonderful memories and lessons shared every Saturday night. For me, I happen to believe that the cure for melancholy can be found somewhere in my kitchen. It’s somewhere between the flour and sugar, nestled between a few childhood memories of Christmas past…and still a few others I have shaped and re-shaped to turn into the kind of memories I was okay with keeping. And the new memories, the ones I’m making right now...well these are the kind of traditions that leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling, and a new kind of happy minus the melancholy of days gone by. Those are the clearest and most accurate ones I know.
As to the true state of reality, I will concede that as a writer, at times I may blur the lines in my storytelling, imagining a better world than the one in which we live in. But it is always with the best of intentions, aimed to support a positive attitude. I still believe in the guy in the red suit…the key difference now, is that I know that we all have the opportunity to don that red finery, and make so much more out of what we started with.
Thumbprint cookies are on my baking agenda today…with a new tradition this year. I have my own homemade jam to fill them with, canned in my kitchen and shared from someone else’s garden…doesn’t get any simpler than that. Try on the red suit…one size fits (and serves) all.