Today is a special treat.
My dear fryber, Julie Gardner is guest posting.
Poor, sweet, Julie. She is so beloved in the blog world I’ve read her guest posts on most of the blogs I frequent, because she is generous and cannot say no to a begging plea from a friend.
Her words? Magical.
She is somehow simultaneously witty, self-deprecating, and snort-your-milk hilarious in one second, and in the next you are pouring your deep dark secrets to her, reaching for a tissue, and calling your children over to give them an extra hug because she’s reminded you how much your adore your little
And that’s just in her single paragraph comments. If you haven’t read her blog, you’re missing out.
I would go on about her fabulousness, but I have to pack. My two year old won’t stop coughing long enough to fall asleep. Regurgitation has already occurred thanks to The Cough. I might be doing laundry tonight in between packing and sleeping – a deja vu pattern eerily familiar from last January’s vacation.
So here is Julie, reminding us why we do crazy things over the holidays like expose our children to airplane germs and stay in a house with your extended family for a week.
Our Not-So-Silent Night
My ears remember, first, the angel chimes. Have you heard them? (They’re sold now at IKEA.) The ding ding ding of bells as golden trumpeters circle the candle flames, urged onward by heat and little-girl excitement. The air crackles with an endless loop of carols crooned by Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby; Johnny Mathis and Barbra Streisand. My sister and I gallop around our house singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” because it was. It is.
I taste authentic Swedish potato sausage (which you can’t get at IKEA); crunchy Wasa bread (not for the faint of heart); frozen vegetables mixed with cream of mushroom soup and topped by eight ounces of shredded cheddar cheese (because we don’t overdo it) before baking. We slip JELL-O salad from its mold, the sweet-pretzel crust crumbling below chunks of suspended fruit. Flour dusts the countertops our mother has lined with wax paper for cookies. We burn our tongues on freshly minted pepparkakor then cool them with wedges of uncooked dough chilled in the refrigerator. The buzz of the oven-timer joins the ding ding ding of angel chimes and Doris Day suggesting we “slice up the fruitcake” which makes us giggle because we wouldn’t. We won’t.
My eyes feast on colored bulbs my father has strung along our rooftop, the tiny lights he’s wound around the tree we picked. I take in clingy tinsel, threaded strands of popcorn and glue-caked noodle ornaments; balls of mistletoe above our entryway. Grandma and Grandpa are coming! And Aunt Karen! (Then eventually Uncle Kurt. But we didn’t find him at IKEA, either.) We huddle in our parents’ bedroom waiting for the “Okay” then run to find canopied doll beds or banana-seated bicycles; a porcelain lamp, a wicker headboard. We behold our treasures wrapped in crinkly paper and curled ribbon. We gush “Thank you,” so gratefully because we were. We are.
I smell smoke from the fireplace and sap on sticky pine needles; my nose wrinkles at the Glögg (homemade, sorry IKEA) steaming in cups because I can’t sip until I’m 21 and Grandpa says, “That’ll clear your sinuses!” while the adults laugh loudly. My grandmother wears Shalimar (a scent I know as well as the tune to “Lara’s Theme” she hums year-round) but I don’t know whether my ears or mouth or eyes or nose is happiest because of all the joy that I had. That I have.
Too soon it’s time for bed so we clamber to the window and peek between curtains in search of the red light that means “Rudolf!” but I’ll never fall asleep because I’m too excited yet these blankets are very warm and my pillow is extra-soft and I feel luckier and more loved than anyone in the whole world (except maybe Santa) and I’m sleepy and my sister’s in the room with me because tonight is special since it comes only once a year, every year of my childhood.
My Christmas Eve traditions.
They were. And they are.
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You can read more of Julie on her blog By Any Other Name… and you should.
If you’re visiting from Julie’s blog and would like to see what my blog is like, visit my About Me page for a breakdown of my more popular posts.
And have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a great Kwanzaa.