It occurred to me recently that I’ve never written a book, or even a scene, that’s set at Christmastime. That surprises me because I think Christmas really is the most wonderful time of year. I grew up in a place where Jack Frost nipped at your nose and everything else that wasn’t covered, and deep snow on the ground on Christmas morning was a given. Christmas Eve always meant early to bed and early to rise the next day, with all the gifts being opened by the time most of the rest of the neighborhood was just stumbling out of bed.
I started see-sawing my way from residing in the North then the South and back again nearly two decades ago and, as an adult, I’ve spent more time wearing tee shirts and shorts on Christmas Day than silly woolly sweaters. That has only meant that I start thinking about holiday lights and fir trees in July; the ornaments and lights and decorations come out the day after Thanksgiving at the very latest. Sometime around Halloween, I begin to play holiday music all day long. It’s a novelty for me. I usually prefer silence, given that I grew up in a large, noisy household. And in the autumn evenings….well, I finally have enough vintage holiday movies in my collection to watch one every night from Thanksgiving to Christmas without repeating them.
Of course, it’s not all fun and games. Once The Season starts in my home, I go through several changes of fresh mistletoe and gallons of my secret-recipe spiked water that keeps the tree fresh and soft and fragrant for the six weeks it’s up. The house is always tidy—unusually so—and I don’t even mind keeping it that way. I bake like a woman crazed, reveling in the scent of cloves and cinnamon, which always smell gorgeous, but never quite as good as they do at this time of year.
Every year, I try to add something new and, ideally, different to my holiday mash-up. This year, my addition to the fracas is some fabulous dishwashing soap (yes, I know, pathetic, right?) and spray cleaner that smell like …. Christmas. Like snow and fir trees and starlight. Like lovely ghosts of Christmases Past. Yes, they’re luxuries; they cost more than double than what I would ever normally spend on dish soap or spray cleaner (especially since I never use the latter, preferring plain old vinegar instead). But this is Christmas, so I splurged a few weeks ago and I don’t regret it. Washing dishes is not my favorite hobby, but this stuff makes it almost enjoyable. The scent lingers in the house longer and more subtly than potpourri. And when it’s topped off by my longtime favorite frankincense and myrrh incense…..mmmmmm. There really is no place like this comfy, holiday-y home of mine.
This brings me back to the question of why haven’t I—the holiday queen of my neighborhood—written a Christmas story, or book, or novella? Why haven’t I poured all this mushy, gushy, icy-slushy nostalgic good cheer onto the page? Well, it’s not as if I haven’t tried. A few years ago, I started writing an updated version of A Christmas in Connecticut because not only is the movie one of my favorite holiday movies, but I used to live in Connecticut. I figured I was a natural for the task. Then I found out that a new version of the movie is slated to hit the theaters for Christmas 2011. Starring Jennifer Garner, no less. I took it as a sign to move in a more original direction.
But that put me back at square one. I think I must still be waiting for the right story to hit me—to have a fully plotted story land in my stocking (that’s hung by the chimney with care), or to plop, a bit sooty and rough around the edges, down through the chimney and onto the cinders, and leave dainty cloven tracks across my imagination. But we all know that that stuff isn’t real…..
So I’ll have to take matters into my own hands. I’ll state it here and now: this upcoming year will be my year to write a pull-out-the-stops holiday scene. Maybe a whole book set during that magical, mysterious, most wonderful time of year. It will be next year’s present to myself. And to you.
Best wishes for a holiday season that’s merry and bright!
Photos: Flickr: batwrangler, Kevin H., mount, xcode, and Zellaby's photostreams