The first Christmas column I wrote in “The Pedestrian Lane” was about the fudge my dad always made. Later years, I wrote about Christmas cactus, mincemeat, certain carols, traditions and “Christmas Comes to Kenai.”
Obviously, I have been looking back, trying to get in the mood. I’m not sure if it is the late and fickle snow or general malaise, but Christmas is taking a little longer to arrive this year.
But, the bear is up on the corner of Leif Hansen Park, and the lights are turned on on the trees across from the fire station on Main Street Loop. They need some TLC, however, because one of them is not lit in the center.
Remember the old strings of Christmas tree lights we used to get? If one went out, they all went out.
Then it was try and find the bad one. Sometimes it only needed tightened in the socket, but if that didn’t work, it was take a good bulb (and every smart dad had a fresh packet of bulbs before the day of decorating — probably left over from the year before) and sort through the bulbs to find the bad one.
Luckily, the string was usually only about 10 or 12 lights in length so it wasn’t a big project (unless you had a little brother who was a real pain in the neck), and it was always fun to be the one to get them going again. You had to be sure to replace the burned-out bulb with one of the same color or the whole tree would be out of whack, according to the chief engineer named Mom. I doubt the strings of lights on the big trees on Main Street Loop are the same, but they do need a caring hand or a Mom.
We used to go find a tree, or sometimes Dad would just bring one home from his excursion out and about the farm. We lived in a semi-forested area populated by various species of fir — the primary, perfect Christmas tree. Once in a while we’d cut a little blue spruce — the ultimate tree. But Dad preferred to leave them grow if in a prime spot. Decorating the tree was the real beginning of our holiday celebration and was carried out with much ceremony. In later years, we deferred to the granddaughters and our tree (artificial) was a conglomeration of style, but still a celebration of the season as expressed by little hands.
The trees around town are colorful with glitter lights, and at the senior center they have put up the big tree with the gold ornaments and red ribbons with the angel on top. The entry is decorated with snowmen and a lovely Nativity scene on the mantel. Christmas tree centerpieces grace every table.
At the library, the wreath and lights are in the windows and the snowman is lighting the sidewalk. The magic chariot is in the entryway and a selection of holiday titles greets you as you walk into the main section. Kenai generally has dressed up for the season, so I feel a little out of the loop.
But, so far no one has brought out the ugly Christmas sweaters, and I haven’t seen any reindeer earrings yet, so I may not be lagging too far behind in Christmas Spirit.
In the past, I have complained about starting Christmas before it’s time. I noticed a certain reserve in early November about introducing Santa before the pilgrims were gone. While hints of the impending celebration were all round, at least locally we kept it focused on Thanksgiving until Christmas came to Kenai.
Most years, the bazaars and the fireworks and the general happy atmosphere get me going on the season. When our across-the-street neighbor lights his yard, usually right after Thanksgiving, I am jazzed to welcome the holiday feeling. But this year, for whatever reason, I can’t quite muster the same enthusiasm.
So I guess it’s time for the foolproof remedy… food!
Fruit cakes, stollen bread, candied walnuts, mincemeat pie, and I might try Dad’s fudge — although I know it will sugar.
But that gives me an excuse to call all the sisters and ask what the heck I did wrong, and each one will tell me theirs failed too and they think Dad is watching and laughing at us.
We’ll commiserate a little, and laugh a lot about this and that — replaying a Christmas here and there.
And when I call Brother later he’ll say he’s sure getting popular because all the sisters have called and harassed him and he had to have an eggnog to settle his nerves after spending so much time on the phone.
Which reminds me that maybe that is what I need to get in the mood.
• Virginia Walters, Life in the Pedestrian Lane