Saturday, December 3, 2011

Holly Dolly and Hooch

Reticular Activating System (RAS). This is one tidbit of knowledge that has never left my mind from Biology classes. No reason, just got stuck there in my depleting memory bank. It is the part of the brain that is responsible for regulating our sleep-wake transitions. I rarely have any trouble getting to sleep. Except on December 24th...when I have sugar plums, gift unveiling and culinary anticipation dancing in my curly head. I'm not sure I can blame my RAS for this one. Even if I am up to the wee hours, packing gift stockings, (sorry...if you are reading this and still a believer in the plump, red suited man...I let the reindeer out of the bag) I still take awhile to doze off.

It's a little better now than when I was a wee one. I have an emotionally stable, calm as a cucumber, "doesn't get too excited about much else than a Passion Flakie" grown up sleeping beside me. Way back when, I had 2 giggling, blonde headed bundles of excitement laying with me, trying to accept the necessity of slumber that precedes that magical day. One of whom, I truly think never ever got to sleep on that night.

The whole Christmas season was magical in our house. Bill Gaither Christmas music on the "Hi-Fi", our plastic and TOUCHABLE nativity set, the lighted tree set perfectly beside the brick fireplace, Grammy's starched snowflakes hanging in the window and always the scent of something amazing baking in Mom's blessed oven. Scotch cakes, nuts and bolts, Borden's Squares and Cranberry Pudding are the stars of the show...and HOOCH! Hooch is Mom's, non-alcoholic, amazing Christmas's purple, sweet/sour and just plain lovely. Secret recipe...sorry. My Mom's sweet smile, faint giggles and contented demeanor lit the room up more than any of the lights she strung. Perfectly complimenting her meek and mild presence was my energetic, party seeking, compulsive hugging dad. We waited anxiously, daily, for several different Fords to pull into our driveway just before supper. They were home...both literally and figuratively.

The evenings leading up the the special day were spent watching those yearly Christmas specials on TV, pretending to hand out pre-wrapped gifts from under the tree to church kids, watching Empty Stocking Fund choirs and painting wooden ornaments. We weren't overly involved in extra curricular activities and lived in the country, far from malls and parks, so much time was spent at home until we were older...which didn't bother me one bit. It was the most wonderful place on Earth to be.

Christmas eve was marked by lobster rolls, our special guest Nanny Hanson, candle-light church service and the opening of one present. Then the three gigglers went to bed...not to sleep...just to bed. When we were young, we were showered with the most unique, love labored gifts. My mom is extremely creative and gifted. One year, we awoke to 3 hand made, life-sized dolls sitting on the sofa. They were made to look just like each of the us, from eye and hair color right up to the amount of freckles each of us was cursed with. My daughter now sleeps with her "Holly Dolly", who is looking a bit more aged than I am, if I may say so myself :) Cable knit sweaters, a doll house by Dad (whose creativity seeps out every now and then) and umpteen dozen Barbie outfits, just to name a few, were more treasured than any expensive gadget ever was. The thoughtfulness, uniqueness and personalization of the gifts...not the amount of them... left a great impression on me.

I have sought to replicate this atmosphere in our home at Christmastime. With the exception of a slight burnt smell to the baked goods, the absence of a cozy brick fireplace and Phillips Craig and Dean in place of the Gaithers (sorry Bill and Gloria), I think I'm keeping the tradition alive. One thing is for sure. The spotlight was always on the baby. Jesus was always the centerpiece, focus and meaning behind all of it. His beauty reflected in the decor, His musical praises filling the air, the feasting in celebration of Him and His sacrificial, servant spirit of love wrapping every gift. Santa was a benign fairy tale that may have made a momentary appearance on the odd wrapping paper or sing-along song, but Jesus...He was and still is what makes the whole thing magical.

magical (n.): "Art of influencing events and producing marvels using hidden natural forces."

He produces marvels using His own natural forces.
He influences all the events of our lives.
He is hidden to those who refuse to believe.
Without Him, Christmas would just be fluffy snow and empty stockings.

...believe...and experience the fullness of His glory!

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