Sheesh! Can you believe that it was the end of September when we started seeing the first Thanksgiving and Christmas displays erupting in stores like so many garish pustules, nudging aside the Halloween and Back to School detritus? I mean, it was still almost 90 degrees and sunny and they were decorating with autumn leaves and Santa hats. Do I really live here?
This time of year has been commercialized out the wazoo—the expense, the pressure, the shipping and shopping, the sidestepping and slam-dancing through commercial venues, not to mention the social obligations that you’re guilt-tripped into fulfilling or finding a plausible excuse not to. You’ll not get a full night’s sleep or a day’s rest from now until the thirty-second of May. ’Tis the season to be stretched on the emotional rack to the limits of your patience, finances, endurance and ability to meet expectations.
That being said, you don’t have time to be pessimistic, especially around the holidays! I’m not gonna let you; this season will come and go, with you or without you, and, unfortunately, there will be no do-overs. Take a deep breath. You may as well make the best of it, suck it up and get in the spirit!
It’s the season to reconnect with family, friends, running mates and bartenders. This here time of year is what’s considered “the social season.” Years and years ago, when dinosaurs ruled the French Quarter and Creole planters ruled the economy—you know, when stuff was simpler—we didn’t work all the friggin’ time. We took time off to act like true New Orleanians, placing more emphasis on enjoying the time that we have before we shuffle off this mortal coil, and less on acting like hard-working barbarian Americans. And so, in the spirit of channeling your inner Creole nature, I give you now your perfect holiday season senario:
Of course, your employment circumstances allow you to take time off to enjoy this holiday—before, during and after—for what good is having a Thanksgiving feast if you’re not around for the traditional leftovers, including the ubiquitous turkey gumbo. Transportation will be a breeze; I say this because it would be silly to put the burden of entertaining on yourself, so planes, trains and skates will all be on time and in line.
You and your loved ones will be met by Uncle Billy in his cool 1960s station wagon and whisked to Grandma’s house, where you’ll see smoke coming from the chimney and a bit of frost on the ground; she’ll greet you at the door, wiping her hands on her apron and brushing a tear from her eye. She’ll remark on how big everyone has grown.
Inside the house, the smells of hot chocolate and freshly baked cookies will permeate the air. It’ll all be warm and cozy and you’ll settle in; your rooms will be ready and the feast not long in coming…perhaps you’d like a glass of port?
Aunts, uncles and cousins will arrive with covered dishes and make themselves at home (in the kitchen). The bird is stuffed and cousin Dave will make a run for ice and the cranberry sauce that’s traditionally forgotten until this point. Dave will come back smelling of cigarette smoke and whiskey (of course). Aunt Rose will have brought her holiday Ambrosia and sister Clair will have brought the fixings for eggnog and her four kids, who will be put to work setting the tables.
The dog will be sniffing around the kitchen door and the cat will still be in hiding. Soft holiday music will be playing from the corner and everyone misses Grandpa, who used to play the piano for company; he knew all the songs.
You’ll herd your gang upstairs to freshen up and the towels will be fluffy and the bathtub pipes will groan with the hot water that comes frothing out…etc., etc., etc.
Or not. Face it, there’s a lot out there that really sucks about our world and it can make you grim. Disasters of natural and human-made causes. Every broken commandment and law can weigh on your heart and happiness. You can see danger in every doorway, hear defamation in every conversation and see misfortune in everyone’s circumstances.
So, your holiday spirit might flag and conditions may not be idyllic; it can’t always be “over the river and through the woods” for you. But, you know, if you allow your mind to shift into that holiday spirit, that walk to Canseco’s for the forgotten can of Ocean Spray, a sneaked smoke and a quick drink at Café Degas can transform every day into a holiday. Trust me. Your neighbors become your family, Liuzza’s by the Track and Pal’s become your second homes, doing laundry at Washateria becomes a social occasion and you stop to pet and learn the names of the canines and felines on your street.
In other words, sure, it’s the holidays and everything might not be Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart…unless you allow your world to be full of all that is positive and festive. If you listen to your elders, and you surely should, you ought to choose to listen to those who have a good outlook on life. They’re the ones who will point out how special it is to be alive, how you can find beauty in all things and how the holiday season stretches from equinox to equinox, solstice to solstice and all points in between.
Here are your words of wisdom: “Today is a holiday; have second helpings and eat more cranberry sauce.”