Colorado Christmas beckons
December 21, 2005
This year, I’m celebrating my very first white Christmas.You see, in spite of the fact that I’ve briefly lived in cold climates before, I’ve never spent Christmas in any of them. So this year, thanks to Colorado, I’m creating some wonderful new Christmas memories with my husband Tim.Not all Christmas memories are this idyllic, however. This particular one was a long time coming. I’ve spent the last three Christmases entertaining on board a cruise ship, where my memories include an annual crew dinner partaken while being stared at by a roast suckling pig who had recently been the victim of an untimely and, gathering from his expression, horrifying death. The apple in his mouth only seemed to add to his posthumous distress. There’s also a nauseating memory of an evil-tasting dressing made every year from apricots, curry, and some sort of ship’s blend of formaldehyde and chlorine.After this treat, and before my own performances in my lounge every night, I had to slog through the passenger dining rooms directing a non-English-speaking choir in a selection of carefully-chosen, strictly secular “holiday” carols that wouldn’t offend anyone’s religious sensibilities. Following this came the dreaded Christmas cruise ship vacuum; a week of passenger drunkenness and debauchery that carried into the New Year – and also carried quite a few of them off the gangplank in handcuffs once we reached Cozumel.Last year, I got so desperate to get off the ships, my husband Tim had to comfort me by performing the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Colorado Christmas” in the piano bar for me at least 10 times a night. It was the only thing that kept me going – the promise of a Colorado Christmas for both of us, someday.
Some Christmas memories are unbearably poignant, and will live with us for the rest of our lives. Back in October of 1998, my nephew Nicholas, then 3 and a 1/2, was in a serious car accident. After weeks in the ICU unit at Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital in Atlanta, he was finally released to go home for the holidays. He had to wear one of those steel halo contraptions around his head for months, but he was alive. According to the doctors, he wasn’t supposed to be.Every Christmas, one of the malls in Duluth, Ga., has a huge merry-go-round that Nicholas always adored riding. That Christmas, while the nurse held onto him, Nicholas rode on that merry-go-round, by golly, halo and all.Since then, Nicholas has had to deal with the rigors of rehabilitation, as well as the onset of juvenile diabetes. But last week, when my brother Kevin and his wife Jann threw their annual neighborhood Christmas party that is the talk of Duluth, 10-year-old Nicholas was there, happy and strong, sitting on the lap of Santa Claus – the real Santa from the Atlanta Christmas Parade, who always shows up for Kevin’s parties. Of course, not all Christmas memories have to be sentimental or serious. I have made mention before in this column of my mother’s Southern Gothic upbringing as the daughter of a funeral home director/casket maker. She regales us with her “Bring Out the Dead” stories at unexpected times. But somehow I never imagined that this would carry over into a Christmas tradition.
A few years ago, my brother and I trekked over to the old family manse to celebrate Christmas with Mom. When we sat down to exchange gifts, she handed me a package. She was strangely excited.”Open this one!” she yelped. “I want to see what you think. I KNOW it will mean something special to you, like it does for me.”Already fearful, I opened the package. It was a pewter picture frame.”Do you see what it is?” asked my Mom, jumping up and down.”It’s a picture frame,” I answered numbly.”You get it, don’t you?” yelped Mom excitedly. “Don’t you see? DON’T YOU SEE?” “Uh – I think so,” I answered diplomatically. “But you remind me.”
“It looks just like one of my Daddy’s caskets!” she cried triumphantly. “He used to make them out of pewter, just like this frame! As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to get it for you! And I KNEW you’d GET IT!”To this day, Kevin and I have a tradition of whose picture gets to go into the Christmas Casket Frame. It’s a dubious honor at best, and makes us feel a bit like voodoo practitioners.This year, my husband Tim and I will be finally enjoying our Colorado Christmas together for the first time. So it seems that, after all, some Christmas wishes do come true. Wherever you are, whatever you do, be sure to create some wonderful memories for yourself and your loved ones this Christmas. That’s what keeps us warm during the long, cold months ahead. Merry Christmas, Summit County.