Skating By

Today is Christmas Eve. I’m sure, like many of you, the holiday season is filled with memories. Many of them surrounding food, although in my home, we didn’t have a specific meal for Christmas Day.

No, we’d open gifts, and more likely than not, take off for whatever kid adventures were ahead of us. I used to love to join my friends on the lake across the street for ice skating. (Obviously, this isn’t an Arkansas memory! I grew up in northern Illinois.) We would skate, play hockey, torment each other, and if we needed something different to do, we’d grab our sleds and head to a friend’s house whose hilly backyard was great for whooshing down the hill… and right out onto the frozen slough. One year, a friend of mine actually tripped over a duck that had frozen into the water while she was skating.

I was padded to the hilt!

What I remember about food, though, was coming home to thaw out. The house was built before the Civil War; the heat rose from an oil furnace in the basement through heat registers in the baseboards. I would sit next to the one in the kitchen to peel off snow-encrusted boots and socks, and pull off the layers of hat, sweaters, you name it. And while I warmed up the outside of me, I’d attempt to warm the inside with a mug of hot cocoa. That pic to the right? That’s me, probably with at least two layers of everything, including the mittens!

Those simple Christmases of my youth weren’t food-centered; they were about experiences. We would make Christmas cookies on occasion, but it was more about the doing than the cookies. There were no elaborate meals or family gatherings, since we had no family nearby, but I still remember them with fondness — even to the point of having to pull tinsel out of my brother’s pet tortoise, because he’d try to eat low-hanging tinsel off the Christmas tree.

There have been many Christmases that have gone by in the interim; caroling when I was in high school and college, meeting friends for movies on Christmas Day, getting stuck in a snowdrift trying to get home for Christmas from college the first year my husband and I were married. Or sending his parents and brother home from our house in the country, just a couple of hours after they arrived to spend Christmas with us, because we knew an ice storm was about to hit and they would have been snowed in with us. We went through a similar situation years later when our daughter was home to visit for Christmas, and we woke her and sent her back to her home because snowy weather was moving in overnight.

An aside… tomorrow, here in south Arkansas, the temps will reach record highs. We won’t be worried about snowy weather. 😉

Christmas is a personal experience. For some, it’s about baking and setting a holiday feast for the family. For others, it’s about shopping for the exact right gift. And while this Christmas, the first spent for both of us as the oldest generation in our families is somewhat flavored with missing those who have gone before us, it’s still about fond memories and warm reminiscing.

And about that food? We’ve figured out ways to make the holiday foods and beverages we love in ways that help us stay the course. We won’t be skating by, hoping the feast doesn’t devour us, instead.

May your holidays be bright, and be well, friends!

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