Ever since the Navy ordered us to live in sunny Florida, I just can’t seem to locate it. I keep waiting for Marley to show up at my bedroom door, but where will I find Christmas Spirit in the meantime?
Growing up in idyllic small-town western PA, finding Christmas Spirit was easy. All I needed to do was climb onto my mock-brass twin bed with the Kliban Cat sheets, scratch a peephole out of the intricate frost that had formed overnight, and stare out at the Currier and Ives winter wonderland right outside my window.
No effort on my part was required — it was involuntary, automatic, purely intrinsic to my circumstance. With dissolved candy canes coursing through my veins, I’d grab the parka handed down from my brother, and my Steeler cap (a Western PA requirement), and head for the hill behind our house. The kids in our neighborhood would sled, ruthlessly pelt each other with snowballs, and eat gritty icicles broken off the gutters until our numb faces could not feel the snot running out of our noses, which were in imminent danger of becoming gangrenous.
With a warm sludge of hot cocoa and fresh baked cookies in my belly, I’d thaw before a roaring fire, staring up at the hazardously hot but beautifully bright lights on our tree. There was one bulb in particular, a transparent magenta screw-in candlestick bulb, which seemed to emit pure saturated pink splendor, infinitely refracted by sparkling silver tinsel. I was hypnotized by its magical brilliance and spilling over with joy, anticipation and awe.
I didn’t look for it – The Spirit of Christmas found me, drew me in, captured me. I was helpless to fight it and gladly surrendered.
But here I sit in a Starbucks in North Florida in December. Despite the fact that they insist on keeping the central air at a frigid sixty-odd degrees, and I’m surrounded by trendy holiday decor, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas.
After I get my vente latte’s worth of free Wi-Fi, I’ll go out into the sub-tropical 70s Florida winter and head for my minivan. I won’t have to put on a coat, or scrape any ice off my windshield. I’ll drive home on roads clear of rock salt and ash. At home, I might open the windows to let the ocean breeze in. Maybe I’ll take the dog for a walk on the beach. Or maybe I’ll just sun myself in the back yard.
Woe is me….
I’m not quite sure how these Floridians can take it! If the Christmas Spirit is not going to find me down here, then I’ll just have to recreate it for myself.
First, I’ll turn the AC down until my nose starts to run, then I’ll blast “Let It Snow!” on a continuous loop. I’ll double up on deodorant and put on a wool sweater and boots. I’ll cut out paper snowflakes until my fingers bleed, bake a million chocolate chip cookies, and string miles of popcorn. I’ll make our artificial tree glisten with the magical electricity of a thousand LED lights, and in the absence of a fireplace, I’ll set the house ablaze with dozens of pine scented candles. And then, I’ll hang candy canes on every…
Wait just a minute here.
As I sit in this trendy coffee shop buzzing with flip flop and Ray-ban adorned Floridians, I wonder if I need to rethink this. I hear the ring of the cash register and realize that it sounds a little like jingle bells. I sip my latte, and smell a hint of cinnamon. I suddenly notice the cranberry red hue of the Florida Seminoles t-shirt worn by the man sitting next to me. And then, I look up at the trendy pendant light hanging overhead. I hadn’t noticed before, but the blue of its cobalt shade is mesmerizing.
“Merry Christmas,” the strange man in the cranberry Seminoles shirt utters as he gets up from our shared table to leave, snapping me out of my hypnotic gaze. In that moment, I realize that the Christmas Spirit comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, locations and climates, but I had been too clouded by my own memories to see it.
“Merry Christmas to you, too!” I eagerly reply to the festive gentleman, happy to have finally seen the light.
- In Story Fit for Christmas, Strangers Save Starbucks Patron From Eviction (conchapman.wordpress.com)
- A Christmas Carol, Redux (themeatandpotatoesoflife.com)
- Ow! Christmas Tree! (themeatandpotatoesoflife.com)