Do you see what I see?

IMG_4584 2Ever 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.




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Comments: 11

  1. Brain-Dead Mom December 17, 2012 at 8:38 am Reply

    I’m in Canada and it seems we haven’t had snow for Christmas since the 70’s! Having snowbird parents, I spent many Christmases in Florida too- it was a big adjustment to be somewhere with palm trees instead of spruces on the day, but once my sister and I discovered Santa knew where we were, all was good.

  2. Musings of a Marine's Mate December 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm Reply

    Love it, needed it. I am not feeling the holiday spirit at all. I just need to see the little things and appreciate them.

  3. energywriter December 11, 2012 at 6:55 pm Reply

    Great memories. Smooth transition to reality and the Christmas spirit. Tried to leave a comment, but don’t think it worked. sd

    • Lisa Smith Molinari December 11, 2012 at 8:43 pm Reply

      It worked both times, Sharon! Thank you for always reading other writer’s blogs — you are so good at that. I have been remiss lately, and need to catch up on what you’ve been writing lately!

  4. Sharon December 11, 2012 at 6:52 pm Reply

    Great memories. Smooth connection to reality and the Christmas spirit.

  5. Terri Barnes December 11, 2012 at 6:43 am Reply

    I’m older than you Lisa, so I had a Kliban Cat bathroom in college! I could so relate to your column. We lived in Guam for two years early in our AF career, and it was an adjustment to feel the spirit of the season when the season never changed and the temperature never varied. LIfe on the beach is great, but it does take more effort to get the Christmas spirit when it feels like summertime.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari December 11, 2012 at 10:39 am Reply

      Now that I’ve been able to find my Christmas Spirit here in Florida, this little chat is making me want to find my old Kliban Cat Christmas Ornament. Yep, I had one — a brass rectangle enameled with the Kliban Cat walking in his red tennis shoes.

  6. Eileen Scanlan December 10, 2012 at 7:03 pm Reply

    Lisa–enjoy every minute of that “Christmas in Florida” ambiance! Soon enough you will have your usual Christmas spirit, complete with snow, ice and cold for the rest of your life!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari December 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm Reply

      Ok, Ok, but there was a mosquito flying around our Christmas tree tonight — that’s just WRONG!

  7. lauriebest December 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm Reply

    Oh, the Kilban cat sheets! I love those…in fact, still have one. I feel your Christmas pain. The first year we spent in California (even though it was Northern California and not L.A.) I struggled to find anything that made me feel like Christmas. The mall snowmen were plastic, the snow was plastic…But as you’re discovering, you have to work with what you’ve got. Merry Christmas…and I’m sure it will be.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari December 10, 2012 at 6:06 pm Reply

      OK, I think we need an intervention or therapy, because I still have a one of my Kliban Cat sheets too! Regarding Christmas, it’s alive and well, even in Florida! It was 80 degrees today with a thundershower and lightening… I don’t think that was the “light” I had in mind!

      Merry Christmas!

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