Merry Christmas! Our favorite Christmas movie, “A Christmas Story”, is playing on a 24/7 marathon loop. We opened the presents and snuggled on the couch to watch the movie this morning. And, now as a mother of twin boys each with Red Ryder BB guns, the phrase, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid” resonates more deeply. And today as we ate Christmas lunch at Shoney’s—due to poor planning and no grocery shopping before we traveled out of town for Joel’s family reunion, and after Googling what restaurants were open on Christmas Day—, I laughed at the realities of our Christmas versus the idealized version in my head….fire roaring, no children fussing with each other, and all of us in matching pajamas drinking eggnog and opening gifts. Instead, sitting in Shoney’s with my parents, husband ,children, sister and her partner, all of us wedged into seats among the predominantly elderly buffet throng, Noah astutely observed that it was Seniors’ Day in Shoney’s. (We saw Christmas Future, and it wasn’t pretty.)
Recently during the children’s portion of our worship service, called The Feeding of the Lambs, one of our church members, Jan, explained that while growing up she watched the Bing Crosby Christmas special and she longed to be part of that beautiful family, with perfect music being sung and played, and snowflakes falling gently outside the window. Instead, in Jan’s house, her rambunctious cousins threw a cherry bomb into the fireplace which exploded soot all over the family, and their orange cat, Maynard, climbed the Christmas tree and toppled it over breaking the ornaments. To top it off, the Christmas ham that her mother baked was too large for their modest refrigerator so they placed it in a cooler on the back porch, only to find the next morning that the dogs had eaten it. Jan wondered when they would ever have a Bing Crosby Christmas. Some time later, she figured out that the Bing Crosby Christmas was fake….all fake! The music was pre-recorded, the kids weren’t Mr. Crosby’s, and the snowflakes were tiny pieces of paper being dropped from the ceiling of a studio set. In the end, Christmas wasn’t about the illusion of everything being just so, it was about her family’s love and Christ’s birthday.
In our family growing up, we loved eggnog. Or at least, my father, sister, and I did. Mom, not so much. Weigel’s eggnog is and will always be the only brand for me, and we always looked forward to the holiday season so that we could run to the Weigel’s near our house to buy the half-gallon cartons. Mmmmm. A family tradition. But, my fond memory is also tempered by the shattered reality that I was once inadvertently an eighth-grade drunk.
My paternal grandparents, Fletcher and Hazel Sweet, took me to a housewarming party one Christmas season way out in the country somewhere to see an 1800’s era house that their friends bought and refurbished, and which was filled with antiques and era-appropriate holiday décor. My tee-totaler grandparents left me on my own near the punchbowl brimming with eggnog. Dainty cup after dainty cup I drank it. Oh, so sweet and creamy, thick but just shy of clogging my throat, and oddly it had a teensy bit of a strange aftertaste….not quite medicinal, not quite bitter, but not purely eggnog either. This certainly wasn’t the Weigel’s eggnog I was used to, but it was pretty good. And, if a little was good, then a lot was better. Bottoms up!
Except that my head began to hurt and my stomach fluttered. I felt woozy. Time and space swirled. Granddaddy and Grandma did not know that I had single-handedly consumed enough to snocker an adult. On the way home, I laid down in the back seat of their car all the way home. They returned me to my parents, and I stumbled in and laid down on the couch in the family room, “drunk as a skunk” according to my Mother, where I promptly fell asleep in an eggnog induced stupor.
I’m pretty sure a Bing Crosby Christmas would not include a plastered thirteen year-old eggnog addict. Our neighbors have invited us for dinner tonight (thank goodness, I can’t bear Shoney’s again), and are serving eggnog. Straight eggnog, I hope.