In our little ramshackle house with the woodstove cranking out heat, I’d lie on the floor with the cat and listen to my mom’s old 33 record “A Christmas Carol”, the one with Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge, over and over again. My mom knew how to make things cozy. She’d tie little bundles of cinnamon sticks with ribbon and use them as ornaments, make pomander balls, light candles and a kerosene lamp, and hang old Christmas cards from the thirties and forties on the walls around the house. We always had a real tree. Her decorating style was one part country living, one part holistic gypsy, and one part just downright old-fashioned.
We’d open one present on Christmas Eve. Sometimes we’d go to church, sometimes not. Sometimes we’d drive around the well-to-do neighborhoods in town, looking at the light displays and singing carols. Then on Christmas Day it was off to the grandparents, where I would gorge on meat and deviled eggs and pickles and olives and candy, and watch t.v., and listen to the way old people talk to each other.