As Mother Nature gently changes the season here in the Sunshine State, and Jack Frost sets out to bring cold weather and snow to my northern buddies, I remember why I moved to Florida over 30-years ago. However, this year is different for the DeMarco family because it is the first time in nearly 25-years that we will not be celebrating the holidays in Lake County.
With that said, I am going against my own “Cardinal Rule.” I pledged to myself years ago that I would NEVER celebrate more than one holiday during a calendar month. It was a “family law” that I created.
I admit that I had issues with others who decorated for Christmas before buying their Thanksgiving turkey. That, to me, was a big no-no. Halloween is October. Let’s illustrate with scarecrows and pumpkins, and ghosts. November is Thanksgiving. Pumpkins and scarecrows are welcome to stay, but ghosts and goblins and all my spooky stuff have to go bye-bye. Then, in December, when everything black and orange are neatly put away, then and only then should the spirit of Christmas ever be released! Everything used in decorating in December should be put away way before Cupid comes to town for Valentine’s Day. (All this fuss from a nice, little Jewish girl.)
This year though, because I feel homesick and feel the “empty nest” syndrome more than usual these days, missing my big girl, Makenzie Rae of Sunshine still back in Lake County, I decided to pay the piper and pull out my bins early this year. I felt the need to get the holiday spirit flowing and make some “Christmas Magic” happen. At six, I thought Jeremy was finally old enough to appreciate his grandmother for all her true talents. Making the holidays fantastic and celebrating the season for all its peace, love, and joy is what I live for. Call me a silly-hearted old child, but I still really believe in the “Spirit of Christmas” and “Santa Claus.”
Just thinking about it all, and I am already craving hot cocoa and homemade sweet treats. Yes, the one thing I can always guarantee during the holidays is that I will eat well, and so will anyone around me. Diabetic beware. Why? Because I love to cook. I love to bake. And more than anything, I love to eat and share delicious food. Despite the 300 lb. woman I feed inside of me, even I could never indulge in all the goodies I prepare. I don’t know how to cook for less than a small army. Plus, I come with my own special box of Christmas tricks and Pinterest to keep it fresh. Therefore. I have to share for bragging rights alone.
So, I decided to teach Jeremy and all his new buddies, these kids that already admired me for my Halloween craziness, what Christmas looked like at the DeMarco’s house. They were excited to see what I was planning this time. For a change, I got to be a foreman instead of a laborer because all my neighborhood “man-babies” were eager to volunteer and help me. I got to just sit back and instruct the boys to push all the containers tagged “Halloween” to the back while moving everything marked “Christmas” forward. Some boxes were for the inside, some were for the outside. Accidentally, one of my crates got bumped open, and I could immediately smell the scent of heaven.
“I’ll take that box,” I said to one of the boys. “That goes straight to the kitchen,” I added as a declaration more than a statement. Then, I grabbed the hand-carved wooden box with the words “Grandma’s Stash” neatly engraved on the top of it from the young man’s hands.
“That one, my little friends, is a very special box I like to call my secret presents from. Mrs. Claus. Inside this box is where I hide all of the winter treasures that I have collected over the years for being on HER Nice List.”
All the boys, including Jeremy, looked at me like I was coo-coo.
“Yes, sir,” I said to Jeremy specifically as I tweaked his nose. “Everyone knows all the sugar and spice, and everything nice comes from Mrs. Claus’ kitchen and is created by her and all of her wonderful helpers.”
“Oh please, grandma,” Jeremy said, almost embarrassed in front of his friends.
“Please, what, little man?” I asked.
“You know we’re not babies, right grandma?” He questioned, again with a look like, please stop talking!
But I continued with no shame. “Although there is only a tiny percentage of people on the planet that Mrs. Claus actually feels comfortable enough to share her recipes with. Lucky for me, I am one of them. Believe me or not,” I paused to look my grandson in the eyes before saying, “You’ll learn!”
With that, I let the effervescence of ginger and cinnamon, and peppermint permeate the home. At the same time, I watched the boys gently carry the necessary bins inside and up the stairs for me. I followed behind with my “stash box” and promised that if they went outside and played nicely for at least an hour, I would return with a surprise to repay them for all their efforts. Not even knowing what the reward could possibly be, they all agreed, and off they went.
For the first time in my new kitchen, I was about to open up my enchanted box of delights and concoct something fantastic. Quietly reminiscing about days gone by and all the beautiful people who helped me fill my scrapbooks of life thus far, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Mainly because of how blessed I am to have been a part of all their lives. To have had the opportunity to share with them. To serve them and to enjoy the pleasure of making their acquaintances.
This year more than ever, I am most grateful for the friends and family who managed to live healthy and safe this year and have chosen to still allow me in their lives. For all those I have lost, I can appreciate all the great days I’ve had through my fond memories of the times we shared.
Life changes, but changes in circumstances will never erase the photographs in your book of memories. Family heirlooms, personal hand-me-downs, specific smells, and certain places will always trigger warm fuzzies, as long as the memories stay with you.
Laugh on. Peace out!
Lisa DeMarco is a columnist for Villages-News.com