It's that time of year again. Many of us have hauled a tree out of the rafters or home from a lot, or already placed a treasured menorah back in its velvet-lined box. Or both, in some cases.
This time of year always gets me thinking about traditions. Some I've cherished every year of my life, like hanging the stocking my grandmother knit for me the year I was born. Others are younger, like the pans and pans of homemade toffee I stir up each December. Newer still are those I celebrate with my children, like the gift of pajamas on Christmas Eve. And this year, I'm thinking about books.
I'm reading my second Thrity Umrigar novel in less than two weeks right now, this one called If Today Be Sweet. I just finished chapter two, and already I'm celebrating the fact that there's at least one more novel of hers I have yet to delve into. I've discovered a few other new favorite novelists this year as well, and that's always a treat. And then my reading has also included some old favorites, Jane Austen and Anne Tyler, and just this month I've reread some childhood favorites: Magic Elizabeth; All of a Kind Family; The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Nearly every Christmas I revisit Maeve Binchy's This Year It Will Be Different, a collection of decidedly un-Christmasy Christmas stories.
The holiday season makes me nostalgic as well. Maybe it's those old traditions cropping up, helping me remember all those Christmases of my life and the people who filled them. (The grandmother who knit that stocking would turn one hundred years old on Christmas Day this year.) But it's a happy nostalgia, and like the tomes of my childhood that I've recently enjoyed, the memories conjure the girl or woman I was in those memories. It's like being the ghost of my own past*, if only for a moment. Books, like the tangible keepsakes of the season--the high school band ornament my best friend and her mother made for me in 1981 still hangs on my tree, as does the "soph cheer" glass globe another girl handed out the next year--remind me of who I was in a slice of time. I love that. Smells do it too--turkey roasting, my family's famous creamed corn, See's Candy--and bring about the nostalgia that gets me to climb the rafters and pull down the pre-lit tree, even years we are barely in the house long enough to admire it.
I'll celebrate Christmas on a beach this year, delaying most gifts until New Year's Day, and none of the holiday feast will be made by anyone I love. But I'll have my new friend Thrity, and the thoughts of all the books old and new I've devoured this year, and the nostalgia the day carries for me whether snowy or sandy. I've heard the particular beach where I'm headed has unusually white sand.
Here's wishing you all a white Christmas too, and a merry one, and books under your tree.
*No, this post was not written by Joan.