Quietly, Christmas slipped by, and the new year is upon us and waiting, and watching, but the season's spirit still dangles sweetly in the air.
The aroma reminds me of the lingering scent in our old house after Dad sprinkled sprigs of the Yule tree -- and let them smolder -- on a scalding hot lid.
After nearly 80 years, I'd wager a tidy sum that you can still sniff it, the singe of those fresh, green needles, ingrained into the flimsy walls of our three rooms and attic.
Just before and after celebrating the Nativity, you could enter that old house of ours and be assured there wasn't a more wholesome fragrance in any house around, no matter how rich the inhabitants.
OK, so the long holiday ended, and jingle bells gave way to school bells, but the Midwestern winter still blustered.
My big brother, little brother and I changed into play clothes after school and bounded for the great icicled outdoors. Soon, however, someone suggested we go back inside to play with our Christmas stuff. The vote was warmly unanimous.
Followed by a neighborhood pal and a cousin or two, we clumped up the enclosed staircase to our attic bedroom, and brought out new game boards, miniature trucks and toy soldiers.
Soon the weather would break, only a matter of weeks, and we'd be outside, using those gifts in some way, maybe building a miniature village, a favorite diversion. We used boxes, sticks, pebbles, two nails for a cross atop the church, throwaway domestic items of any shape.
We constructed it on a grassless square of clay, back by the alley gate and ash pit, an area utilized also for some notable marbles shootouts.
One Christmas, my mom received a rare two-layer box of chocolates. Possibly Dad gave it to her, I don't remember. It was covered in gold paper, and my big brother immediately called dibs on it. When emptied, he'd make use of it in our toy village, design a jewelry store, something like that.
Mom treasured that candy. After supper, when we were listening to the radio, she'd offer each of us a piece of our own choosing, then return the box to her vault.
One night in the first week of January, my mom's cousin, Aunt Annie, and her boyfriend of about 10 years, Lou, drove by for a visit. I think Lou liked us, but emphatically he enjoyed lapping up my dad's home-brew beer.
Anyway, Mom brought out her priceless candy box and offered it around. Only Dad abstained. Once he started drinking beer, he had no taste for sweets.
Well, I learned something that night. Beer and chocolates do mix. Hospitably, though injudiciously, Mom left the box open on the coffee table, and Lou liberally helped himself. Dolefully, I stopped counting the pieces.
Sitting there, we three brothers looked ineffectually back and forth at each other. Silent that night we climbed to bed.
Source: Orlando Sentinel