Christmas… and a Cup of Hot Cocoa

Christmas... and a Cup of Hot Cocoa

There you sit in the twilight of a winter eve, hugging a cup of hot cocoa with your hands, staring out the window at the drifting snowflakes.

You’re thinking about a lot of things…past, present, and future.  But mostly, you’re dreaming of Christmas Past.  Ah—-to be back in the Days of Yore.   Those good ol’ days.  Before the stock market tanked.  Before banks and corporations began going down like dominoes.

Before the dire announcements about a Global Economic Crisis “unlike any since the Great Depression of ’29.”
You ponder these matters.

Steam rises from the cup of hot cocoa…a warmth steals over you. You start to relax and unwind.  Your thoughts skitter back in time.  How can the magic of Christmas be restored?

Inevitable thoughts arise.

The cozy yesteryears. The memories.  They’re woven into a warm Christmas tapestry…a montage of sights and smells and sounds that forever tugs at your heart. Wood smoke curling up and up through the twilight. The sweet aroma of eggnog and apple pie. Flickering candles. The sound of church bells echoing through the dark hills.

Family togetherness….

The gang piles out of the car, returning from a Christmas Eve service at the country chapel….tramping through the snowdrifts to fill the house with noise and snowy footprints and good cheer.  Close-knit times…reading the Christmas story from the Bible…praying together before the holiday feast.

A country Christmas Eve in the Heartland.  Happy chatter. Children staring through a Jack-frosted window—staring into the icy heavens above—watching for shooting stars in the darkness.  Talking about the Star of Bethlehem and the little baby.

“He was so teeny-tiny in his manger.  The cows were there too.  And you know what?  In that barn there must’ve been—–eeee-yew!…What if Mary stepped in it?  And what did they do when the goats sneezed on the baby Jesus…or butted him!”

The chatter of children.  Laughter.  The strain of Christmas Carols wafting through the hills. The sound of past generations continues on and on…echoes of family gatherings at the old Home Place.

Are the good times lost forever?

I think not.

Our economic crisis has brought us back to reality. We’ve turned a corner and are staring at a future that looks increasingly scary.  We’re back to what really matters.  Peace on the Earth… Good will toward men.  We’re forced to face ourselves and our mounting dilemmas.

The days of extravagance are over—all those credit card bills and piles of unnecessary packages and massive parties (that we’re still paying for next Easter.)  All those unwanted gifts to be returned to the store.   The scourge of debt and holidays-gone-awry.

The razzle-dazzle-frazzle.  The headaches.  The churning in the stomach.  With the modern version of Christmas wiped out, we’re forced to think about other Christmas possibilities…More pleasant ones, perhaps.

We sip our hot cocoa and ponder and dream in the winter twilight.

Two cups of cocoa later, we’re still there at the table…still sitting and contemplating our options.   What choices do we have?  We want the Good Ol’ Days again….we really do.  But how do we get there?

How do we take a sleigh ride across that old bridge to yesterday?  How do we flip the pages of the calendar back to the Days of Yore?  How do we show our kids what Christmas can and should be?

Actually—I think I’ve discovered the answer—-quite by accident, I might add. It happened near Christmastime one year, and I’ve never forgotten.  You, too, can have that same experience of discovery and adventure, my friend.  But you have to be brave.  Even desperate.

It doesn’t take a lot of work.  It only takes an instant, folks.  A mere flick of the wrist.

Don’t tell anybody you’re going to do it, of course….(except for your spouse—if absolutely necessary.)  Just be brave and Do it.

Go and flip the switch on your electrical breaker box, and see what happens.  Your busy, buzzy world suddenly stops.  A heavy stillness prevails in the house—an echoing silence.  Lights vanish.  Darkness descends.  Out comes the lantern and the candles.  A fire in the old wood stove.  The crackle of burning wood and the whistle of a tea kettle are the only sounds in the entire house.

It’s cozy.  It’s scary.  The furnace has gone off.  So has the microwave and the fridge. You’re thrust into the primitive world of your ancestors.  Back to the Days of Yore.

The Play Stations won’t play.  The video games are dead.  The TV’s and computers sit in mute dismay…One-eyed monsters staring blankly at a world suddenly gone dark and silent.

The kids are upset—-they’re just beside themselves, at first!  If they’re like my teenager, they’ll wander about the house saying:  “We’re gonna die…we’re gonna die.”

But you don’t die.  You learn to appreciate what you have.  You learn the importance of being prepared for whatever calamity might befall your family.  (You realize that it might not be a bad idea to stock up on candles and lanterns and lamp oil.  Food. Water. Emergency supplies. Just in case….)

You learn that a world without electricity is a strange one, indeed.

But best of all, you learn that this primitive world can lead to a rather splendid Christmas.  Imaginations come alive.  Old board games come out of hiding. Your children learn to play checkers and chess and Parcheesi.

Together you watch shadows dance on the ceiling as the lantern light flickers. You get to breathe the same air as your ancestors…the scent of woodsmoke and candle wax and burning lamp oil.

Suddenly, new ideas spring to life.  What if we….? Do you think we might…?  Did Grandma and Grandpa do this kind of stuff in the old days?  Fresh ideas replace the stale ones.

It can happen.  All with the flick of a wrist at the electrical box.

It might be the best Christmas gift you could give your kids.  Could be the smartest thing you’ve done all year.

Hours later, after the newness wears off a bit, you can mosey to the utility room and quietly flip on the switch.  Lights burst forth.  Fans and furnaces whir.  Computers and video games and TV’s spring to life again.  Talking heads and ratchetting jaws.  The agony of politics and crashing economies…the racket of a modern world gone awry.

The kids start fighting again over who’s going to watch what.  Who gets the remote…?  Who gets to play which game on what mechanism…?   A flood of noise and confusion will wash over you like a tsunami of monstrous proportions.

Then you can slip away to your little kitchen nook and sink into your chair once more.

You can sip a third cup of cocoa…and wish for the Good Ol’ Days, again.


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