Beating the Bah Humbugs

It’s December 21, eighty degrees in Jackson, Mississippi. I’m finally getting into the Christmas spirit, even though the weather forecast is scary, almost nothing is wrapped, and I came very close to dropping the lovely chocolate pound cake I made this morning. It’s a bit lopsided but okay and will go into the freezer to wait for family to come the day after Christmas.

I’ve made old-fashioned cornbread dressing and stashed it in the freezer, too. For holidays I make my mother’s and grandmother’s recipes with few variations. The traditions are important to my sons, and I’m glad. It’s a way of remembering and honoring those we love who aren’t around any longer.

I’ve cut cedar, holly, and magnolia (even a stalk of a yucca plant) and plopped it into baskets to dress things up a bit, inside and out. My mother and dad did that–nothing artificial for them. In fact, many years ago, my dad used to cut magnolia and holly out of their yard, mist it with water, and pack it in big plastic bags and ship it–yes–ship it to me because I didn’t have any, and everybody should have live greenery for Christmas, right?

Remembering that makes me both happy and sad. Holidays are like that. Holidays can be the toughest or the best of times, and sometimes a little of both. Even in the best times, for me there’s always nostalgia, a little melancholy. So many Christmases gone. So many people gone, too.

But I have memories. And traditions.

A few days ago, I had a bad case of the bah humbugs. I faced last-minute shopping and cleaning and cooking and decorating I didn’t think I had the heart to do. But the traditions kept nagging at me like whispering voices. What about Christmas dinner? And a centerpiece for the table? Live greens, of course. And music. There must be music! I hummed Christmas songs while I ran errands and got the last-minute shopping done. I listened to Christmas music while I cooked.

I ran across that chocolate pound cake recipe last week when I was going through an old file. My grandmother had torn it out of a Progressive Farmer magazine dated August 1958. The folded page has deteriorated and her handwritten notes are barely legible. I remembered her making that cake and how good it was, but I can’t recall ever making it myself. So I decided to try it. A revived, revised tradition. I could almost hear my grandmother talking me through making the cake this morning. I imagined her shaking her head at my sloppy ways; I’m not the cook she was.

There’s still a lot to do, but it’s beginning to look and feel like Christmas, after all. And I’m grateful. Treasure it, the voices sing. Remember. Make new memories for the ones I love.

From our house to yours–Merry Christmas!

Tell me about one of your holiday traditions–one that’s been passed down through generations, or one that you and your family have created for yourselves.

7 thoughts on “Beating the Bah Humbugs

  1. Oh Gerry…thanks so much for your article! I was waiting for you to write something new. How wonderful for you to kick the bah-humbugs and revive the traditions. I loved your photos! For me in Hawaii it’s a white blooming orchid with a white candle next to it. Not sure if I’ll pick up a red poinsettia or not. At any rate…because our daughter won’t be home…I decided not to get into the Christmas boxes…and am keeping the decorating simple. And I am gonna try my Gram’s peanut butter fudge…and am hoping I can remember how to do that “soft-ball stage”. Today I’m wearing a red wool scarf to church…in honor of my dad…who used to always wear red sweaters for Christmas. Thanks again…Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    1. Beth, I had an aunt who made chocolate peanut butter fudge to die for! I’ve tried over the years to replicate it, but it’s not the same. You reminded me that I need to make some! With my attitude adjustment–seeing the gathering as an opportunity and a blessing instead of a burden–maybe I’ll get it all done! Thanks for stopping here. There may not be another post before the first of the year, but I’ll be back! Enjoy your holidays.

  2. Gerry, I make a couple of the cookies that my Mom made. One is similar to one my Grandma made. All of her recipes were based on the bowls and scoops she had, so no one got her recipes. The sisters went on a hunt to find something similar, and the recipe I have was the closest they could find.

    1. Sounds familiar! My grandmother (who was the primary cook in our house) was a “pinch of this, a little of that” kind of cook. As I said in the post, this printed recipe has her notes written all over it. This is important history to share, Michelle. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. I am a pound cake Fiend.. and am deeply interested in that recipe.. more interested in that than christmas actually.. I cannot even get on the roads it is so icy today.. c

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