Higher Culture Aside: If We Took a Holiday

(AP Photo/Mulholland Citrus)

It’s funny when small things in our day-to-day lives remind us of who we are and where we’ve been. Holidays and the traditions we grew up with fall into that category. Since we’re just a handful of days away from Christmas, I thought I’d share three reminders I had as I started to prepare for Jesus’ birth later this week.

The first one might not sound very Christmas-y: pink grapefruit from Florida. Just after Thanksgiving every year, my then-last living grandfather (on my mom’s side) would send our family a box practically overflowing with fruit from the Sunshine State —  massive grapefruit, the biggest oranges I’d ever seen, and a few juicy pears nestled in between. While the citrus fruit was simply wrapped in light-colored tissue paper and stuck in the green-colored bed of confetti (sort of like what you’d find in an Easter basket), getting to the pears was like digging for treasure because they came enrobed in some crinkly gold foil stuff,

But it’s the grapefruit I really remember the best. When you’ve only grown up with the regular kind, pink grapefruit just seemed so exotic.

For our family, the arrival of the box was a welcome respite from the bone-chilling, overcast gloom of a typical, southwestern Ohio winter. For a kid, it looked like the proverbial cornucopia. That box could never run out of goodies, it seemed.

So, when I went shopping at the grocery store this week for Christmas, I had to pick up the bag of pink grapefruit (which was on sale, for five pounds at around six dollars).

Then on my dad’s side, there was my grandma (my dad’s mom) whose favorite thing to cook (if you asked my dad, he would claim it was really the only thing she could cook well) was homemade pies. And if you ask me, the best one was pumpkin pie.

Which was what I was referring to when I tweeted this last night:

Pumpkin pie isn’t just another dessert you pick up at the Kroger to have with Christmas dinner, at least for me. It’s Grandma asking if you got enough to eat while you’re staying over on Christmas Eve, and that way she would add softly, “and if you didn’t, it’s your own darn fault.” Except she didn’t say darn.

The third thing also is a memory about my dad’s mom, who lived in a small Indiana town about an hour outside Cincinnati. Every year, a relative would inevitably bring her a box of chocolates; the nice kind, which to me mean something like Russell Stover’s, not the candies you could get for a few cents from the Brach’s “mix and match” display in the grocery store. Us grandkids were allowed to pick one piece out of the box — and that’s how I learned that my favorite candy is a square piece of caramel covered in dark chocolate.

Now, to round things up, the headline comes from an early dance track from “Material Girl” Madonna — back in the miniscule part of the ’80s when she acted somewhat normal. Yeah, it was a while ago.

Now, trust me when I say I’m not trying to start something by using the word ‘holiday’ so close to Christmas. I think the singer (or the songwriter) had in mind the European or British meaning, of a vacation. But “retreat” is just as good a word. “Relief” and “respite” work, too. I hope this time period will be that for you and your families, and that you all can revive traditions from your own past — or decide to forge new ones together this year that stretch far into the future.

Merry Christmas to you, readers!

Anyway, put on your dancing shoes… From 1983, here’s “Holiday.”