Many years ago, I bought the book, The Christmas Conversation Piece: Creative Questions to Illuminate the Holidays by Bret Nicholaus and Paul Lowrie. Their stated reason for writing the book was “to enhance all your Christmas conversations and draw you closer to friends and family through the use of creative and entertaining questions.” I purchased the book intending to use it as inspiration for hundreds of Christmas stories and articles. Now that twenty years have gone by, I’m ready to post my first work spawned by this book.
In the interest of opening up and sharing myself with my readers, I have selected nine questions from the book (and one of my own) to answer.
- What is your favorite Christmas scent? Constant Comment tea.
- If you were going to be Santa Claus for a Christmas Eve, what one amenity or convenience factor would you insist that your sleigh feature? A heater.
- As a curious child, did you ever shake gifts under the tree to try and figure out what you were getting? Do you still shake (or subtly lift) packages before Christmas? I never did. I never wanted to spoil the surprise. One of my sons, however, routinely searched for presents and carefully unwrapped and rewrapped them.
- What is the oldest ornament on your tree? We own a purple ball that was on the tree during my husband’s childhood. It’s more than sixty years old.
- When you think of the holiday season in New York City, what particular scene or image do you picture first? The skating rink at Rockefeller Center. I remember going to the Christmas show there one year and watching the skaters outside.
- If you were in charge of hiring a department store Santa, what quality or ability above all others would you look for in the applicants? A real white beard. As a kid, I found it hard to suspend disbelief around a Santa whose beard looked like it was made of cotton balls.
- Were you ever in a Christmas pageant? If so, what part did you play? I attended parochial school, and we put on a pageant every year. My favorite, though, was my eighth grade year. Parts were determined by putting names in a hat, and my name was drawn for Mary. I was not a popular child, and getting to play Mary felt like a gift.
- If you could go anywhere at all to reflect on the meaning of Christmas, where would you go? I’d go back in time to my home town in the late 50s and early 60s. A neighbor on the next block from our house, an artist, built a life-size nativity set on her property. Every year she added another figure. I remember when I was about four years old, my mother walked me down to visit it, and she told me the Christmas story. As I grew older, I would make the walk myself, eventually taking my little brother with me. It drew me to prayer.
- If you could create the perfect hill for sledding, what would it look like? Be specific. When I was a kid, everyone went sledding on a hill on the private property of a family whose children went to my school. My husband, who grew up in the same town, knew it as Suicide Hill. I’m guessing it was maybe 300 feet tall at a grade of about 50 degrees. (In other words, tall and steep.) At the bottom of the hill was a chain link fence that just barely prevented you from shooting out into a very busy street. These were in the days before people worried about liability. I’m sure the present owners of the property would never allow strangers to sled down that hill.
- What was the hardest Christmas you ever had to go through? We expected our second child early in January 1981, but I was really hoping for a Christmas delivery. Unfortunately, halfway through the pregnancy, I lost the baby. As the holiday season approached, all I could think about was what I’d lost. I had no energy to do things like decorate the house or bake cookies. To be able to create some kind of Christmas spirit for our little girl, I bought Christmas tapes and kept the music playing. We went on to have four more children, and one of them is a December baby. His birthday is today.
Now it’s your turn. Please choose one or more of the above questions and answer in the comments below.