As a child, I listened in disbelief as Barbra Streisand crooned "White Christmas." Shining sun and swaying palm trees on Dec. 24, and Barbra was longing to be up North? Was she crazy?
Freezing in my flannel pajamas, I longed to switch places with Babs. Now I'm living my childhood dream in Southern California where it (almost) never rains, and certainly does not snow. Be careful what you wish for.
The holiday season creeps in early in California, too. After Labor Day, Santa and his reindeer slumbered in the garden center. In early November, I was nearly blinded while driving past a shopping plaza. Squinting, I saw metallic red bows and festive candy canes co-mingling with the palm trees.
While sunbathing on the beach, I found it easier to ignore these signs of the season. I resisted holiday fever until Thanksgiving week. In my old-fashioned book, only then does my Christmas spirit get the official green light.
So, while I shopped for the Thanksgiving feast, I enjoyed the holiday music playing overhead. My heart lifted with the sight of poinsettia plants and fruitcakes. "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas," I hummed.
Still in a candy-cane reverie, I pushed the cart to my car, but the bubble quickly was burst by the snapping sound of my flip-flops. "Don't worry," I rationalized. "It's only November."
One Thanksgiving night I called my relatives up North, wanting to gloat just a little. I knew they were in a deep freeze, lake-effect snow wreaking havoc with their turkey day plans.
My mom laughingly told me that she and my stepfather feasted alone on a 22-pound bird. Undaunted, they froze the leftovers, built a fire and snuggled up.
I then called my sister Kate, who could usually be counted on to complain about the weather. Stunned, I listened quietly as she told me how gorgeous the Christmas lights looked covered with snow. She then cut our conversation short because she was watching "White Christmas." My gleeful mood deflated like a Thanksgiving Day parade balloon.
With the holiday season at fever pitch, my heart remained shriveled and Grinch-like. I commiserated with another East Coast transplant. "I'm trying, but I just can't get in the Christmas mood."
Sympathetically, she replied, "I know. My first year here I must have spent $300 on Christmas decorations. I sprayed everything with fake snow. I'm surprised I didn't spray my husband and kids, too. You'll get used to it."
Sitting on my balcony, I gloomily stared at the tropical flowers. What I needed was an emergency transfusion of Christmas spirit.
Like Clark Griswold in "Christmas Vacation," I became the Queen of the Extreme. The air conditioner toiled as my oven gave birth to dozens of sugary delights. The sounds of holiday music rocked every room and invaded my iPod. I watched all the classics, from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" to "It's A Wonderful Life."
The annual pilgrimage to pick out a tree became a pleasure. Usually, the haste with which I choose a tree is directly related to the wind-chill factor. But that year, I slowly wandered through the lot, inhaling the pine scent mixed with the briny ocean breeze.
Yes, Christmas is different here without the white stuff. Sheepishly, I admit that I'm frequently singing Barbra's ode to snow. But don't forget, there's always Easter. Until then, Happy Holidays!