When I was a kid, my parents co-owned a bowling alley with another couple. I literally spent every Saturday at the bowling alley, roaming the building, playing games, sitting at the bar drinking orange juice, and chatting with my parents' friends. Some of the best lunches I had as a kid took place at the bar. My dad would make my sister and I kielbasa, cut into tiny circles with a piece of cheese on each sphere. Instead of forks, we used toothpicks to eat. Some of the sweetest moments between me and my mom took place at the bar counter as well. I still remember cuddling up to her, my head on her chest, and her wool sweater itching my face, as she held me while drinking her grasshopper that my dad or Kathy, the bartender, had made her. The people who worked at the bowling alley were extended members of our family. Kathy would entertain my sister and I with a smile on her face. I am sure we got in her way more than once but we never knew it.
Of all my favorite memories at the bowling alley, the ones that mean the most to me took place during the holidays. The holiday parties blend together for me and I am not even sure how many I attended as a kid. But the parties I remember left an imprint on me and influenced my interpretation of what a Christmas season should look like. I remember the foods that people brought to share, especially the deli ham slices wrapped around cream cheese that were cut into pinwheel circles. I remember the cookies and Scrabble snacks, the tinsel that hung around the windows that overlooked the bowling lanes, and I remember the Christmas lights. I remember the laughter from adults and the matching sweaters and plaid skirts my sister and I wore. I don't remember the drinks that the adults consumed, although I am sure the collective intake was voluminous. When I think about these parties, they are saturated in blues, reds, greens and golds. It felt like one giant lit up Christmas tree and the colors are what stick with me.
To the right of the bar sat a jukebox and while I don't remember what songs were played, I remember a lot of Brenda Lee, Elvis, and...I am guessing some Neil Diamond and Kenny Rogers thrown in there. "Marshmallow World" continues to be a favorite of mine, although I can't verbalize exactly why.
When I think of the holidays, two prominent images come to mind. I always think of the bowling alley holiday parties and Christmas Eve at my grandparents' home. My grandparents lived in a stone and brick home that sat on a corner lot. When you walked through the door, you entered into the living room that was decorated with a Christmas tree, retro stockings, and tinsel that hung from the plastic tree branches. The focal point, a red velvet couch that was trimmed in wood, sat next to the front window. I remember my grandpa's red, green, and black vest that he wore.
What I really want is to live in a 1940s or 1950s holiday movie, because it reminds me so much of my grandparents. Deep reds, sparse and uncomfortable furniture, and lots of tinsel. This is what I think the 40s and 50s must have been like. Don't you?
When you're an adult, it's hard to understand sometimes why you are drawn to certain aspects or moments in life, except for that they remind you of a time when you were a kid, when you knew how to just be happy.
I always feel like my version of holiday happiness is elusive, not quite clear. So, I decided to write a list of ways that help me celebrate the holidays and the joy of once being a kid. You may have similar rituals, or, you may think I am 100% weird. Either way, I am putting it out there because I am the kind of kid who spent the holidays in a bowling alley bar and her evenings lounging on a red velvet couch.
My Holiday Rituals
1. I fast forward through most of "When Harry Met Sally" and only watch the Christmas and New Years scenes.
2. I sit in the dark, with only the light of a 2 foot tall Christmas tree, until I get a headache.
3. I google things like "Christmas sketches on SNL," "holiday scenes in "When Harry Met Sally," "winter scenes in 'Funny Farm,'" "Christmas episodes of the 'Office.'"
4. These 43 seconds from "When Harry Met Sally" are my favorite. They have nothing to do with the plot but they are the visual image of what I imagine all holidays should look like. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVmGgQ9eUSE
5. I did ALL of the above tonight...in just 30 minutes. And, I have done this every night since last weekend.
6. My husband is in NYC right now visiting family. It is 50 degrees there but, in my mind, he is walking around Rockefeller Center, sipping cocoa, laughing gregariously, and bundled up in a warm scarf as he thinks about how much he misses me. Longing and romance play a big part in the holidays for me.
7. I watch "The Apartment" every year and wish I worked as an elevator operator in the 1960s, who, upon being dumped by the married boss, falls in love with Jack Lemmon's character.
9. This is only Part 1 of my list. Look out for more soon!