Spirits and Spirits: Love and Joy Come to You

Monday Morning Musings:

“A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!”

–Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Christmas time

And the spirits of the past arise

Last week

I listened to Radio Times,

“The Pervasiveness of Tchaikovsky’s

The Nutcracker.”

The conductor described

The transformation to the snow scene,

A quiet moment in the action that she loves.

And when the music played

I remembered how much I loved

That section, too,

When the music swells

And the bed moves across the stage.

And it’s possible my eyes were a just a little teary

As I sat there in my car

And found my Christmas spirit.

The year we took our young daughters

To see The Nutcracker

I had won a prize,

The only time I’ve ever won a contest,

But what a spectacular one—

Box seats

At the magnificent Academy of Music

To see the Pennsylvania Ballet’s Production,

George Balanchine’s version,

A Philadelphia tradition,

Plus a tour of the stage afterward—

And, of course, a nutcracker

For our very own.


We had watched The Nutcracker ballet

On television

With Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland.

Our younger daughter was scared of the Mouse King.

But we told her to wait

And he would turn into a prince.

She did.

And he did.

The fear was gone

And she exclaimed,

“Princey Prince, I love you!”

A phrase we later quoted

Back at her.

Innumerable times.

It never bothered her,

And why should it?

She has her own prince now

Though he was never a Mouse King

He has also been transformed

But aren’t we all?


There was no such outburst

During the Academy performance.

Our young daughters had been sick,

But they rallied enough to see the performance.

Somewhere there’s a photo

Taken on the stage

Of one daughter with the Sugar Plum Fairy.

I searched for it—

It was a Polaroid

Remember those?

In the days before cell phone cameras?

It’s in my memory,

The whole experience

A Christmas Past,

But I wonder if my daughters remember it

At all.


Our daughters often got sick at Christmas.

There was the year they had chicken pox,

First the older,

Then the younger.

Oatmeal baths

And calamine lotion.

In the midst of Christmas presents

And treats.


Then there was the year

We had to leave my mother’s

Suddenly and before

The festivities began.

The girls dozed on her bed–

With no interest in presents

Or treats.

We knew then they must be sick.

So back home we went to

Put them to bed.

We had planned to eat dinner

At my mom’s that night—

Perhaps the traditional Christmas dinner,

Bagels and lox?

And then travel to my in-laws’ house

The next day.

So we had nothing ready

For a quick meal.

Even the Chinese restaurants

In our neighborhood

Were closed.

I think my husband and I ate

Cold cereal that night.

Or perhaps peanut butter and jam.

But from then on

I always had a backup meal idea.

Lesson learned.


All those Christmases

With our daughters growing up.

Breakfasts with Santa

And the light show at Wanamaker’s,

The old department store

Now a Macy’s.

The high school Christmas concerts,

I loved the Madrigal performances best,

The girls in their beautiful Renaissance gowns.

My older daughter with her older friends

My younger daughter’s powerful soprano

Ringing out

“Love and joy come to you,

And to you your wassail, too.”


Madrigal Gown serving double duty in a high school musical performance.


Now both girls are grown

And building their own traditions

With their spouses

One memory at a time.

As I unwrap my own.

Last year on Christmas Eve

Our son-in-law proposed to

Our younger daughter.

Dreams of future Christmases

In their heads.

I was also engaged

At Christmas time,

Many years ago

And many Christmases past.

That young woman still lives

Somewhere inside me

Dreams and experiences

A kaleidoscope of spirits

Past, present, and future.

Dizzying to try to sort them all

But somehow comforting, too.

Cozy memories

Providing Christmas cheer

As Christmas spirits should.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!

–Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

As for other Christmas spirits–

Mulled wine was our drink of choice this Christmas season.

It is simple enough to make by gently heating red wine with cinnamon sticks, cloves, ginger, orange slices, and a bit of sugar.

You can add some port to make Smoking Bishop. See Tori Avey’s recipe here

And more history from NPR here.

But we went the easy route this year by buying some already spiced red wine.


And added to the cookie rotation

These Pecan Pie Truffles with a bit of bourbon. Delicious!

A bit of spirit for the spirit.

So to speak.

















18 thoughts on “Spirits and Spirits: Love and Joy Come to You

  1. You are leaving to posterity a diary more engaging than Pepys’ and easier to read than Milton’s blank verse though I like Milton.

    When you mentioned Wanamaker’s I thought of my visit to that store when I was student teaching in the Souderton, PA area. A vision of bright pink wool flashed across my mind as I read this. Perhaps I bought some fabric there on a foray into Philly.

    Thanks for evoking such memories as you recall your own. And you even tucked in a recipe. Great start to the after-Christmas week, Merril.

    • Thanks so much, Marian. You are such an ego booster! Pepys and Milton? 🙂
      I wonder what you bought long ago at that Wanamaker’s? I haven’t been in that store for quite a while, but it used to be so special.

  2. I’m not even sure now it WAS Wanamaker’s. Does Philly have a Strawbridge & Clothier store? If so, it may be that that was where I shopped. Of course, back then I would not have bought anything fancy, probably just fabric to make a dress.

  3. This was a lovely post bringing back memories of my own young ones at Christmas and the joys we shared (as well as the woes) and the pic is beautiful. I’m finding lots of posts about wine tonight. Must be something in the air.

  4. What a delightful trip down memory lane Merril. I’m sure the girls are over their childhood sicknesses at Christmas and will perhaps be suffering some of that themselves from their youngsters?
    Our Christmas traditions change so much when the children leave home but if we’re lucky we see them repeated down the line with a few additions.
    I wish you a Wonderfully Happy New Year
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

  5. Thanks so much for that lovely post. I really loved that quote from “A Christmas Carol” and used it to write a post. Those sentiments are just perfect for going into a new year after what has been quite a rocky year politicially speaking.
    We’ve been lucky that the kids haven’t been sick for Christmas but I broke my foot just before last Christmas and was having chemo the year before. They didn’t stop me from getting there although I was subdued. xx Rowena

    • Thank you, Rowena! I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about, and then somehow it all fell together. 🙂
      I’m glad that your kids have not been sick at Christmas. I remember a few years our younger daughter also got sick after the high school musical. I think it’s all the stress and keeping it together so that afterward at a holiday or break it just hits.

  6. Beautiful memories of Christmas. I love the madrigal dress! That used to be my favorite part of my daughter’s choir, though they didn’t have the gowns! she looks so happy.

    • Thanks, Luanne. When the students got accepted to the Madrigal singers, they could either pay someone to have a costume made, or they could choose one from the ones left from other students. We paid to have someone make gowns for our girls. Some of the performances were in costume and some now. I couldn’t find a photo of an actual performance. She looks happy because she’s supposed to in the performance, but also she was with her then-boyfriend.

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