How to Christmas by the Bay

November 29 – December 6

It takes only four days away from San Francisco to come back and notice suddenly that it’s a changed city. The pure white neon of the snowflake installments line the lamps of Market Street among its rotting-like trees and the black pavement stings your senses with a frosty and damp smell kicked into overdrive by the chill of 40 degree air. There’s little fog to see exceptionally well the glow within the buildings downtown as their lobbies are lit in various-sized trees. The City by the Bay has changed for the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. December is now.

And now it begs the question, how does someone get on board with the holiday cheer? It’s easy to bundle up and turn on Christmas music or put up a tree; get warm and get happy. But for the individual human soul, the happiness to be felt comes in various ways. No two people get into the spirit coming from the same place. And so, for this little soul here, living in this city by the Bay, I’ll do my best to lay before you what little things and sentiments prepare me for such an emotionally charged time. Frankly put, how to Christmas by the Bay.

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And the obvious start is to surround yourself, especially if now you have the space to do so. From the glittering hearts of Valentine’s and through the orange lights in Halloween, my studio is shining more than a simple merry and bright these winter days. I’ve adorned the walls in my handmade snowflakes of an antique gold shimmer and laced the doorways with garland and my own tassel banner from last year’s DIY party. Rustic, charming, me. The creative freedom I’ve found within this past year rules over all, especially in the place I where I write the most. Then you get to reading. It’s the best way for a writer to get into the mood for anything, and for Christmas time,

A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith

Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

Some of these titles I would have never read, were they not Christmas presents from generous aunts in my childhood. Anne of Green Gables particularly generates a sentimental longing for puffed sleeves on blouses come December and to always be in search of a wonderful home as lovely as Green Gables was for a lonely, despairing Anne Shirley. They’re the kind of stories that make the most of the holidays on what little is had by the characters, drawing our imagination into meaningful little details as picking windfall pecans, or marshmallows popped into a cup of good, hot cocoa after the funeral of your beloved father. I savor these moments, moments that make me feel alive despite their darkness; lines that come to life as in a snow-covered flat in Brooklyn or a chilly kitchen for which to bake thirty fruit cakes as I drink whiskey in my chicory-spiced coffee. These stories solidify the wondrous sense of humanity that shines the most during the holidays.

Lastly, surround yourself in the right people– the simplest start, if not the most obvious. For if the right friends and family are close, so shall the cheer of the season that these books and songs and storefronts sing of. It only takes a few simple actions to get be close with loved ones: too many wine nights, or walking about the cold streets of Pacific Heights in search of the right elfin tree for the apartment, to barely make an ice skating session. Beside each other you’re seeing this changed city with the one constant that is love. Love never ruined the moment, did it?

I’ll do my best to abide by my discoveries, driven by fond memories of Christmas by the Bay past and recent occurrences that demand my full heart and soul– be there for those in my life that may need the love and assurance more than I do, more than I feel I deserve now. Maybe that is the gift to myself this year, to revel in this single life as to not lose sight of doling out my own advice for a lovelorn sister, or to remember the smiles of those whose hands I’ve filled with a few bucks that I can give as I pass them outside these cold, towering buildings. Love is constant, love is fluid and takes on many forms; as that cheeky British film I had on repeat Saturday and Sunday nights said it best–

Love actually is all around.

To Christmas by the Bay is to surround your self in love, by giving it yourself.

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