The family requested having Christmas at the cabin in northern Wisconsin this year. That means one family will have to sleep in the tiny basement and the other in the garage, or what we call the bunkhouse. My husband designed built-in Murphy beds and there’s a wood-burning stove inside, but the decor is early-American tool bench. The family doesn’t seem to care.
The Wi-Fi is iffy in northern Wisconsin and phones break up unless you don snow gear and plod down the hill toward the lake where trees don’t interfere. If we need groceries, we’ll have to plow the long driveway and navigate snowdrifts. We may even get a blizzard and be snowed in. It’s happened before. The family is willing to put up with these inconveniences. They want an old-fashioned Christmas.
We may ride the Eagle River horse-drawn sleigh down snowy paths in the woods. We may make snow angels or snow people or blow bubbles in the frosty air to see them freeze and then shatter. (Try this. It’s fun!) We may mix flour, salt and water to make sparkle snow paint and squeeze it onto black construction paper to make a winter scene. Or we may mix blueberry jello, refrigerate until solid, and then combine with crushed chocolate sandwich cookies and cool whip to make an edible glacier. (Email me at email@example.com for the recipes.)
At dusk, when we’re cozy in our small living room with its huge picture window, we’ll look outside as we play cards or silly board games or experiment with watercolors or play an old-fashioned game of jacks. We may watch a parade of deer striding across the lake. On clear nights, the sky twinkles like spilled glitter. We may tell stories of Christmases past.
When our kids were school age, and before the cabin was winterized, we’d leave the Dells by 5:00 a.m. to start the four-hour drive to Land O’ Lakes. After turning on the heat in the cabin, we’d head into town for breakfast at Pitt’s Cafe, where warmth and local chatter greeted us. The kids still talk about those magic days of cross-country skiing on pristine wilderness trails and building forts in the mountains of snow.
We’ll try to recreate some of that this Christmas. Our boots will crunch on snow and the chilly air will turn our cheeks and noses rosy. Maybe we’ll get my favorite kind of snowfall: fat flakes falling gently onto colorful caps and tree branches. One grandson will carry a saw and we’ll stomp or snowshoe out to the woods, our excited black puppy dog bounding through drifts trying to keep up. We’ll find the perfect tree. The grandsons will take turns sawing it down. We’ll pitch in dragging it back to the cabin and come inside smelling like fresh winter air. M-mmmm.
We’ll invite the neighbors in to join us for popcorn and mulled cider. We’ll play Christmas music as we decorate the tree. I’ll open the box of special old-fashioned glass ornaments of Santas from across the world, and we’ll hang them along with handmade ornaments grandchildren have made over the years. On Christmas Eve we’ll set out cookies for Santa and carrots for his reindeer and we’ll hang stockings above the fireplace. On Christmas morning, the little ones will awaken much too early, but we’ll get to see their bright, eager faces. Is there anything that compares to seeing a child’s face on Christmas morning?
Do you have traditions that remind you of an old-fashioned Christmas? If not, maybe you want to begin one. Either way, I’m wishing you a magical Christmas.