As soon as September rolls around, my son starts waxing on about the winter holidays, dropping hints about his burgeoning Christmas list and licking his lips with the anticipation of his favorite Thanksgiving food: candied yams.
“Sol,” I playfully scolded him this year, “it’s still summer in my book. It’s hot outside, school just started, and I’m still adjusting to that. I am not ready to start talking about wish lists and candied yams.”
He laughed, agreeing to leave me alone for a while, to warm up to the idea that summer would soon be over, no matter the L.A. weather. We were in the kitchen, so I opened the spice cabinet to take a quick inventory of what I already had on hand.
Nutmeg, allspice, vanilla extract, cinnamon? Check.
Secret family ingredient that our kinfolk swear sets our sweet potato pies and candied yams apart? Missing.
I made a mental note to stock up early since I’ve experienced too often the horror of waiting until the last minute and finding empty spice shelves. I silently thanked my son for his early cravings.
Besides, just a couple of days later, after we published the September/October issue of L.A. Parent, I hopped on a Zoom call with the other members of our editorial team to plan out our holiday issue. Working for a magazine means working a few months into the future. And so, despite my tendency to want to hang onto summer, it was time to get into the holiday spirit. As we strategized the ideas that grew into the stories you see here — Mike Sonksen’s Main Street-inspired shopping adventure, Chelsee Lowe’s roundup of some of our local chefs’ favorite holiday foods, Gregg Keer’s walk down holiday memory lane with local musicians, Nina Harada’s calendar of the best ballets, parades and light shows — I felt the first twinge of holiday giddiness.
Through sound and image, taste and scent, these stories are lovely reminders that leaning into our senses can help soften our inner Scrooges, reawakening our connection to whatever holidays we celebrate. My husband started lighting his own festive spark in early October by bringing home pumpkin-scented candles, lush plants, cinnamon-spiked pinecones and the thickest plaid blanket I’ve ever seen.
To light my own fire, I slipped onto my record player a gift he gave me last Christmas: “Sarah Vaughan’s Golden Hits.” The jazz great’s rendition of “Misty,” especially, gets me in the spirit. While it’s not a holiday song, for me, the beautiful and complicated feelings that the holidays can conjure up reside in Vaughan’s wistful sound — nostalgic memories of yesteryear, wishes that were never granted, losses we thought would do us in — all swirling together without judgment.
Whether this is your favorite time of the year — or you can’t wait until all the hoopla is over — I wish for you deep, end-of-the-year exhales. I wish for you, my fellow parents, a moment to pause and bask in unbroken peace.
Cassandra Lane is Editor-in-Chief of L.A. Parent.