Skip to main content



By Beth Broderick

There is a cold front moving in, and it’s bringing the day to darkness early. At 3:30 this afternoon I could have sworn it was 6 PM. I confess to loving this time of year. I enjoy the spooky quality of night descending whenever it damn well pleases. It is a perfect condition for a month so demanding as December.

It is equal parts maddening and inspiring. Delightful and depressing. Full of the joy, of family and friends, and the pain of loss that loving requires. It is the season of too damned much for most and not enough for many.

I am already singing carols in the grocery store. I love carols, and I am rarely happier than when I am in a grocery store. I will go to three different ones on the same shopping outing. I appreciate the specific things that each vendor offers, the subtle differences in quality, taste, and texture. Another confession … I am a spoiled rotten foodie, and I’m not sorry.

I was supposed to go to the gym today but had a busy morning, and when I finally could break away I let the chill in the air and the clouding skies serve as an excuse for me to skip out. After a luscious Thanksgiving I am finding it tough to get back into a solid discipline, and maybe that’s just fine. Maybe it’s okay to take a break and hope that a resolution in the new year will get me back on track.

Not sure what the point of being on the ‘track’ is anyway, but I dutifully aspire to stay on it, though I am never quite there. I had the sweet potato variety at lunch, but they were still fries. Last night I had a handful of Cracker Jacks. I saw them in one of the stores I visited yesterday and, having been seized by nostalgia, put a three-pack in my cart.

Lord afire they are sweet and sticky and a dental disaster, but I managed to coax every single candy-coated peanut out of the mess of kernels and ate them with glee. I never did find the prize, but you can’t have everything. (For those of you not familiar with this treat, it’s supposed to come with a prize in every box. I cannot remember what the toys were like, but it was always fun to find them.)

My sister Kim was the queen of Christmas. She was fiercely devoted to her decorations. Her coffee mugs sang carols when you brought them to your lips. Her mantel sagged under the weight of its decor. One year she found toilet paper with The Night Before Christmas printed on its squares. Kim had a tree in every room and filled stockings with silly crazy treats for us all. We always went to her home for the holiday. She was not a terrible cook, but she was no foodie. The recipes were stalwarts, the kind taken straight off a can of soup or the side of the sugar box. We loved it.

Her last few years of life were troubled by a manic state set off by menopause and exacerbated by heavy drug use. She refused to seek help and ended up estranged from most of us. She was angry and afraid and drove us all away. The pain of that separation has left me now, and I think of her only with love. She was a jolly gal until she wasn’t. Kim was smart and sweet, and I could make her laugh until she peed.

I miss her at Christmas time.

This is the first Christmas without both of my parents. Mom loved Christmas. For her it was all about the presents. She loved giving them almost as much as she loved getting them. We kids went all out every year trying to sate her appetite for gifts. She was always blanketed in torn paper and untied bows. We never failed to shower her with goods. She made a mean lime Jello salad and the best deviled eggs you have ever had.

Dad and his wife did not do gifts. She was not a fan of holidays, so he often came down to hang out with Mom and us kids. Maybe that was unusual, but I think his wife was grateful for a break, and he wanted the kind of Christmas his ex-wife insisted on. Mom pretended to protest his presence, but she enjoyed his company. It was just how we did it.

It will be weird with them gone.

December is here. The lights are up all over town, and they are a joyous sight. The tree is up at Ryan’s, and my sisters will decorate this weekend. I cannot fit a tree, but I am breaking out the Christmas cheer tonight. Wreaths will be hung and ornaments dangled. The invitations are going out to friends who will join for the 33rd year to wrap gifts for the women in the emergency shelter at the Good Shepherd Home. A sacred tradition in our family of friends.

My schedule is already filling up with events and celebrations.

There will be fewer gifts among my family as those of us who remain have everything we need, and presents were Mom’s thing anyway. The food will be better … the foodies fully in charge. The mood will be festive, hearts will be full but also haunted in the empty spaces where our folks used to live.

This is a tough, gorgeous, complicated month as chill winds and dark weather wrap themselves around our days, pulling us into ourselves. We can’t, won’t dwell there for long as the holidays reach out demanding we button our sweaters, weave scarves around our throats, and seek celebration in each other’s company. There will be much sorrow but more joy, and there are still, as always, so many reasons to sing.

Happy caroling.

— Beth Broderick

Beth is an actor, writer, model and chef. She can bring the funny and the pie. Read more of her writing at

Previous Post

Humor Writer of the Month: Karen Chee

Karen Chee is an Emmy- and Writers Guild of America-nominated comedian, writer and actor. She's currently writing for season two of Pachinko and for Late Night with Seth Meyers. She's our Humor Writer of the Month for December.
Read More
Next Post

The Great Gas Leak Incident

An alert plant worker spotted it first — actually, he smelled it: a gas leak coming from the main natural gas pipe entering the SA Building of the chemical plant.
Read More