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Winter Holiday Fireside Moments: Interview with Margaret Maron

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It’s that time of year when the chill in the frosty air brings us indoors to hunker down with thick comforters and mugs of steaming hot chocolate overflowing with fluffy marshmallows.  When holiday music and movies become the soundtrack to our everyday home lives. When we gather ‘round the fire for company, drink, food and love.  When we are celebrating and remembering those we treasure and hold near and dear.  When the real meaning of the season is family – by our DNA or by our heart.  When we reflect and give thanks for all we have. In a nutshell, unconditional love.

I’d like to welcome Margaret Maron to share the beauty of the season with us.

Favorite holiday tradition?

35 years ago, a childhood friend who’s also a distant cousin started coming to our house sometime in the week before Christmas. She and her husband had three children, we had one son.  We would sing carols, exchange gifts and then eat dinner.  The four kids have all married and now have children of their own. One of the original four is even a grandmother now and the eight of us are now 22.  We no longer bother with gifts, but we do sing or do “party  pieces” (recite poems, act a skit, etc.) and we do still enjoy sitting down at a long table together. I always make a Yule log for dessert.

Favorite childhood toy?

Probably Betsy, my last baby doll.  My mother was a good seamstress and she made doll dresses that matched mine.  I loved that doll.  One day, my older brother said, “I’ll tell you a secret if you promise not to tell Mother.”  Of course I promised.  He showed me what he had in his hand.  A sort of small round ceramic box.  Then he turned it over and I heard Betsy’s pathetic, “Ma-ma!”  I was appalled.  And of course I went to our mother in tears.  She sewed the crier back into Betsy’s tummy and my brother got sent to bed without supper.

Favorite childhood game?

Chinese checkers, anagrams, and roller bat.  Anybody remember roller bat?  It’s the rural equivalent of stickball.

Snowball fight or making snow families?

Sorry, almost never enough snow to do anything with and it usually melted the next day.

Favorite holiday song?

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby.”

Favorite holiday movie?

It’s a tie between Jean Shepherd’s Christmas Story and Miracle on 34th Street. Oh, wait!  The Alastair Sims version of Christmas Carol.  (Can’t stand It’s a Wonderful Life.)

Favorite holiday story to read?

A.A. Milne’s poem King John’s Christmas  (“And oh, Father Christmas/ My blessings on you fall / For bringing him a big red India rubber BALL!!”)

Snow on holiday eve or just a chill in the air?

It has to be cold. Too often, we get balmy 70° days the week before C’mas. The merchants hate it and so do I. No one wants to shop or wrap presents when it’s not cold.

Most memorable holiday memory?

We usually went out into the woods and cut a cedar, but the year I was 13, we couldn’t find one.  Instead, we brought home a nicely shaped holly.  My mother refused to have anything to do with it, so after my brother strung the lights, I got to decorate it just as I always wanted.  I put the tinsel on one strand at a time, starting from the bottom and working upward.  Also starting at the trunk and working out to the tip of the twigs.  It took a couple of hours, but when I was finished, the tree shimmered.  Even my mother admitted it looked lovely.

Did you eat popcorn balls as a kid? If you did, do you still?

No, never.

Real tree or artificial? Green or white?

Absolutely real and cut from our own woods here on the farm.  Green, of course. 

What do you do on holiday eve?

It’s just my husband and me now, so we open a bottle of champagne, turn off all the lights except for the tree and just enjoy the peace and quiet before everyone arrives next day.

What are your holiday plans this year?

The same as always —   see above. 

What’s the one holiday dish your family can’t go without?

My chocolate Yule log with meringue fungi and powdered sugar snow.  It’s a lot of work, but looks so pretty on the table.

Holiday party tip?

Put 40-watt bulbs in all the lamps and no one will notice whether or not you dusted or if the living room needs painting.  Candles, too.

Favorite holiday decoration?

I make a giant wreath out of chicken wire to hang on the side of the house.  The green twigs go in easily and small red bulbs make the berries.  Add a big red bow and it’s instantly Christmas.

Do you eat fruitcake?

I do!  Love it.  Especially if I buy one at Thanksgiving and keep it moist with weekly drenchings in bourbon.

Another holiday tradition?

I invite all my local writer friends who live in town to come out to the farm to cut holly, cedar, pine, boxwood and rosemary to decorate their homes.  And I send a big box of greenery and pine cones to my agent in New York every year.

Do you head out on the 26th into the madness to exchange or shop for anything?

I love the crowds and the stores up to the 24th.  After that, I don’t go into a store till after the New Year.

Thank you so much.

Happy Holidays from my house to yours!

Visit Margaret’s website for the latest news.



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About Diane Morasco