the Christmas season each year, my family takes a traditional road
trip about an hour west of our home to Santa Land in the East
Texas city of Lindale. Santa Land is one of those spectacular
drive-through Christmas lights displays, guaranteed to help you kick
off your holiday with a photosensitive seizure.
We try to go early to avoid the incredibly long lines that move at
a salted snail's pace due to waiting for drivers at the entrance recovering
from the trauma of the entrance fee. This year we were pleased to
find that the column of vehicles only stretched back as far as Albuquerque.
| The agony of
waiting was aggravated by the fact that, once we were stuck in line,
I was hit by the urge to go to the bathroom, and since my youngest
daughter always sits in my lap as we wind our way through the bumpy
gravel trail at Santa Land, my bladder felt like it was subbing for
the ball at the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest. (Yes, ladies, now
I know what pregnancy feels like. And, no, I'm not interested in experiencing
the actual delivery.)
Once we finally entered Santa Land and made it through the first twinkling
tunnel of nausea, we were instructed by signs along the path to roll
down our windows so we could hear the country Christmas music playing
throughout the venue. Unfortunately, the first speaker we encountered
was blown out, making Reba McEntire's rendition of "O Holy Night"
sound like she was auditioning to be a back-up singer for Megadeth.
I was pleased to see that, along with the commercial aspects of Christmas
on display (like a handmade wooden cutout of a giant Hershey's Kiss
that, according to my middle daughter, looks like an enormous turnip),
there is a section of Santa Land dedicated to depicting the story
of Jesus. Featuring what appear to be decommissioned mannequins from
a 1970's K-Mart, a series of dioramas depict the life of Jesus from
the Nativity to His Ascension into Heaven. In the Last Supper scene,
my eldest daughter remarked that the apostle Peter was wearing red
lipstick, but I assured her that Peter would never consider wearing
that shade with a burgundy robe. Another sign we saw was one instructing
passengers to remain inside vehicles at all times. The exception,
of course, is when you reach the end of the trail of lights and your
children force you to visit the gift shop. After the light display
has lulled you into a state of Yuletide euphoria, the gift shop tempts
you with such irresistible souvenirs as decorative toilet paper and
holiday grooming kits. (I think I even saw a pair of Donald Trump
"Make Christmas Great Again" boxer shorts-or maybe that was the toilet
Managing to tear ourselves away from the gift shop without adding
a single Elvis nutcracker to our collection, we headed to our traditional
post-Santa Land dining destination, Cracker Barrel. Cracker Barrel
is one of my favorite restaurant franchises. The joy begins when the
server brings out a heaping plate of warm, complimentary carbohydrates
(biscuits and cornbread). I usually request some honey and jelly to
offset the enriched bread products with something healthy and natural.
Another perk is that regardless of what you order, the server almost
always asks if you'd like white or brown gravy. One time, I'm pretty
sure I saw a guy pouring gravy on his garden salad. Sheer genius!
They even have rows of rocking chairs lining the front of the building,
just in case you can't make it back to your car without giving your
arteries a minute to recuperate.
I also appreciate the antique charm of Cracker Barrel. I especially
like to browse through the vintage candy and soda as I explain to
my daughters, "See, girls, that this is how people got diabetes in
the old days." And then there's the décor of the place with traditional
farm implements ornamenting the walls. I mean, where else can you
eat a plate of meatloaf and, at the same time, risk being skewered
by a falling hay fork?
With full tummies and thoughts elevated with Christmas spirit, we
headed home singing carols and looking forward to the rest of the
holiday season. I was also looking forward to a few days of sleeping
late and lounging around the house in my burgundy robe and my "Make
Christmas Great Again" boxer shorts.
© Jase Graves
"Quips and Salsa" December
15 , 2017 column
| Christmas in