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Thanksgiving and Christmas Without Cold and Snow

Photograph by Getty Images

A few weeks ago, before Halloween, Beatrice and I made our annual pilgrimage to the pumpkin patch. It’s a tiny, well-manicured farm on the edge of Los Angeles, full of fat and happy farm-type animals. I say “farm-type,” because these aren’t working farm animals. Instead, they are friendly, well-groomed and ready to pose with your child plus a stack of polished pumpkins that cost $25 each.

Every year we go there, and every year the Nebraskan in me wants to grow those pumpkins myself. I want to move away with my daughter to a wild and unruly patch of ground, to walk through quiet fields and step over fat pumpkin vines with my country baby on my hip.

Now it’s November. Christmas is just around the corner and that feeling is even bigger. I’m homesick for Midwestern first frosts, wet mittens and that burning feeling of cold ears warming up next to a fireplace.

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To me, living in a city without seasons feels not only removed from nature but also removed from fully celebrating what’s so magical about the holidays: the peaceful comfort that cyclical patterns of nature always brought me. The first few years I lived here, I felt like I missed Christmas entirely. When I became a mom, this feeling made me afraid that the holiday season wouldn’t mean much at all to my daughter.

It took me years to stop trying to find the Midwest in Los Angeles and instead let this city do her thing. I do love Los Angeles, even if she makes me work for it. I realized that Beatrice will have different memories of what Christmas looks like than I do, and that’s okay. I’ve learned to be aggressive about chasing that magic on her behalf.

I order all the seasonal flavored coffees and, if there’s a “let your baby ride a reindeer” photo opportunity on Venice beach, you know I will take it.

For starters, we chase the weather. Any weather. Is the forecast calling for rain and the coldest day of the year? Sounds fantastic. I drop everything and take Beatrice outside. We purposely get caught in the rain then and drink hot drinks under eaves, wherever we can find them, as long as they keep us out of the rain — but only barely. We wear our wooliest sweaters.

Every year several of the fancy malls here have fake snow falling outside for the month of December, and it is magical in its own way, I have to admit. Magic-like confetti falling during your favorite song at a concert. But still magic. We’ll take it.

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We partake in the fake snow at the mall. We ice skate under palm trees, because we can. Also, I order all the seasonal flavored coffees and, if there’s a “let your baby ride a reindeer” photo opportunity on Venice beach, you know I will take it.

But then, at least once every December, we’ll drive out of this city to the mountains, to the snow. I need my daughter to know what wet mittens and cold ears feel like. And that other, quieter kind of snow magic.

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