Irmgarde Brown

Sister Jane was awarded Best Books of 2021 INDIE by Kirkus Reviews
Harford County Living named Irmgarde Brown, Artist of the Week Jan 24, 2023

All I Want for Christmas...

...is my book to sell. Or, that an elusive influencer out there would read my book and post a picture of it along with a kudo or two. Or, a producer’s friend would send him the next great idea for a film adaptation of my book! Is it too much to ask?

What is it about this time of year that has us all dreaming of sugarplums? Oh, I don’t mean real sugarplums. Look them up, they are somewhere between fruitcake and plum pudding. No doubt, it’s an acquired taste. Back in 2008, Chef Peter Greweling told NPR Host Linda Wertheimer that he thought sugarplums might wander back into popularity like they were in the 19th century. Sorry, Peter, that hasn’t happened. But I digress.

SantaThe truth is that Clement Clarke Moore wrote the poem, "Twas the Night before Christmas,” with the likely intent that dreaming of sugarplums was dreaming of a sweet unknown. When I was a child, the sweet unknown wasn’t just an anticipation of gifts, since my brother and I were aware of my mother's meager income, our inner-city life, and our closets full of secondhand clothes and sturdy Sears shoes.

No, I believed there was always hope for something special happening. Sugarplums are all about hope.

Somehow, my mother always managed to put up a tree (bought at the last minute when the prices dropped) and placed a purchased gift for both my brother and me under the tree. But, her idea of the perfect evening was to attend church on Christmas Eve and return home for a dinner of goose, sauerkraut (or red cabbage), and boiled potatoes. She would often invite a few strays, mostly widows, who had no one at home. After dinner, we would gather around the piano for a concert of sorts. No gifts were opened until everyone shared a poem, a song, a story, or a piece on the piano.

Despite our family’s paucity, my overall memories of Christmas Eve are ones of delight. The front room glowed in the little white lights on the live tree that filled the house with pine along with several scented candles. And once our performances ended, Mother would play Latvian and German Christmas carols on the record player. We would open our gifts (with last year’s wrapping paper) and the guests would enjoy a dessert liqueur. Perhaps the gifts were a disappointment, I don’t remember. Instead, when we were sent to bed, I grasped for my own kind of sugarplums: a rather vague hope, let’s say, that my father wouldn’t die (he held on until April of my 9th year) or that one of the lodgers would move out and I could have my own room on the second floor (finally at age 10 or 11, I think) or that we would get a car so we wouldn’t have to walk or take the bus everywhere (that didn’t happen until my brother came into driving age).

My sugarplum dreams have rarely been about “things” (although there was a part of me that wished for a Barbie doll which never happened) nor have they been confined to a particular time of year. Instead, I have wrapped them around my efforts to make a mark, or leave a legacy, or reach a BHAG (that’s an abbreviation for “Big Hairy Audacious Goal,” a designation I learned when I was working full time). It’s a bit childish, actually.

I think it’s time to reframe my dreaming of sweet unknowns. If I truly embraced the unknown, I might actually experience something entirely unexpected. I woudn’t pine over a daydream or measure my today against self-styled futures. Much has been written about “the law of attraction” and “creating one’s own reality.” But I’m wondering if I let go a little, instead, if I let the sugarplums dance around with less choreography, it’s possible that truly unexpected sweetness might have space to land, to manifest. I could be living a life of more wonder. I could be entrusting my days to the God of the Cosmos who would transform my sugarplums into stars of unprecedented beauty.