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Monday, December 17, 2012



I wish all of you could have an Uncle Scott, because if you did, you’d all be having as much fun at every family gathering as me, but sadly, there is only one. He is the life of every party. He is my silly disco dance partner at family weddings, he sings karaoke at birthday parties—usually with some interpretive dance involving “Jazz Hands”, and the whole family refers to the trunk of his car as “the wine cellar”.

On Christmas Eve, he makes dinner at Grandma’s house—usually something involving some exotic cheese, but first, there is blind wine tasting. Yes, he gets Grandma to cover his selections in foil and number them, and he creates forms for us to fill out with tasting notes, our guesses about varietals and price, and our ranking from favorite to least favorite. He picks different themes for each year. There is a prize for the person who guessed most accurately—usually a silly picture of him and Uncle Bob in taken in a photo booth at the Super Mall. The loser is mocked. By the time we’re done tasting, we’re in very good spirits, and by the time dinner is over, we’re in even better spirits.

That has been, in the past, where my mom gets a little paranoid about carolers, and may mistake the radio for them. It’s understood in my family, that in the event of carolers, we are to hit the ground like an earthquake drill. Yes, it’s better not to wear short skirts to Christmas Eve dinner, because at some point, it’s likely you’re going to be on the floor and it’s hard to crawl in a skirt. My favorite year was the year mom said, “Shhh! Carolers! And they’ve got tubas!” And because we love her, we hit the ground like she asked. And then Uncle Scott laughed until he cried for the rest of the evening.

That is when the fun really begins. You need to know that Uncle Scott did some acting off Broadway, and some directing and producing as well, and so his dramatic reading skills are fine tuned. Anyone’s Christmas letter is fair game. If you wrote it, he may read it—especially if it is long and detailed. And he will read it dramatically. And we will laugh hard because nothing says, “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” like a dramatic reading of a Christmas letter. Before the evening is over, other members of our family will filter in, having sneaked out of their other family parties early, and for them, he will do an encore performance. After all, they always arrive a little traumatized from visiting their other grandma-- the mean grandma who tells them they’re fat.

And between the dramatic reading of the Christmas letter and the encore reading of the Christmas letter, he will get out Grandma’s deck of “Healing with the Angels” cards, and make us each select a card, although a couple years ago when my heart was badly broken, he did leaf through the deck and stack the cards so I would pull “New Love”. Then, he looks up the card in the booklet and gives us a dramatic reading of its meaning—usually in the style of a Baptist preacher—something to really make us believe. And so, I leave my grandma’s house believing good things are coming by way—gifts like new love, new beginnings, and miracles from a benevolent universe.

Yes, I leave in good spirits, hopeful and grateful-- grateful for an uncle who helped me develop my palette so that I don’t have the taste in wine of someone who was raised by wolves, grateful to be me and not the person who wrote the Christmas letter, grateful for fun and family and laughter and wine.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a pair of gloves and some Ghirardelli cocoa.

About the Author:
Kaya McLaren lives and teaches on the east slope of Snoqualmie Pass in Washington State. When Kaya’s not working, she likes to telemark ski, sit in hot springs, moonlight hike, and play in lakes with her dog, Big Cedar. Sometimes she makes time to paint or make a quilt, but usually she writes. She enjoys gardening too.

Find Kaya online at


Set in a Colorado ski town, Kaya McLaren's How I Came To Sparkle Again is a remarkable breakout novel that chronicles three people and their journey from loss to love; heartbreak to hope.

Jill Anthony spent her young adulthood in the ski town of Sparkle, Colorado. But more than a decade has passed since she left when, only weeks after a very late miscarriage, she finds her husband in bed with another woman, she flees Austin, Texas for the town she knows: Sparkle.

Lisa Carlucci wakes up one morning after another night of meaningless sex, looks in the mirror and realizes that she no longer wants to treat her body like a Holiday Inn. She’s going to hold out for love. The only problem is, love might come in the form of her ski bum best friend, who lives next door with his ski bum friends in a trailer known as “the Kennel.”

Cassie Jones, at age ten, has lost her mother to cancer and no longer believes in anything anymore. She knows her father is desperately worried about her, and she constantly looks for messages from her deceased mother through the heart-shaped rocks they once collected in the streams and hills of Sparkle.

Three people at the crossroads of heartbreak and healing. Three lives that will be changed one winter in Sparkle. One tender, funny, tear-jerking novel you won’t soon forget.
Secret Cravings Author Page


nancy said...

Gloves and cocoa, perfect, would love to have them.

Mountain Laurel said...

I think every family needs an uncle like yours! Thanks for sharing!!

Madelle Morgan said...

Your post is hilarious! Reading it made my day. Your uncle is a very special person. Cheers to him and the rest of your madcap family.

Na said...

Happy Holidays!
Christmas is so much wonderful when it's spent with your loved ones.