Home for the Holidays

General Hospital fans miss Genie Francis, but Update readers don't have to!

This season is important to GENERAL HOSPITAL's Genie Francis (Laura). "I've always had this love for Christmas," says the actress. "I did one scene once with Laura putting a star on top of the Christmas tree. It was probably one of my more memorable moments as this character, because it had so much of me in it -- my secret beliefs, and the secret hopes and dreams in my heart. For me, that's embodied in Christmas."

These days, Christmas is an even more special time. Snug in their newly-built California home, Francis and her husband, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION's Jonathan Frakes, are sharing their loving family traditions with their three-year-old son Jameson and six-month-old daughter Eliza. Now that she has children, Francis admits with a giggle, "I think my holiday fantasies are allowed to go full-tilt!"

That might account for the bountiful decorations that abound in the Francis/Frakes household. First, there's the 15-foot tree, laden with baby's breath, hand sewn dolls and "those wonderful, natural-looking ornaments made from wood, cinnamon sticks, and other things," enthuses the actress.

And how about the over 75 angels that decorate the house?

"I really like the feeling of someone watching over me," says Francis, who began collecting angels 10 years ago. "I have hand-painted angels in my baby's room, right outside entry hall, and one outside my son's room, watching over him."

Those are the year-round angels. The rest are brought out of storage about three weeks before the holidays. Glass, paper maché and ceramic; white, gold, and red -- they occupy every available nook and cranny. Reigning over them all is a three-foot angel with a gold taffeta skirt. This angel, displayed on a table in the living room, remains Francis' favorite Christmas present. "My brother gave her to me two years ago, and I have to say, she was so pretty it brought tears to my eyes. She exudes grace," Francis says.

Asides from the sights of Christmas, there are also the sounds and the smells.

"I try to elongate Christmas to 12 days," the actress offers. "During that time, I have a very open-door policy. People are free to drop in whenever they want." When they arrive, they're bound to find Christmas carols playing in the background (Francis' favorite rites are "Silent Night" and "Hark The Herald Angels Sing") and their hostess bearing trays of home-cooked food and eggnog.

"I do a lot of cooking," she says. "I always make a goose for Christmas, and I do a prime rib during the week before."

Of course, Christmas wouldn't be complete without making a list and checking it twice. "I start shopping in September," she says. "First I buy for the people who work in my house and for their children. I like to make sure I get everyone's children -- that's important to me. Then I start on friends."

Francis also wraps all her presents herself, though she says, "I'm careful to buy special paper for Santa's presents. That's a trick I learned from my mother. Santa's paper can only be on Santa's gifts. It's usually a matte red with natural twine, so it looks like a package."

How does the family celebrate when the big night finally arrives? First, by recognizing the importance of the holiday. "One of my most vivid spiritual memories is being in church when I was a little girl, the lights going out and all of us holding candles, singing 'Silent Night' in the darkness. It was so beautiful," Francis says. These days, she admits, they have to find those transforming moments at home.

"My husband and I still feel very spiritual about Christmas. We're celebrating the birth of Christ and the welcoming of peace into our lives. But we haven't been able to go to midnight mass since having little kids," she explains. "We're busy being Santa Claus!"

But Francis recognizes the importance of that, too. In fact, her most vivid Christmas memory is of being a young girl, "waking up and going into the living room and finding these huge footprints. My dad had gone in our backyard, where there were wet walnut leaves, stuck them on his feet, and trumped throughout the living room to make it look like Santa had been there. I love my parents for having done that! she says. "They totally went for authenticity."

Francis knows full well the importance of giving her children holiday memories they can hold onto for a lifetime. "The holiday is a time of rejoicing," she says, "and eventually I will teach that to my children."

by Bonnie Siegler

Thanks to Nancy and Paradise for the main article, and to Diane for the lovely picture quote! :)