Tag Archive | Christmas decorations

It’s All Alive

I’m grateful for this beautiful distraction sitting on my shoulder when I lay down to take a nap. I had big aspirations today to get a lot of packages mailed, but I got distracted by a sudden need to fill the house with Christmas spirit. I turned on some music and went under the stairs to pull out Christmas decorations. To do that, of course, I needed to vacuum and dust and tidy some surfaces first, and there was lots of bending, lifting, stepladder climbing, and walking around. I definitely needed a nap by late afternoon.

It’s been seven years since I put out all the Christmas decorations. Ever since Kittens! I started putting out a few a couple years ago, and a few more last year, but some of my favorites were too precious to risk. Topaz is old enough to have lost interest now, I think, and Wren well behaved enough that I don’t need to worry. I set up the Cathedral Creche on top of the piano. This manger scene is almost as old as I am; it was bought at the National Cathedral gift shop almost sixty years ago, and I can’t even remember why it’s so special–something about its maker–just that it always was. I added a couple of animals to it in later years, but all the people and most of the animals, and the angel, came with the manger. It was always my favorite decoration to set up when I was a child; they were all alive to me.

I’m grateful I finally found a place to display Auntie’s Christmas tree skirt! This is also ancient. She made one for herself and each of her siblings before I was born. It was always the last element of our family Christmas to come out, once the tree was fully trimmed. There was always a debate about which scene should go in front, and it was always confusing: the skirt is slit in the back, and you never wanted the slit in the front of the tree, but then you could never get either of the skirt trees in the front of the real tree. Draping the TV with it allows both trees to shine! But I’m not going to leave it here long. I’ve already lost two ornaments just gently pulling it off in order to watch TV. I’m grateful to finally give it some air for the first time in decades. There hasn’t been a full-sized tree in my house since I built it. It’s lived here with me since my mother died, maybe she gave it to me a few years before when they stopped having a tree. I’ve felt wistful every time I pull it out of the Christmas trunk and put it back in unopened. I think it’s time to pass it on to someone else in the family… but to whom? There aren’t many left who would value it, and I can’t think of anyone outside the family who would treasure it the way it deserves. I’m grateful for all the ancestral stuff I have, but it’s also a burden–because it’s all alive to me.

Putting Away Christmas

Cousin Bill joked about how different it felt to put his Christmas decorations away at the end of January than at his habitual New Year’s ritual… It wasn’t too soon, or too late, it was just the right time. That’s how I feel. Even later, though, I’m putting away Christmas in the middle of February. It’s the longest I’ve gone. Much as I love the ancestral decorations (and a handful of new acquired over my lifeline) I’ve put away Christmas pretty late for years, grateful for implicit luxuries, but always by the end of January. At least that’s how I remember it.

I may not get very far tonight, I’m reminiscing, communing with my little things. Catherine Ingram counsels us to love who we love, and love our lives, and love our little things. Garden Buddy mentioned that very thing this afternoon in the context of what brings us joy. We sat in her garden of stone-rimmed beds and yard art, sharing a brief cloudy interlude in an otherwise balmy day. We are both growing weary of enforced hermitude, yet are not eager to relinquish it, skeptical of the alternatives.

Garden seeds arrived! A sigh of relief, winter’s end’s in sight. It’s been a strange one, as have most recent seasons. Case in point: The shower drain hasn’t come close to freezing this winter (a good thing), but this is the second scorpion who’s climbed up out of the tub drain. Itsy-bitsy spider only this time it’s scorpions the rain washes out. Spiders have free reign in my house, they do such good eating flies, and most of the widows stay outside. But this scorpion has to go right back where it came from, back to the leaf litter under the birch tree. It’s much milder outside this year, and also drier, than what used to be normal. Even as it’s been a colder winter inside, but longer sun in a rising arc warms the house earlier each day, and I have enough power now to run the floor heat while it’s sunny. So life’s gotten a little easier.

I’m grateful for this littler orange scraper, which has also makes life easier. It’s come in handy for a lot of things, but most of all for finally solving this kitchen dilemma. For years it mystified and aggravated me why the artisan who built the copper counter didn’t finish it with a rollover edge, instead crafting a lovely rim a half inch higher than the surface. This makes it impossible to sweep crumbs off into a hand or compost bucket. A similar glitch was built into the edge of the sunroom pond by a different artist, this an unchinked valley between the wall and the stone floor, leaving a ragged stripe of concrete foundation showing. I asked that fellow many years later why he’d done that, it makes it so hard to sweep or vacuum the dirt up.

“So you wouldn’t have to,” he said sparkling with logic, “because it would collect in the crack.” Had the cabinet maker brought similar reasoning to the raised counter rim? Both ‘solutions’ make it far more complicated to clean: a woman would never have designed these features.

Speaking of crumbs on the counter, these lemon shortbreads were worth the wait for butter for the glaze. So delicate and lightly tart and softly sweet. I’ve been grateful today for sharing them, too; and for kindnesses and compassions that have come my way, softening the rocky inward trail.

Ancestral Decorations

Rauchermann Santa exhales pine incense. He came back to the US from Germany with me when I was five and a half.

After an entire childhood of wishing The Colonel would let us decorate the tree before Christmas Eve, I am grateful today that even though I didn’t get any decorations out until this week, I don’t feel late or guilty for putting ornaments on the tiny redwood and setting up some of the ancestral holiday decorations just two days before Christmas. Other kids made fun of us, those kids whose families put their trees up the day after Thanksgiving, or a week before Christmas, thought we were nuts for putting them all up on Christmas Eve and taking them all down on New Year’s Day.

Grateful that I can tune out KVNF (our great local community radio station) when Christmas mall carols get to feeling trite, and search out African Christmas music on Spotify, setting the mood for an afternoon off at last to catch the spirit and choose some decorations to put up, and grateful for Cyn who persuaded me to try Spotify. And through the magic of Spotify, landing on the German Christmas songs of my childhood. Digging way back into my past, excavating happy feelings. Happy? I’m not sure yet, but sure of feelings.

Grateful I can still bend and twist just enough to get under the stairs to the Ancestral Decorations Trunk. Choosing, once there, which of many treasures to pull out this first Christmas without two kittens. The one that’s left, for whose little life I am beyond grateful, is now mature enough to not be a threat to a few extra gewgaws around the house.

Aunt Rita’s Tree, and the one baby Nuremberg Angel that Raven didn’t eat.

Thinking of my mother and my auntie, both of whom gave me similar, and very different, gifts over the course of my life. There are crafts and art created by both of them throughout the house, but tonight, they’re here with me more immanently than usual. “Aunt Rita’s Tree” always occupied a place of prominence, was treated as a holy artifact since I was an infant, first by mom, then by me. The Colonel built it a tidy plywood box sixty years ago, where it lives for most of the year, emerging to shine brightly for only a few weeks in darkest winter. Unwrapping and finding a safe place for this relic, listening to those traditional German holiday songs my mother loved so much, thinking how little I remember of those three toddler years in Germany beyond the feelings that music evokes.

The music is bringing it back… I remember more than I thought I did. I’m grateful that I’ve learned a little bit about the world beyond the borders of this time and place, 21st Century USA; that I spent part of the Twentieth Century growing up in Germany, remember Rome and Medurodam, and learned to read at my brother’s knee in that Mannheim apartment when I was just three; reading allowed me to explore far more of the world than I ever have physically.

The Nuremberg Angel, all paper with a porcelain head, almost as old as I am, also lives in her own handmade wooden box most of the year.