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Merry Christmas!

15 Dec

Ok, so I don’t usually post videos on here and this is the second one in a couple of weeks but it’s marvelous! So consider this my Christmas gift to you all! I laughed until I cried and I don’t do that very often! Somehow, combined with our recent performance of Handel’s Messiah, this was the icing on the cake! There are several different versions of this on You Tube but this is my favorite.

So I give you Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus as you’ve never seen it before!

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Handel’s Messiah

26 Nov

Part of me doesn’t want to listen to Handel’s Messiah again for at least a year.

Another part of me wants to be back on stage again and again, singing it better each time, and reveling in the fun of the moment, the gorgeous soloists, the lovely accompanying symphony.

Part of me will not miss waking up singing a different chorus every day, wondering which one it will be today that follows me around incessantly.

Another part of me will miss having the background theme songs in my dreams.

I will miss having something to challenge me musically – it had been many, many years since I’d sung in a choir and what will fill that void? I will miss seeing new friends every week. I will miss the anticipation – several decades in the making – of singing this oratorio. For as long as I can remember – probably way back when my parents sang in it when I was a kid, Dad taking the bass solo and Mom the soprano – I have wanted to be a part of The Messiah.

In 10th grade, I missed out on singing the Hallelujah Chorus because I was ill. Had I known that it was a traditional part of the Christmas program at my school (it was my first year there) then I would have dragged myself out of bed and sung my heart out (probably infecting the entire soprano section in the process).

But I didn’t know. And I’ve been bummed ever since.

If I had a better voice – and a lot more ambition – I probably would have sung it long before now, as had many members of the chorus. But as it is, I second-guessed my presence in the rehearsal room every week! But I never wanted to quit. Not once.

As we performed the songs last night – to a sold-out crowd – I tried to enjoy the moment, to soak in the music, the ambiance. I was sitting right behind the bassoons with their fabulous, pure, deep notes, which was enough to practically make me swoon. And as for the soloists – well, I closed my eyes and imagined I was in Carnegie Hall, they were that good.

I wished I was sitting next to my husband so that I could hold his hand and share the moment, but he, a tenor, was much too far away in the 70-some member choir. It was fun singing with him, though. He sings a lot more than I do so I enjoyed the rare chance to at least be in the same group with him.

Handel’s Messiah actually features in our courtship. My parents had invited him over for dinner – it was the first time he met my dad, I think, though he’d met Mom before. He came into the house and we all sat down at the table and The Messiah was playing in the background. My dad turned to him and asked him if he know what the music was.

Colin smiled and replied, “Handel’s Messiah!”

Dad smiled in return and, with his smile, told him he had permission to court his daughter.

Colin swiped his forehead and said, “Phew! I’m just glad it was a well-known piece of music!”

Dad nodded. “You got lucky, young man.”

That all happened close to 20 years ago. Last night, sitting there beneath the bright lights, felt like the culmination of that moment.

At various times throughout the concert I squinted into the crowds and found our children, sitting with a dear friend of mine, and I couldn’t wait to hear what they thought of it all.

When it was all over – after the intermission, after the Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra filled the auditorium with the marvelous strains of The Nutcracker Suite in the second half of the program and we’d sung Christmas carols (such a great entrance into the holiday season) and retrieved our coats and returned our music (a sad moment) our kids finally found us and hugged us and told us what they thought. Our youngest, at seven years old, said, “I loved it!” I asked her what bits she liked best. Without a pause she replied, “I don’t know. I slept through most of it.”

And that, my friends, is how our children keep us humble. Because Mom may be having an existential moment. But Lucy, lulled by the beauty of the music, just needed a nap.

My LGB Train of Happiness

24 Dec

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What is it about toy trains that triggers our smiling muscles? Is it their disarming little chug, chug, chug as they circle around the track beneath the Christmas tree? Or is it their tiny whistle (or not so tiny in some cases) that echoes the steam engines of the past? Or is it just that humans like anything in miniature?

I lived in West Berlin, Germany, for my last two years of high school and I came home from school one day to discover that my dad had bought a wonderful “Lehmann Gross Bahn” toy train! The “Lehmann Large Train” is the largest gauge toy train that I’ve ever seen, though admittedly I am no expert on such things. During their four years in Germany, Dad added to the train each year until he had six cars and many other add-ons such as a Gandy Dancer, gates that rise and fall when the train approaches and passes by, street lights, a signal bridge, people, trees, and even a typical notice pillar (which I can’t remember the German name of) – a common sight around Berlin which lends a small-town atmosphere to the sprawling city.
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In the 25 years since I graduated and moved back to the states, the train stayed with my parents for a few years and with my sister (who had young boys) for quite a few more. But now it has come home to me! In three large “Max Marotzke” boxes (and one smaller one holding nothing but track), the train arrived. Max Marotzke was the name of the moving company that moved Mom and Dad from Berlin to Connecticut…well, Pan Am shipped them – in their own sweet time – but that’s another story!

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My sister sent the first box way back in March and my kids very much enjoyed discovering all the hidden treasures beneath all those Styrofoam peanuts! Then, this past summer, when we were out in Washington, my husband packed the rest of the train stuff and the day after we arrived home the US postal service delivered it to our door.

Now, finally, after all that waiting, the boxes are open and we’re setting up the train! It is easy enough to put together the track and set the train on top of it – even I can do that – but woe betide my children if they didn’t have their dad to make it go, light up the lights and make the engine steam. I am no engineer, but he, thankfully, is. For real. (Yet another reason this English major married a mechanically-minded man.)

The train station needs a little model glue...

The train station needs a little model glue…

And so, thanks to my husband, my father, my sister, and Max Marotzke, the train circles our tree as well as the entire living room here in Southwest Minnesota – thousands of miles and 25 years after it first circled our tree in West Berlin.

(Talk about the passage of time and miles – what about the passage of political tyrannies? I returned to a united Berlin a few years ago – what a joy it was to see the unified city as it was meant to be!)

Yes, there are many reasons that this toy train makes me smile. But the best reason of all is the newest reason – my three kids, engrossed by the circling engine as it chugs into their lives as it once chug, chug, chugged into mine.

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Letters to Santa

17 Dec

It’s that time of year again – the time I look forward to with a smile of anticipation and a gleam in my eye. The time when the newspaper prints children’s letters to Santa.

Oh, my word, how I love those letters.

This year the letters (all from first graders) seemed less greedy than in previous years, which is nice. I recall one wee girl last year who wanted a diamond ring. (Don’t we all, honey.) My older kids and I love reading these letters out loud though our youngest child – whose letter is amongst the ones printed this year – doesn’t understand the humor we find in her classmates epistles.

I decided to give you a few excerpts from this year’s batch of letters, with my daughter’s full letter at the end…and a “just for the record” explanation of her wishes!

Dear Santa, I have been a very good girl. How is Mrs. Claus? Do you sing Christmas songs in the sleigh? I hope you like our cookies…

Dear Santa, Do you like ice?

Dear Santa, Can I pet your reindeer?

Dear Santa, How are the elves? I love you Santa.

Dear Santa, Thank you for our gifts. Is it fun to ride in a sleigh? Please bring me a puppy. Thank you, Santa.

Dear Santa, When are you coming?

Dear Santa, I have been thankful for [my brother] because I like him.

Dear Santa, I help my mom set the table.

Dear Santa, I have said kind words to my sister and my parents.

Dear Santa, I want to help the world. Please can I have playdoh. Thank you.

Dear Santa, Sometimes my room gets messed up, but then I clean it up.

Dear Santa, Do you get presents for Christmas?

Dear Santa, Am I on the good list?

Dear Santa, I want walkie-talkies please…for my sister I want chapstick. For my baby brother, I want him to have
toys…for my dad, he wants a car…

Dear Santa, I think I want a new dog.

Dear Santa, I think I was a good girl.

Dear Santa, Will you please bring me socks?

Dear Santa, What do you do all year long? How often do the elves go to the dentist?

Dear Santa, I want…a REAL race car, the one that uses gas.

And finally, my favorite letter: Which, interestingly, is not signed “love” or even “your friend” as most of the letters were…but simply signed with her name.

Dear Santa, My name is Lucy. This year I have been quite good. What I would MOST like for Christmas this year is an iPad because my family has one but I don’t. If your elves are not too busy I would also like an iPod. I promise to leave you some chocolate milk and cookies on Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas! Lucy.

The photo says it all.

The photo says it all.

I am not entirely sure what to make of this letter, but one thing is for sure, she belongs to a tech-savvy family, can you tell? Please hear me, however, when I say that her entire family does NOT have iPads! I do not, and the only reason that her brother and sister do is because they have them through school and when summer comes and they have to turn them in they will go bonkers. My husband does have one, but it’s through work. I just feel the need to explain all of that! Also, I’m certain that the reason she wants an iPod is because she loves music and has been walking around with an ancient walkman CD player which breaks its volume control every time she drops it…which is fairly frequently.

I told Lucy, as gently as I could, that Santa wasn’t likely to bring her those things. She didn’t look me in the eye when she replied, but she said cheerfully enough, “I know. It’s you and Daddy who bring the presents, anyway.” She walked away, and I was left feeling slightly bad and slightly glad and slightly confused about what I ought to be feeling.

It’s hard to compete with Santa.

Here’s my letter to the Jolly Old Elf:

Dear Santa, Please give me the gift of time…and the wisdom to know how to use it.
Sincerely, Gretchen

Anticipation? Or Instant Gratification?

10 Dec

When I was in 5th grade I was invited to a birthday party of a classmate who had newly moved to Orcas Island. This was all very well and good, but it meant one thing first and foremost: my parents did not know her parents.

But we did know one thing about them and her: She was named after an Indian Goddess and she lived at Polarity Institute.

Translation: she lived in a commune and was involved in a cult.

Or something close enough that it was very, very suspicious to my parents.

To this day I am amazed that my mother allowed me to go to the party. Not that Mom would have worried that I’d be sucked into some bizarre group, but it was all just so UNKNOWN…I mean, I never knew anyone else who ever visited the commune and I certainly never did so again – not because anything bad happened, the opportunity just never came up. As I recall, my friend had moved away by the 6th grade, anyway.

My visit there was less than spectacular. I remember we were only allowed into the common room. I don’t remember cake, games, or anything else. Pretty much we were just left alone to hang around. I vaguely remember seeing a tall tree-house kind of thing on top of a pole. Or maybe I just imagined that.

I do, however, remember this for sure: they owned a VCR.

This was amazing to me.

Never before had I known anyone with such a thing. I didn’t even know what it was, to be honest. I remember going home after the two allotted hours and telling my mom, “They have a machine and they can watch The Sound of Music ANY TIME THEY WANT!!!!!”

This was miracle indeed. To be able to watch such a splendid movie at any given moment!! To not have to wait until it came on television?!

Remember those days? The waiting? The anticipation? I remember waiting for the Charlie Brown Christmas Special to come on TV. I’d pray that we had nowhere to go that evening. I’d write it on my calendar. I’d practically camp out in front of our little black and white set – the screen was smaller than my laptop’s screen is now – and woe betide anyone, parent or sister, who wanted to change the channel. Not that we had many channels to choose from. We had three, in fact, and all were out of Canada.

Now, when ABC advertises that the Charlie Brown Christmas Special is coming on my kids could care less. Not because they don’t like the Charlie Brown Christmas Special – quite the contrary – but because we own it. On Blue Ray. Black and while TV? What’s that?!

I have to say, it’s a mixed blessing, being able to own things like the Charlie brown Christmas Special. The anticipation is completely gone. That excitement. That skip in my step as the hour approached when we’d be blessed with Linus’ wisdom. Yes, it’s lovely to be able to watch it at any time…but, somehow, it’s not the same.

Somehow the magic has gone.

I’ll always remember my trip to the commune with a smile if for no other reason than I cherish that magical moment, that awe, when I realized that the technology existed to watch a favorite movie at any moment I so desired.

Yes…magical…and yet I had no idea how magical anticipation could be as well.

PS – We own The Sound of Music, too. But I hardly ever watch it. Maybe I should set a time – like my birthday – could that add the magic back? We have a family tradition of watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy every New Year’s weekend…and yes, we look forward to that as part of the festivities, so I suppose one can kind of manufacture that magic…with the added pleasure of being able to watch it any other time we so choose. The best of both worlds? Kinda of. But not quite…not quite…

Couple of Thoughts on St. Nicholas Day

6 Dec

Okay, it’s been ages since I posted on a non-Tuesday! But I realized that it’s ST. NICHOLAS DAY!! So here’s my tiny recollection of that day while living in West Berlin in the ’80’s.

We came home the evening of the 5th of December, walked up the two flights of stairs to our apartment (one of four in the building) and as we reached our floor, there on the usually pristine doormat were three boots of various sizes. No, not three pairs of boots. Just three boots. Three unmatched boots. With some holly as decoration festooning the laces.

“Ummm…what’s up with that?” I asked Mom.

Her face broke into a grin and she clapped her hands in delight. “It’s St. Nicholas Day tomorrow!” she exclaimed.

“St. Nicholas Day?” I asked, knowing vaguely that St. Nicholas is the pattern for Santa Clause, but having no idea that he had his own day.

“Yes, the day when German boys and girls put out their boots on the doormat and wake up to find them filled with goodies!” Mom explained.

“The luckies,” I said. “Boots and stockings, too?”

“I’m not sure they do stockings here,” Mom said.

“Oh,” I said, entering our apartment and considering this new tradition. “I’d hate to do without stockings,” I finally said. “But can I put out my boots tonight?”

“No,” Mom replied, hanging up her coat in the wardrobe. “Nice try, though.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “It was worth trying,” I said, grinning. “Now I just wish we could see what St. Nicholas brings them! Wouldn’t that be fun to see?”

I never did see the boots filled. But I love the idea.

Happy St. Nicholas Day, everyone!

My second thought: I posted over on my other blog today – a re-post from two Christmases ago when I lamented my lack of creativity in shopping for my brothers-in-law. Check it out if you have the time! Here’s a photo to entice you…

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Seasonal Writing

3 Dec

This year I took on a seasonal task that I have avoided for the past few years. No, I never stopped shopping, (though my husband probably wishes I had) nor have I quit baking, decorating, or watching Dr. Seuss’ version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. What I’ve avoided is writing the Christmas Program for my church.

I have written our program a few times in the past, but for the past several years we’ve bought our scripts. Buying a pre-fab script is not a bad thing, but every year we have to tweak it for our particular setting and group of kids and by the time I’m done doing that, I might as well have spent the time writing it from the beginning.

Last year's whole cast.

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So this year I did. It was a blast sitting at my keyboard with the list of kids in our church and my page of hand-written notes, taken when inspiration hit one afternoon in October. I laughed out loud as I gave the silliest part to our silliest boy. I grinned as I pictured one girl performing a line I wrote just for her. I was inspired by their personalities.

In the past when I have written programs people have said to me that I ought to try and get them published, but I never have. Maybe this year I will. I’ll see if I can find the other old scripts (since the old computers they were written on are long gone) and I’ll spend a little time looking them over, rewriting, and rethinking.

At least I will if I get my butt in gear to actually pursue this idea. It will take some research into proper style, publishers, etc, but it will be worth it if it pays off in the end, yes? I give you all permission to bug me in a couple months and ask me if I’ve done anything about it yet!

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In the mean time, rehearsals are about to begin for our December 22nd performance. I know that my patience will be tried over the next few weeks and I will ask myself yet again why I ever agreed to direct this pageant – the writing is easy compare to directing – but I know that I too, will love, love, love seeing the kids that night, belting out the songs and shouting out their lines.

I adore Christmas pageants. Here’s my favorite photo of my favorite bored little angel a few years back.

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‘Tis the Season for Christmas Pageants

25 Dec

Merry Christmas! How handy that my favorite holiday lands on a Tuesday, my favorite day to post. I know that many of you are busy today, and this entire week (okay, month) but I’m posting anyway because I have a few pictures and thoughts to share with you.

My topic? Christmas Pageants.

If you were a star, wouldn't you use your prop as an air guitar, too?

If you were a star, wouldn’t you use your prop as an air guitar, too?

Ever since I was a wee girl, singing “Away in a Manger” (in which, apparently, I sang, “The ‘tars in the ‘ky”) in the church Christmas program, I have loved Christmas pageants.

The very phrase conjures up images of dimpled angels with crooked halos; wooly and grumpy sheep sweating under the lights, their guardian shepherds wielding eye-poking crooks; and small boys wearing their father’s bathrobes, gaudy crowns perched rakishly on their heads. Who couldn’t love such a scene?

A few of the animals at the stable.  In various degrees of happiness.

A few of the animals at the stable. In various degrees of happiness.

And don’t forget Mary and Joseph, two adolescent kids standing awkwardly side-by-side, gazing adoringly at a plastic doll and trying desperately not to look as if they despise each other while their mothers nervously wonder if, someday in the not-so-distant future, those two kids – who have, of course, known each other since diapers – could possibly ever be excited to be so linked.

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Some moms are praying that they will. Some are praying that the casting is in no way prophetic and dreaming up ways to fake an angelic visit should such a thing ever be even a remote possibility. An angel that warns girls to run far away from boys until she is at least 22 and out of college.

Mary, of course, didn’t have that option. For several reasons.

The shepherds as they received the Good News!

The shepherds as they received the Good News!

But I didn’t mean to write about theology. Though, if you really think about it, the very scene I just described – the quintessential Nativity Scene (crèche/nursery/manger scene, depending on what country you hail from) – is, in and of itself, biblically inaccurate because the wise men didn’t make it to the manger. They came when Jesus was two. But those wee boys in their robes are just too cute a tradition to break.

The whole cast in all their glory.

The whole cast in all their glory.

But I digress. Again.

I love the annual Christmas program. I love the kids tripping over their costumes. I love the shepherds pretending that their staffs are lightsabers. I love the kid who holds the “M” card upside down, turning “C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S” into “C-H-R-I-S-T-W-A-S”.

Christ was what?

"Wise" men...always a debatable term...

“Wise” men…always a debatable term…

But back to the pageants.

I love the tiny band, formed of kids still learning how to hold their instruments without bonking their neighbor with the fully-extended trombone slide. I love the off-key, ear-splitting racquet. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!” The band is my favorite.

That's my boy!

That’s my boy!

I love the tone-deaf kid who sings his or her heart out, two beats behind the rest of the angelic choir. I adore that kid.

My favorite wee angel - one year ago.

My favorite wee angel – one year ago.

I also adore the small, sweet voices that stumble over their lines. The bold voices who, I know, have worked nightly on their parts and stand with confidence before the microphone because they know this, though three weeks ago they feared they could never do it. (One girl, during this year’s program, gave her mom a wink after doing her line. It was priceless!) I love the expressive voices and I love the tentative voices, whose owners look at me, their die-hard director, encouraging them from the front pew, just needing that nod, that smile, to boost their confidence.

“You can do this!” I say with my grin. “Ignore Grandma and Grandpa in the audience. Don’t pay attention to Aunt Suzy’s video camera. Don’t be afraid!”

Don’t be afraid…“Fear not…The Lord is with you…Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” – Luke 1

And I do believe.

I love this photo.

I love this photo.

C-h-r-i-s-t-W-A-S…Still is.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Last year's whole cast.

Last year’s whole cast.

Stockings: The Best Part of Christmas Morning!

18 Dec

A few years ago I entered a holiday writing contest, hosted by my local newspaper. The theme of the contest was “Holiday Traditions” and from the moment I saw it advertised, I knew exactly what I needed to write about.

Stockings.

We don't have a mantle...so they hang here until being stuffed!

We don’t have a mantle…so they hang here until being stuffed!

In our family, Christmas stockings are the highlight of our Christmas traditions and, ultimately, of our Christmas day. There is no other part of Christmas that is so…sacred. (I probably shouldn’t use that word in the context…I mean… “sacred” is the whole point of Christmas…but setting that aside for the time being, let’s take “sacred” to mean – for the duration of this post – “THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT CHRISTMAS”!)

Okay, that being said, everyone looks forward to presents, right? I mean, when kids write letters to Santa, they don’t say, “Please bring me lots of tiny things that will fit into my stocking.” No, they say, “Please bring me a ball or a doll or a new bike.” Or, as in many of the letters from first graders that were printed in the paper yesterday, “ipods, ipads, computers, and a queen-sized bed”. Apparently kids are far more optimistic than they were in my day. Either that or more greedy.

My much-loved sock!

My much-loved sock!

In our family, as in any other, presents such as these under the tree are anticipated with great joy. BUT…it is the stockings, full to over-flowing with fantasticness, that inspire the most glee. They are the first things to be opened on Christmas morning and they tide us over through breakfast as the presents beneath the tree continue to beckon.

Why is it that our stockings are so admired?

Because they’re magical. And they’re huge.

Way back when my father was a boy, his mother began the family tradition of knitting these wonderful stockings for her family. My father’s – knitted with wool yarn and still in working condition – was joined by a new stocking in 1958, again knitted by Grandma, when my mom married into the family. When my sister was born a few years later, Grandma got to work again. And so the tradition continued up until the time when Grandma could no longer remember how to work her needles and my sister – that first-born grandchild – took up the needles for the family. In 2013, we’re anticipating that she’ll have to knit two. Horray!

It's not right that mine is so much smaller than my son's.  It's wool vrs. cotton yarn's fault...

It’s not right that mine is so much smaller than my son’s. It’s the fault of wool vs. cotton yarn, I think…

What is it about reaching into a bulging sock that is so marvelous? Why are the lumps and bumps and glimpses of things sticking out of the top so intriguing? I think that part of the thrill is the hinted-at-mystery – you get snippets of what’s inside, unlike with pristinely-wrapped gifts that reveal nothing of the contents within. Your imagine soars with a stocking! And, to top it off, you get to reach into a dark hole – something your mother cautions you against in normal life (“It could be a snake’s hole! Leave it alone!”) with no fear of what lies within. No biting, scratching, or hissing will send you running, squealing in fear. Squeals of delight are all that await the inquisitive hand on Christmas morning as it reaches down, down, down into the sock of wonder.

And what does that hand find at the bottom? What awaits you at the rounded toe?

An orange, of course.

My kids don’t get the orange. “Why do I want this?” one of them asked one year, holding the tangerine with furrowed brow.

“Because when your great-grandmother was a small girl in Scotland, an orange was a rare and expensive treat and having an orange in the toe of a stocking was a wonderful Christmas surprise!”

My child was unconvinced.

“Just eat it,” I said. “And be thankful. It’s tradition.”

Okay, even with huge stockings, sometimes we get a little carried away...

Okay, even with huge stockings, sometimes we get a little carried away…

Holiday traditions. They can be strange and they can be wonderful. Our stockings fit both of those descriptions. Filled with everything from new socks (hey, they’re huge and need a few big things to take up space) to toys, candy, toothbrushes, books, novelties, ornaments, ties, hats, mittens and scarves.

Oh, and sometimes babies.

The best stocking stuffer ever!

The best stocking stuffer ever!

Yes, they’re expensive to fill. But they’re marvelous to unpack.

I can’t wait ‘till Christmas morning!

Trying to make little sister happy with the jingle bells on her stocking...

Trying to make little sister happy with the jingle bells on her stocking…

P.S. – Though I won the contest, I can’t find the original story…sorry! It’s been several years and two computers since then. I have it in a physical file somewhere…in other words, it’s in some box under some bed which I’ll probably find when my kids are grown up and clearing out this house because they’re sending us to a retirement home.

Rudolf the Smooth-Nosed Reindeer

11 Dec
Our tree in all its glory.

Our tree in all its glory.

A few of my favorites.  The bird was my grandmother's, I believe.  I made the polka-dotted ball a few years ago...

A few of my favorites. The bird was my grandmother’s, I believe. I made the polka-dotted ball a few years ago…

My grandmother's Lifesaver clown.  I'm guessing the candy is...oh...about 35 years old!

My grandmother’s Lifesaver clown. I’m guessing the candy is…oh…about 35 years old!

I love unpacking our Christmas things. I don’t even mind the mess, when, for a few days, boxes and storage tubs fill the living room and I can’t get the tree sap off of my elbow. I love unwrapping the tissue from each special ornament – and, truly, each one is precious to me. The ones I’ve had since childhood, the ones my grandmother or mother or sisters made, the ones my children created, the ones that carry memories of places and people – some who are no longer with us – that speak to me of family and friends and love…

The tree was a Grandma creation - the fabulous gingerbread man was made by my niece, years ago.  My five year old daughter said, "This is kind of a weird ornament." I said, "I love it.  Hang it up."

The tree was a Grandma creation – the fabulous gingerbread man was made by my niece, years ago. My five year old daughter said, “This is kind of a weird ornament.” I said, “I love it. Hang it up.”

Okay, enough schmaltz. But, really, I do love them. I just am not usually so gushy about it. I’ve told my husband – more than once – that if we ever have a fire, getting out the Christmas boxes is his number one priority. After the kids, that is. And my computer. And my Cutco knives.

Boo made the white "bell" this year.  She was attempting to make a snowflake and then decided that it was actually a bell.

Boo made the white “bell” this year. She was attempting to make a snowflake and then decided that it was actually a bell.

I love taking every day things and making them ornaments...like this antique cookie cutter!

I love taking every day things and making them ornaments…like this antique cookie cutter!

My son has picked up my tendency to use non-ornaments as ornaments.  Though, to be sure, I wasn't aware that the Death Star from Star Wars was very Christmasy...still, it's quite marvelous!

My son has picked up my tendency to use non-ornaments as ornaments. Though, to be sure, I wasn’t aware that the Death Star from Star Wars was very Christmasy…still, it’s quite marvelous!

Well, the knives can be replaced. But not so the Christmas decorations. There are some which should be replaced, probably. Like the Rudolf which came as a gift tie-on when I was a kid from one of those cheese-sausage-and-petit-four companies. I loved that Rudolf. I played with him so long that his fuzzy, sprayed-on red nose rubbed off and even my kids think he’s hideous but I won’t ditch him. “Mom, why don’t you throw him away?”

“Because he’s part of my history!” I replied, shocked, as I held him gently the other day. And then I put him back in the box rather than in the “to be put on the tree” pile.

Okay, now do you see why he's not on the tree?

Okay, now do you see why he’s not on the tree?

“Aren’t you going to hang him up?” the kids asked.

“Nope,” I said. “I’ve seen him. That’s enough.” They shook their heads at the unexplainable ways of their mother. I smiled to myself as I remembered making Rudolf run across piano keys and the branches of the 15 foot Christmas trees my dad would cut down from up the mountain behind our house. Those trees – so tall that they had to be tied to the beams across our cathedral ceilings – were part of my childhood too. Tossing Rudolf would be like tossing the memories. And, really, how much room does one four-inch Rudolf take up in the box? Please don’t answer that question.

This is Oscar.  I've had him since I was wee.  I've had to replace his shell a few times...

This is Oscar. I’ve had him since I was wee. I’ve had to replace his shell a few times…

My husband's aunt recently gave us this - it was his grandmothers.  A lovely reminder of a lovely woman.

My husband’s aunt recently gave us this – it was his grandmothers. A lovely reminder of a lovely woman.

So many of our ornaments were made by loved-ones. My grandmother would make us all a felt, sequined ornament each year. As she aged, they became increasingly less fancy and also increasingly…odd…but that was okay. I love the tassel octopus just as much as the others. Though, admittedly, if I’m hanging the ornaments it will possibly be placed strategically at the back of the tree. The back needs covering, too!

Two of my grandmother's creations, made in her prime.

Two of my grandmother’s creations, made in her prime.

The stocking was made by my aunt years ago.  I made ones for my family to match.  The marvelous snowman is one of my favorites made by my mother.

The stocking was made by my aunt years ago. The marvelous snowman is one of my favorites made by my mother.

My kids, of course, have been notorious for hanging ornaments on one branch. I think I counted 13 on one tiny twig one year. The older two don’t really do that anymore, but Boo, at age five, still does a little bit. I love it, though. But, yes, I admit that I tend to spread the love a bit after they go to bed. 13 is just a few too many for two inches of twig to handle. But I’m not nuts about moving their stuff. I want it to be their tree…not some magazine-perfect, untouchable thing.

A couple of my newer Swedish finds.  I love these, too!

A couple of my newer Swedish finds. I love these, too!

I always thought our tree was beautiful. Then I looked back at photos from previous years and suddenly it occurred to me that, possibly, it wasn’t as gorgeous as I thought it was. But who cares? I love it as it is and that’s what matters, yes?

The snowflake my middle sister made, the heart our oldest sister made.  The blue ball is my son's work of art, the girl on the swing is from Okinawa in the 60's and the wonderful candycane rocking horse was another of my grandmother's amazing creations.

The snowflake my middle sister made, the heart our oldest sister made. The blue ball is my son’s work of art, the girl on the swing is from Okinawa in the 60’s and the wonderful candycane rocking horse was another of my grandmother’s amazing creations.

More of my sister's handiwork.

More of my sister’s handiwork.

My oldest sister's work again.  Oh, to have her sewing machine!

My oldest sister’s work again. Oh, to have her sewing machine!

And my kids love it, too. All three of them. They corrected me several times when I mistakenly identified certain ornaments as belonging to so-and-so but really they belong to someone else entirely. They know. And someday, when they head off to homes of their own, they’ll have a stash of their very own ornaments to decorate their trees with and I’ll be stuck with the tassel octopus.

Oh, and Rudolf of the rubbed-off nose.

This was from 2009 - looks pretty much the same!

This was from 2009 – looks pretty much the same from year to year, only with a few new ornaments hanging from its evergreen branches.

The obligatory night shot.

The obligatory night shot.

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