Oh jingle joy, Christmas is nearly upon us and there is still a to-do list with items not checked off. But I’m a pro at time management, something my retired fire chief husband still doesn’t comprehend, so I’m not fretting. Instead, I’m focusing on our family get together when our small clan gathers to eat copious amounts of Knorr vegetable dip, deviled eggs, fresh pineapple and pie.
One of the centerpieces of my holiday buffet is a fresh pineapple. I take the top with the green pointy leaves and use that like a small Christmas tree. With toothpicks, I decorate it with cherries, small cubes of pineapple, and mini-sized candy canes. Placed in a large shallow bowl, I surround the pineapple tree with the ripe juicy fruit. The littlest kids think this is just the best and it’s kind of a cool way to get them to eat something wholesome instead of just diving into sweets.
My last remaining Aunt, who I call “The Last Aunt Standing,” will grace us with her presence contributing her homemade cupcakes and warm motherly smile. She is without a doubt a Lady Madonna (in the traditional sense not the pop icon persona). Mother of six, grandmother of eight, her well-honed homemaking skills are from decades of loving practice. She is getting older of course, as we all are. I dare not look too far into the future knowing her absence will be sorely felt. No, I won’t do that to myself when she arrives with her daughter, my cousin, smelling of Jean Naté and Covergirl and hugging me in an embrace her demure figure belies.
My granddaughters, who are cousins that do not regularly see one another any longer, will be sizing each other up, commenting on each other’s lovely hair and make-up, asking how school is going for those still enrolled and laughing over past capers when as small children my house was their playground and closets were Narnia-like.
One of my favorite memories is when the kids were spending a sleepover weekend. Those visits always included hide-and-seek. My husband would take the oldest to help her find the perfect spot since being bigger also meant having a harder time concealing herself. Well, the minutes passed and I, along with the other ‘IT’ found everyone else, couldn’t find Pepe and his charge. We all went searching, but to no avail. My house is not large, so options quickly ran out. Finally deciding we’d check the closet that housed the washing machine and drier, even though there couldn’t possibly be any room for the two of them to squeeze in, we popped open the doors to find my husband and the granddaughter on top of the machines. The devilish look on their faces, especially my husband’s, is a gift that keeps on giving every time I think of it. Suffice it to say that my granddaughter has that dear memory, too.
I wasn’t going to put a tree up this year, but the holiday spirit overcame the bah-humbug which always plays out on opposing shoulders. The small tree is now set in an alcove between the dining and living rooms out of harm’s way from the puppy that dominates our days. I am the guardian of five ornaments that once belonged to my maternal grandmother, a woman none of us knew. Mary Ransom Billard died at the age of 56. My Mother came into possession of the fragile ornaments, and I’ve had them for many years now, passed along when Ma no longer put up a tree. Those precious pieces – a pear, two nuts, a Santa, and a plum – always go at the very top of the tree in places of honor
When my son got married fifteen years ago, I gave him the ornaments that were from the trees of his youth. He has Garfield and Mickey, faux-gingerbread houses, some Star Wars figures, Superman, and construction paper creations from his early school days. How I love those.
This week I’ll take a small, fully-decorated tree to my Mother in the nursing home. That altered universe where she has lived for many years now will be festooned with sparkling decorations, and red and green will dominate the color scheme for a few weeks. Every effort will be made to bring comfort and joy to the residents in spite of the obvious reason why they are there. I’ll try not to cry as my inner dialogue will be to enjoy what I can of my time with her because most likely this is her last Christmas. You reach an age where you accept that your parents are not going to always be around and then possibly given their deterioration, hope for their sake that is the case. But it isn’t easy. So I’ll bring the tree, spend some time with her on Christmas day, massage her hands with lotion, and tell her ‘I love you’ while I can.
I’m not into dressing up the dog or putting up a Christmas stocking for him filled with doggie treats. I appreciate him, but don’t subscribe to him any human emotions. But he will get a new chew toy. This guy, small as he is, is a power-chewer. Since I’ve spent no less than $500 on professional training to be a really good dog owner, he doesn’t chew the furniture, but man-oh-man he works out on his toys. He also loves raw carrots. There is always a carrot stub lying about like some orange treasure waiting to be found. And when he does find those lost bits, he pounces on them like prey. Yeah, I know, I need to get a life.
What to get my husband has become increasingly more difficult over the years. First and foremost, if he needs or wants something, he just gets it for himself. When I was still a full-time wage earner, I had my little secret stash of cash from which I could dip and purchase him a surprise. Now he scans the on-line banking and credit card activity, so I can’t hide anything from his CFO eyes. Maybe I’ll shop for him on Christmas Eve when he is less likely to check the card. Or I’ll just put a red bow on his last purchase and wish him Merry Christmas. Ho, ho, ho.
I’ve been crocheting scarves for everyone. Now I know that is a very old-fashioned thing to do, but someone has to keep up the old crafts. Yet everything old is new again and there are many websites and places where younger people can learn this type of sewing. My Mother taught me, but I was a pretty bad student. I just didn’t have the patience or interest in learning all the fancy stitches or how to read a pattern which is a language all its own. No, I only learned the very basic stuff. My expertise produces items that are either square or rectangle shaped. Hence I select yarns that are different and fine so that the final product will have some visual interest masking my lack of talent. I’m hoping the carpal tunnel pain that seems to be developing in my right hand will hold off long enough to complete them all. With one and half scarves left to go, I don’t want to be sidelined for the rest of the playing season like a football player we all know.
When all is said and done, when the decorations are packed and returned to the attic for another long slumber, when the gifts have been distributed as the signs of love we often times forget to say during the course of the year, when the fight to lose the pounds layered on from way too much holiday food once again presents the ‘biggest loser’ challenge to a body that is becoming increasingly less accommodating to exercise – ahhhh, I’ll take a deep cleansing breath and be glad because these are a few of my favorite things.
By Marilou Newell