Merry, Moving Memories

christmas_movieBy the time the clock strikes Christmas Eve in a few days, most of us have watched more than our fair share of holiday movies. Thanksgiving weekend alone, the annual kickoff for all things merry, aired enough sugary Christmas movies to replace the pecan pie. The year I binge-watched Hallmark Countdown to Christmas on a snowy weekend, I vowed, that from then on, to set limits on the saccharine sweet bits that populate the season like sprinkles on a sundae. There’s just so much of that stuff you can inhale before your sugar high propels you to la la land.

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” A Christmas Carol

When my kids were small, we nailed all the prerequisite family holiday movies, Rudolph, Frosty to Charlie Brown Christmas. We watched them all – from animated fun to traditional Yuletide schmaltz. We cheered the Grinch’s change of heart and Rudolph’s blinking red badge of individuality. But, like anything else, an overdose of sweet can put your teeth on edge. Maybe that’s why Christmas movies come only once a year. You need time to regroup before getting your annual fix of contrived cheer.

As I grew older and kids flew the coop, shows like Santa is Coming to Town — left. Grown-up shows rang in the season but didn’t always ring my bells. My house didn’t quite measure up to the Martha Stewart-like holiday décor that draped over every available space in every Hallmark movie. All that perfection can be exhausting.  My Christmas lights would never measure up to Clark Griswold and my slowly morphing monochrome color schemed house (think coastal, remember?) would disappoint any self respecting North Pole resident.

I was beginning to like letting my not-so-inner graphic designer out,  the kid with a ‘more white space’ and Pantone color palette in mind. Still, I’d watch those Hallmark movies with a certain amount of wistfulness — and curiosity. Did you ever notice how that snow, that fell artfully on coats and hats never melted? Somehow, hairdos that were pelted with the white stuff never ended up with the wilted, wet dog look I got after snow showered me. And those dollhouse movie towns, bedecked in snow globe perfection. Doesn’t everything seem just a little too blindingly bright, a little too magical? Any resemblance to the world I live in is purely coincidental.

“Welcome, Christmas, while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.” How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Living in a less than picture perfect world is not a bad thing; it’s a real thing. Unlike a Hallmark holiday-wrapped movie, life isn’t perfect but it’s mostly good, even blessed, not with fairy dust but cookie crumbs, crayon marks, dog hairs and milk (or wine) spills. Still, those Christmas movies, heartfelt or cheesy, come with something for everyone, including a good shot of holiday spirit. Forget the recycled plots and inexorably happy endings. It’s the life lessons, the timeless moral fables that sucker me back in each Christmas season. Continue reading

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Deck the Tree . . . with DIY

YesI_CanMy Christmas tree is not a family affair. It used to be when kids, pets (even hamsters and fish) filled the house, but the empty nest arrived, so did the anal graphic designer mom. Even my poor husband, who once upon a time gamely offered to assist, gave up. He realized there was a light stringing game plan that didn’t include haphazard laying on of strands. I suspect, however, he became more than happy to volunteer help from the safe distance of the couch, contentedly watching Antiques Roadshow. And I’d bet real money that he counted on his finicky wife not taking him up on his offers to help.

Back in the day, when little kids reigned in my house, when gingerbread houses were built, advent calendars were opened and elves, Santas and reindeer abounded, my tree might have been described as eclectically homey. I was less concerned about matchy-matchy and more interested in making sure the dog didn’t swipe candy canes off bottom branches. When a cat replaced the dog, wire securely anchored the tree to the wall so our artistic greenery didn’t crash in the furry alpine climber’s race to the top.

The winter I awaited my last baby was a long, freezing one, complete with a blizzard that snowed us in. My girlfriend and I, two very pregnant chicks, decided to keep our already busy selves occupied with sewing and stuffing pre-patterned patchwork ornaments. At the time, they seemed like puffy masterpieces, maybe even ‘shabby chic’. Now they only qualify as shabby. The hardy few that survived all the years since my baby became a parent herself, earned their places on discreet bottom tree branches of my tree, along with two worse-for-wear drummer boys from my childhood tree. Many ornaments have retired, not so much from age discrimination but an inability to assimilate cosmetically. In other words, they are the plaid bellbottoms of ornaments.

Ornaments with aching sentiment are a completely different story. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, the more they are loved, the more cherished they’ve become. My granddaughter, who will be married next year, made an oversized padded and lace ruffled heart ornament in kindergarten, complete with sewn little charms. Okay, now it has drifted toward the back of the tree, it will always be there and always treasured. A photo of each child and grand, in funky little frames, dot the branches, as well as their grandpa, who is and always will be, front and center. Next to his framed picture, hangs a proud silver knight, symbolic of my guy’s crazy collection. The first Christmas Eve without him, the string of lights beneath those ornaments began to blink. Not all the strings of lights, not even a few rows – just this one section. The following morning, the lights stared me down unblinkingly. If that wasn’t a mischievous sign from beyond, I don’t know what is. Continue reading

Fa-la-la-la Humbug

Christmas-Carols-1960-billboard-650

I love Christmas. Tiny white lights. Magically delicious treats. The smell of fir branches and my oh-so-cool sentimental tree. I have a real soft spot for Yuletide giving and the yearnings for peace. I’m a regular holiday maven, except for one little glitch – Christmas carols. I know it’s heresy, kind of like not liking puppies or butterflies, but I’m just not a fan of schmaltzy holiday tunes. By the time New Year’s Eve rolls around, I’m kinda glad the last of those cheerful ditties have left the building. Does that make me a Scrooge wannabe? Nah. I just can’t get into the jingle bell groove. (And you thought I was all sweetness and light. Hah!)

When I was little, I sang about Rudolph’s blinking red nose with the best of them. My first grade holiday concert saw me chucking Styrofoam snowballs from the pockets of my angel costume, while singing Winter Wonderland. Not sure that thrilled an unsuspecting audience, who had to field those white awkward orbs. But then again, I was 6 and it’s hard to get mad at a tiny snow elf with a missing front tooth, even if she is throwing plastic snowballs at you.

Through the years I didn’t shirk my holiday singing duties but, somewhere along the way, my enthusiasm detoured on life’s winding highway. Maybe my antipathy toward carols unconsciously sprung from many childhood holidays that were less than holly jolly. Like the festive glittering tree, few see the little crawly things that hide under the branches. When my babies arrived, Christmas took on a whole sweet, new meaning. I saw the holiday through their eyes and wanted to make theirs a wonderful sugarplum world. And while life is never perfect, I baked cookies like a champ and decorated our tree big time (the popcorn string has a story all its own) accompanied by, yes, cheery Christmas carols. When, then, did those holiday tunes hit a sour note? Continue reading