As I celebrate my 61st Christmas I think back on the past ones (that I can remember) and, not to be morbid, wonder how many more I will have.
Saturday, November 27, 2021
Friday, November 26, 2021
Thursday, November 25, 2021
Wednesday, November 24, 2021
Of all the senses, smell is supposed to bring back more memories. I cannot speak for everyone, but this is very true in my case. The smells of the holidays always bring back memories of Christmases long past. Sometimes it only takes a light scent to bring a warm memory to mind. There are times a smell is very familiar and I know there is some tie to my past, but for the love of me, I cannot place it.
The smell of clove brings back memories of the orange we would cover with cloves to create a sachet as a gift for our mothers. In my case, Aunt Kat always seemed more appreciative of this gift than Mama. Cinnamon brings back memories of the Orange Bigelow Tea my Aunt J'Nelle served to teach me how to properly drink hot tea and appreciate it. A slice of orange reminds me of the ambrosia we enjoyed at both my Granny's and my Grandmother's house at Christmas. (Totally different recipes.) An oranges take me back to Christmas morning as a child, when Santa always left 1 or 2 our stockings along with whole walnuts - go figure!!
Cinnamon and Clove together bring back memories of Russian Tea, that concoction of Tang, cinnamon, cloves, and lemon flavored tea. I cannot count the number of jars of this "Tea" I made and gave as gifts, as well as received. It was one of the few hot beverages I ever cared for. (Until I grew up and discovered Espresso and Cappuccino.)
A whiff of Vicks Vaporub brings back those nights as a child when I was sick with a bad cold. My Mama would put a dab of Vaporub in the old hot air humidifier, filling my room with a warm mist of mentholatum.
Citronella reminds me of outdoor summer suppers with my family. The brick patio would be surrounded with citronella candles to ward off the pesky mosquitoes.
The smell of Camellias and Sasanquas bring back memories of the bowls of Camellias we would have in the entrance hall from November through January. My Daddy was a serious gardener. One of his passions was breeding and grafting Camellias. So we always had bowls of fresh Camellias from our yard.
The perfume "Charlemagne", takes me back to my bedroom, one night in December of 1975 when I was getting dressed for a very special date.
One of the downsides of a lovely Leyland Cypress Christmas tree is the lack of scent. But, that could be handled with a can of "Fresh Royal Fir" by Claire Birke. Both the smell of a fresh Frazier Fir and a spritz of "Fresh Royal Fir" brings to mind Christmas trees of the past. A can of spray scent may seem a bit like cheating. However, it doesn't matter. Real or not, it is the smell that invokes the memory.
Tuesday, November 23, 2021
Monday, November 22, 2021
'Tis the Season - Right? The Season for family, friends, frolicking, and, most importantly, the pièce de ré·sis·tance - the Christmas Tree. Whether live and fresh or synthetic and artificial, it is the symbol of holiday hearth and home. There are many interpretations of this festive conifer. In the 60's there was the silver (aluminum) tree with the multi color light wheel projecting a parade of colors on the tree. These days, artificial trees come in a myriad of colors (without the light wheel) pink, blue, purple. There has been the tree that hangs upside down from the ceiling. I had a friend who would decorate a tree then burn it. (If nothing else, this made a statement). There are the "designer" trees where someone pays a small fortune for someone else to decorate their tree. Personally, I think this defeats the purpose.
There is "a tree in the Grand Hotel, one in the park as well, It's the sturdy kind that doesn't mind the snow". The largest tree I've ever seen is the one at Rockefeller Center. And, of course, the simple sad looking tree Charlie Brown had.
Whatever the type, most of us grew up with childhood memories of our family tree. As a child I cannot remember exactly when we got our tree. I do remember where - a tree lot off the St Matthew's Rd. You know, the traditional area outlined by white light bulbs strung from pole to pole. It was a Frazier Fir, if I recall correctly. It is was not from such a lot, it was from the Piggly Wiggly. After all, the first site of the Christmas trees lined up outside the grocery store announced the official beginning of the holiday season. Like many homes back then, we had the traditional tree lights of the time, the ones the size of your thumb when an entire string could easily heat a room. At High Acres, we had a simple Virginia pine that we cut down on the farm.
When our children were young, we selected and cut down our tree on a tree farm. Usually it was a Leyland Cypress. And, we always got it the Friday after Thanksgiving.
When the Christmas Tree farm we frequently used closed, we found another one, about an hour away. In addition to Leylands, they had several different varieties we tried over the years. There was the Noble Fir, supposed to be the "King " of trees. A truly beautiful tree that unfortunately lost much of its needles before Christmas day. There was also the Blue Spruce- a lovely tree with a blue Hue. Unfortunately, the branches were so prickly that by the time the tree was trimmed, our arms looked as if we had been in a cat fight, and the cat had won.
When our family joined the episcopal church, I was surprised to learn that the tree was not to be until Christmas Eve and stayed up until Epiphany, through the 12 days of Christmas. (Turtle Doves and all). Even as members of the church, we continued to put our tree up the Friday after Thanksgiving (and take it down before New Year's Eve). It was blasphemy but in the church's benevolence we must have been forgiven as we were never excommunicated.
Talking with friends, I find there are many traditions (and theories) about when is the right time to buy the tree. But, to each their own. Personally, given the amount of effort, time, and money, if the tree is not put up 4 weeks before Christmas, it is not worth the investment. So for me it is some time Thanksgiving week.
That being the case, this upcoming week is "The" week. Furniture must be rearranged, boxes and totes filled with lights, balls, and garlands brought out, a holiday playlist selected, and the "perfect" tree brought home. There will be the frustrating issue of getting the tree straight in the stand, rotating it to see the best side, untangling the lights, and then getting them straight on the tree. Too many lights on the top and we may run short at the bottom or vice a versa. At that point the process can slow to an enjoyable pace. I may take a day or 2 to carefully place each ornament on the best place.
I think we often fail to realize the joy of pulling each ornament from its box. For each individual ball, toy, or whatever has a story. I cannot speak for everyone, but I find myself cherishing each memory as I hang the ornament. It may be a ball with a glass opening that shows a miniature scene inside. In one case, it is Charlie Brown and Lucy ice skating. This was a special Hallmark ornament from the 70's I got as a child from Daddy's store. (Hard to believe that 50 years ago.) There are the ornaments collected from places traveled. The ones that were gifts from special friends. And, always the precious ones made of Popsicle sticks, glue, and pipe cleaners.
There are the glass balls I found on sale when we trimmed our first tree. I never thought of the expense of trimming a tree until the Christmas of 1982 when got our first tree. It was only then I realized that it would take patience and time to collect enough ornaments to properly decorate our tree. From this lesson I started a tradition of giving our granddaughters ornaments each year for Christmas so they will at least be a bit more prepared for their first tree than we were.
So each year's tree is a labor of love, a family tradition, a trip down memory lane, as well as the ultimate decoration that is the center of the home's holiday tradition. Then like something akin to a castle on the beach that awaits its fate by the change of the tide, in a manner of weeks, the process will be reversed, and everything will be put back up, moved back out, and the tree retired to the rubbish or recycle bin. We will be as glad to see it go, as we were thrilled when it was first put up.
Sunday, November 21, 2021
I recently learned that Julian Fellows has come through again. It has been announced that there will be another Downtown Abbey movie to be released in March 2022 - Downton Abbey - A New Era. Based in the 1930's, it continues the saga of the Crowley family.
But there are questions:
Who are the newly weds shown briefly in the trailer - perhaps Tom and Lucy who met when the King and Queen visited Downton?
Just who was this mystery man of the Dowager Countess Violet's past? Were there more men in her life than the Earl of Grantham and Prince Kuragen? Is this who she visited when she disappeared to the south of France to get over being offed the Hospital Board?
What are George, Caroline, Sybil, Marigold, and Edith's second child up to?
Does Micheal Gregson reappear having been lost in Germany with amnesia since before the Great War, and complicate Edith's life? Or does Bertie tire of her and move onto another lady? Perhaps the Duchess of Kent? (Poor Edith)
Does the great house become way too expensive to manage and the family sell it to the Catholic church to be run as a home for wayward women (with Lady Isabel Merton - nee Crowley running the show)?
Do Daisy and Andy marry and turn Mr. Mason's tenancy into an organic jam operation?
Do Mr. Mason and Miss Patmore find true love?
Who is the glamorous blond who appears briefly in the trailer entering the Abby?
What becomes of Thomas's relationship with the King's Valet?
Do Violet and Maude make pretty and move to the South of France?
And who owns the yacht? Perhaps Harold?
Oh, so many questions. A lot can happen in the years between the mid 20's and mid 30's.
Here is the trailer: Downton Abbey - A New Era
Saturday, November 20, 2021
Most of you know I was brought up in South Carolina, a state where "winter" weather is limited to 6 weeks in February and March. Maybe every 4 or 5 years snow will fall, generally just enough to cover the ground and cause mass pandemonium.
All that said, my mother had certain ideas in her head of things that were proper. Not necessarily practical but proper.
There was a piece of "Winter" apparel Mama thought I needed to have and use. Beyond a scarf and gloves which were rarely used, Mama decided I needed a muff, a full white rabbit hare muff.
For those of you not familiar, a muff is defined as "a tube made of fur or other warm material into which the hands are placed for warmth". Such as this one as seen in the 1880's, in Europe where there is a true cold winter 4 months of the year. Memories of the snowy sleigh scenes in Dr. Zhivago come to mind, not the "chilly" winter days in South Carolina where the temperatures rarely drop below 40.
Friday, November 19, 2021
Every once in a while random thoughts go through my mind - not necessarily world peace type thoughts or questions of the universe. But, there are some things I just have always wondered about.
I'm pretty sure pigs don't fly but do the cows ever come home?
How actually mad does a hen get when doused in water? Does it take dogs and cats?
Exactly how drunk was Cooter Brown any way?
And, just who was Sam Hill?
I didn't know frogs had hair, if so it must be pretty fine.
Do grasshoppers have knees?
And, God help us if that creek ever crests.
Can the pot and kettle really speak, and, if so why is the kettle black?
What is the difference between a doohicky, thingamajig and whatchamacallit?
Certainly a cat would know better than to walk across a hot tin roof.
Is there a antonym for "Highfalutin"?
Thursday, November 18, 2021
Do I look like I care? Seriously!
A day or 2 ago I was in line at the grocery store. The lady checking out 2 folks ahead of me, apparently did not realize that she would have to pay for her groceries. So after the cashier had checked her out and filled her bags, the customer started digging into her large purse to find, of all things, her check book. Then there was the issue that she seemed to have misplaced her pen.
Meanwhile the lady in front of me had a toddler in her buggy. She was on her mobile chatting - fairly loudly. "Well honey, I'm sorry but I figured you would not have the day off." Silence. "Sweetheart, you work in retail, that's the day after Thanksgiving - Black Friday. No one at the mall will have that day off." Silence. "No, I know you cannot drive 6 hours home Wednesday night, then 6 hours back Thursday. It makes no sense." Silence. "No, I'm afraid I cannot buy you an airline ticket." Silence. "I'm sorry, but I just can't." Silence. "Honey, I just can't."
Now, to get the full picture, the entire time of the phone call, the toddler was throwing a toy on the floor, and crying for her mother to pick it up. The mother would pick the toy up (all the while continuing her phone conversation) and give it back to the child, saying,"Don't do that." But, the child immediately did just that. After several of these out bursts, I wanted to grab the toy, put in in my bag, and inform that child that if she cried again, Santa Claus was not coming. But, I held my tongue, after all the child was not mine - thankfully. And, obviously the child and the mother would repeat this exercise until the child tired of throwing the toy down and having a fit.
When her phone call ended, the lady turned to me and announced, "She just hung up on me." As she put her phone back in her purse, she continued,"That was my oldest daughter. She just got her first job at a mall and thinks she should have Black Friday off." She stopped, picked the toy off the floor, gave it to the child and admonished her that 'If she did that one more time. . .'
She continued her story. "She has been our problem child and I have just had to do tough love. She makes poor choices. She dropped out of school. She is living in this horrible little place in a sketchy neighborhood. The boy she dates is horrible. And, this is her first job - at 19. Now she is upset about missing Thanksgiving." Just then, the mother turned to the toddler and once again told her, 'Not to do it again.'
I looked ahead and hoped the older lady had found a pen, written her check, took her groceries and left. But, alas, it was not be, she was chatting with the cashier. At this point, I wanted to wake up from this frustration dream. But, the sound of the toy being thrown on the floor, made me realize it was not a dream, just a nightmare in real life.
The mother continued,"I just don't know what we are going to do with her. She just makes poor choices. I just don't understand. I have given her everything - given her money, a car, and paid her rent. She keeps saying she is going back to college, but this boy she lives with doesn't want her to. Thankfully, she finally has a job."
Just then she realized that the lady ahead of her had moved on and she needed to get her groceries on the counter and check out. Thankfully that turned her attention away from me. Just when her groceries had been bagged, the toddler, once again repeated her throw-the-toy-on the floor- and cry routine. The cashier was losing patience. I did not fault her. The lady turned to the cashier and laughed, "I guess I need to pay." She opened her purse and started rumbling around, I assume to find her wallet.
As she did, she looked at the cashier and started up, "I'm sorry, but my oldest daughter just called. She's upset because she cannot come home for Thanksgiving. See, she has made poor choices. . ."
All I could think was - Shoot me now. I need to develop a visage that shouts, "Don't share - I really don't care!"
Tuesday, November 16, 2021
This is the time of the year when we start thinking about the new year coming up. Just saying 2022 is as if one is talking about the distant future. 55 years ago, I pictured life in 2022 like the Jetsons lived. Certainly by now, we would having flying cars and robotic maids. (Well, thanks to Hazel, at least one of those is true.)
But rather than go to the future, I find we are more likely looking back to the past for comfort. Remember the days when one could visit anyone anywhere with no concern over vaccinations and masks? Think of the family holiday get-togethers when our only trepidation was Uncle Howard showing up, three sheets to wind telling his very inappropriate jokes about the fairer sex and politics.
As I age, I long for the family Christmas dinners of years past. The one with my mother's family that was always a great time. My brother and I got to see our cousins and run free through my grandparents' rambling home. As a younger child, it was Christmas on their farm in Marlboro County. My memories of those holidays were of a dining room table covered with dishes of wild game my grandfather brought home, and all the other familiar foods of a holiday dinner. Thankfully the distant memories of those days are well documented on the home movies my father took.
Christmas dinner on my Daddy's side was a whole different ball game. My brother and I were the only grandchildren, and according to my Aunt Kat and Granny, we could do no wrong. This visit was always a quiet affair until Auntie (my 300 pound Great Aunt) showed up with her ever present pack of Salem cigarettes and off colored stories. Then the fun really began.
Those years until now seem like a movie reel that is running at reckless speed - way too fast. As we age time really does go by faster. (I wrote a post about that phenomenon a while back.) Just when we are mature enough to appreciate every minute of everyday, we find they passing at lightening speed.
This year I only yearn for our "old" norm - days when we will no longer be confined by a pandemic. Now I am frustrated by the knowledge that this could quickly go back to that normal if more of the country's population would get vaccinated. But, I digress.
Once again, I am looking backwards to get to the future, hoping time slows down, and trying to enjoy every day before it slips away.