Tag Archives: Christmas

Epiphany

January. I don’t have much use for it; hate it, really.

January is a dark and cold reminder that we’ve eaten too much, drunk too much, spent too much, perhaps slept too little, for way too long. Boom. The scale. The credit card bills. Dry, cracking, pasty skin. Freezing pipes.

Every January I’d like to turn myself inside out and hide until the first crocus peeps through the thawing ground.

Not today.

Call me nuts, but today I added about 20 Christmas cards, which have trickled in over the last two weeks, to our sprawling display. Every year I use nearly two full rolls of masking tape to affix incoming cards to the molding around the doorways in our home. One hundred seven in all this year–so far.

Today it hit me. One hundred seven people or families expressed their love and good wishes – to us!

One hundred seven people went to the time and expense to buy or hand-make cards. Some signed their names or wrote lengthy personal notes. Some even addressed envelopes. They spent 46 cents apiece for stamps. They went to the mailbox. To wish us a merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year.

Today, in the frigid darkness of the month I despise, I counted 107 expressions of good wishes. And, as I counted these blessings, I saw light. I felt warmth.

In the rush of opening the mail, we can forget that there is meaning in the wishes that honor the holy event we celebrate in December, and there’s immeasurable hope in the wishes for a happy and healthy new year.

Fellow January-haters: Let us thumb our noses at seasonal affective disorder by re-reading our Christmas cards (if they haven’t already gone out with our dried out evergreens) or remembering at least one person who wished us well, and appreciate how much we are loved.

And let there be light.

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Filed under Hearth and Home, Holidays

Tackier than thou

What’s the tackiest gift you received last year? Or ever?

Over the years, my family members and I have engaged fiercely in Olympic-level competitive gag-gift-giving.

My mother and I send each other kitsch personalized with names—of people we don’t know. She once sent me his and hers coffee mugs meant for “Dwight” and “Daisy.” In return, I bought her a doggie bowl from our church thrift shop, personalized for “Georgina.” Mom doesn’t have a dog.

My father and I have exchanged nativity scenes and other collectibles constructed of everything from neon-painted seashells to rusty beer caps.

My husband and I have passed the same can of Pepperidge Farm Vichyssoise back and forth for more than 25 years. Not exactly a tacky souvenir, but something neither of us wanted to keep. Obviously.

It’s my turn to re-gift a 32-year-old bourbon decanter in the likeness of the head of John Lennon. I’ve been mulling who in my life deserves such a treasure. So far, no one qualifies.

Those worthy relics notwithstanding, I’m here to announce that we might have a gold medal winner in this Kitchlympic event. You be the judges. Better yet – it’s not too late to submit an entry.

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Worst wishes

Words to consider as we face another season of long lists and short tempers:

In the season of good will,
If you find you’re wishing ill
To those who help you to prepare,
It’s time to stop and get some air.

This year I dedicate this ditty with apologies to clerks at CVS and FedEx-Kinko’s.

The design and production of our Christmas greetings hit some snags this year. I might be on the naughty list of a few retailers, though I’ve tried to walk the line between charitable kindness and insistence on reasonable service. It’s taken years of experience to recognize that, when I catch myself about to wish someone harm, I need to take a breath and shut up, let up and, if needed, give up and do the job myself.

My husband and I often enjoy designing our own cards, though our creativity waxes and wanes with the years. One of our best featured a picture of our son in front of Italy’s leaning tower, with a caption reading “Pisa on Earth.” Another good one featured the son, after not having seen a barber in eight months, with the caption, “Hairy Christmas.”

One year, I took my design to Ritz Photo, which lost the order, botched the order, lost it again, and then pretty much banned me from the store. Eventually, I cancelled the order and channeled my anger into a new hand-made card:

‘Twas the month before Christmas
When the Welch family went
To order the greeting cards
They’ve traditionally sent.

They chose a cute photo
Of their 10-year-old son.
From a year’s worth of pictures
They chose the best one.

They went to Ritz Photo,
A reputable shop,
To make a photo greeting
But, oh, what a flop!

Surely Ritz can do photos
(Or so one would think)
Who’d have known that their service
To High Heaven would stink?

The incompetence displayed
By the photo shop staff
Got progressively worse
With each stupid gaffe
(They messed it up so many times, one should laugh!)

But it wasn’t so funny
For the Welches, this time
As they felt their patience vanish
And their anger level climb.

Back and forth to the lab
The Christmas greeting was sent
And back and forth and back and forth
Into oblivion it went.

The Welches gave up,
It just wasn’t worth
The stress in this season
Of the Christ Child’s birth.

So with help from their computer
And the angels above
They send you this hand-made
Christmas greeting with love.

Come to think of it, most of the Ritz Photo stores in our area have since closed.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Holidays, Rants and Raves

Change of address

When my son was six, he lost a tooth on Christmas Eve.

What are the chances that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy would visit on the same night? Pretty slim, feared my son. The problem? We were 2,500 miles from home.

Suddenly the idea that the Tooth Fairy wouldn’t be able to find him was troubling. This fueled further doubt that Santa himself would be able to find us in Arizona. My child slept anxiously that night, but awoke to abundant reward.

As my son wondered how both Santa and the Fairy were able to find us in a nondescript condo we had rented for the week, I offered a plausible theory:  Mr. Claus and Ms. Fairy had both gone to our house in Maryland to find no one there. Santa had a full bag and the fairy had some heavy coins to leave, but they wouldn’t dream of making their drops in an empty house.

The two teamed up and searched for clues as to where Joseph might be. They noticed three suitcases were missing, and very little food in the refrigerator, and no cookies left out on a plate. Just then they happened upon a copy of our itinerary. When no hotel was listed, they followed clues–souvenir coffee mugs and refrigerator magnets to home in on the city and state, perhaps a return address label from a Christmas card–to Joe’s grandmother’s condo, right next door to where we were staying. Bingo, working as a dynamic duo, they solved the mystery and deposited the treasure.

We returned to Arizona 15 months later. Just before leaving for the airport, as my husband and I checked to be sure the stove was off and all the doors and windows were locked, I found a small piece of blue notepaper, marked in my son’s printing:

Dear Easter Bunny,

We are at the Hilton East in Tucson.

Love,
Joseph

It’s almost Easter; does the bunny know where you are?

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Matched set

A Boxing Day in the life of a word nymph:

She didn’t hit the mall at all this week, opting instead to stay home and gorge herself on fattening leftovers. She contemplated why a family of two—expanded to four for the holiday—needed three pecan pies, seven pounds of ham (after having cancelled her ham order when another appeared on the doorstep), a large turkey breast, two smoked salmon filets, two crates of oranges, and infinite cookies, truffles, nonpareils, candied nuts and salted caramels. She is now prepared for the Blizzard of 2012, when she’ll be cast in the role of Snowman.

She’s not just stocked with with comestibles, but with readables as well. She received several new wordie books this season, so prepare for meaty discussions on such things as Anguished English. Meanwhile, though, we find her struggling with storage:

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m the lucky recipient of a panoply of reference books on all things wordish. Readers from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Rome, Georgia, have sent me their treasured tomes, which I’m proud to display prominently in my office.

I have two bookcases here, one devoted to fiction and frivolity and another to my profession and my hobby, so intertwined that they mingle well on the shelves.

About halfway through this year, my collection of communications-related material officially exceeded its shelving capacity. I knew that a set of nice bookends would allow me to expand stylishly to the top of the bookcase.

When Santa was unable to process my request for bookends, perhaps because they were too heavy for the sleigh, I took matters into my own hands. For years I’ve considered what kind of decorative bookends would suit me best. This is where you come in.

For background, I almost feel as though I should take you on a tour of my office, much like Vanity Fair’s monthly spotlight on the contents of various celebrities’ desks, but I’ll save that for another day. For this exercise, let me say simply that my office features two predominant themes, reflecting my interests in the written word and international travel. There is also a host of old family treasures and several pieces of hand-made pottery of varying origin.

After Christmas I embarked on an online dig for the right bookends. I have a pair waiting in an Amazon.com shopping cart. Right now, they’re my first choice but, before I finalize the deal, I’d thought I’d solicit your input.

Here’s the space in which they will go, followed by five finalists. Which ones do you find most suitable for a well-traveled, slighly off-balance word geek?

The space

A to Z

Leaning Ladies

Porch of the Maidens Acropolis

Roman Colosseum

Stop Hand

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A tough act to follow

Over the last 10 days, I’ve approached the keyboard to spill my latest observations. I’ve started several blog posts, all of which remain unfinished, like the homework assignments of my less productive youth.

Each time, a distraction beckoned and I fled my desk chair—to tend to a client, an errand, a chore, a phone call, a doorbell, a cat, a newspaper, an egg timer, or a call of nature. Let’s just call it seasonal attention deficit.

A week’s worth of grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning are finished now, on the eve of December 23rd, as finally I sit quietly, with my feet on a pillow, laptop atop my lap, glass of wine nearby, committed to reflect quietly before the Yuletide.

It’s times like this I wish I could communicate with my late mother-in-law, who used to make the most wonderful Christmases.

Many years in a row, on December 23rd, we pulled into her driveway in Shelby, North Carolina, where the streets were lined with luminaries. We walked into the house to the smell of pot roast and pound cake. Her pound cake was the best, but at Christmastime, it snuggled beneath a warm blanket of caramel frosting. For days, she pampered us with our favorite drinks, savory hors d’oeuvre, special ordered breakfast ham, homemade pecan pie, ambrosia that took hours and hours to make. The house was beautifully decorated and the bed sheets crisp and line dried.

Christmas morning brought one thoughtful gift after another, perfectly wrapped. She would sit straight up, on the edge of the sofa, hands clasped between her knees, delighting in our smiles as we opened our gifts. Every year, after all gifts had been opened, she brought out one last surprise for each of the three of us, my husband, his brother and me. It was always the same sized box—three inches square, tied with an elastic gold ribbon, and holding inside a crisp one-hundred-dollar bill. She and my father-in-law likely didn’t have it to spare, but they knew how deeply we needed, wanted and appreciated it.

She allowed everyone to nap or watch sports until dinner and then again after the big meal, while she and her husband washed all the dishes.

When it was time for us to leave, she packed turkey sandwiches with Duke’s mayonnaise and sliced dill pickles wrapped in foil into a cooler, along with several cans of Coca-Cola (and occasionally a can or two of Schlitz) for the ride home, and waved good-bye from the porch.

As a young bride, I never gave the first thought to what kind of preparation this all required. She made it look so effortless. No sighing, no brow-wiping, no complaining, no asking for help in the kitchen.

She passed away right after Thanksgiving in 1993. After the funeral, her sister asked my help in cleaning out her things. We came to the closet where the Christmas decorations were stored. Her sister regarded the stacked boxes of glass balls and garland. She turned to me and said, “Nancy always hated Christmas.”

Nancy, if you can read this, please know you’re my hero and my inspiration. I’ve tried to make a beautiful Christmas for my family, as you did. I just can’t seem to control the sighing, brow wiping, complaining, or asking for help in the kitchen. How ever did you do it?

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December 22, 2011 · 11:13 pm

Crèching down

It isn’t 2011 years old, but the little replica is getting up there in years.

Our family crèche was bought in December 1959, just before I was born.

Every year that it is lifted from its tattered box, as it was yesterday, our nativity scene shows more wear. The stable has become unstable. A couple of figures have lost their hands, one of which remains attached to the end of a camel’s rein. Two animals are each missing an ear.

One shepherd has lost the bundle of twigs he once carried on his shoulder. I know where it is—behind a heavy buffet in our dining room. If we ever move, I must remember to retrieve it. In the meantime, it’s been replaced with a shred of mulch from the yard.

The roof is in terrible disrepair, resulting from angel-induced erosion. For the first 35 or so years of use, we affixed the angel—which has a hooked wire in its back—to the roof by poking the wire into the thatching.

One year, our young son asked why we attached the angel that way: “Why don’t we just hang it on the hook?” He pointed to a tiny loop in the ceiling, which none of us had ever noticed. Sure enough, that’s where the angel was meant to hang.

A few things have also been added.

In the 1970s, a plastic cow from my brother’s toy farm set joined the cast. In the 1980s, my husband added a plastic California Raisin to the trio of processing Magi—to proclaim that he had “heard it through the grapevine.” The raisin has since disappeared mysteriously.

Between this nativity scene and my frail and dusty birthday Washington Post, the 1950s-era relics are looking pretty badly aged. (Dare I look in the mirror?) Watch this space for more citings.

Speaking of things acquired in December, 23 years ago today, at 8:49 a.m., we welcomed one blessing of a boy into our little house. Happy Birthday, kiddo. (And thanks for locating that hook; you’re an angel.)

And to the rest of you, Happy St. Nicholas Day. Read what St. Nicholas’Day means to me, from the ‘Nymph one year ago.

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