‘Tis the season!
Or: The Permanent Maternal Record
Wicki-Yah: “My mother had a penchant for themed trees. Never having a lot of money, especially in the early years, she did her best to make each year’s tree unlike anything the neighbors (the Coffee Klatch bunch) had ever seen — without busting the bank, or having Dad threaten to bust her theme-tree-loving ways.
“Where she got her ideas from, I have no clue. While I am sure she thought about them all year long, they seemed to just jump into her head and out of her mouth early in the morning the Monday after Thanksgiving, as we were eating breakfast and Dad was distracted by his wristwatch. ‘Yes’ seemed to come easiest from his lips in the morning rush, and if there was one thing my mother understood, it was how to capture my father’s weak moments.
“A few trees stand out in my memory.
“There was the year of Red and White. Flocked to perfection, the tree was a wonder to behold, at least in my mother’s eyes. Bejeweled in red tinsel garland, the showstopper was dozens (and dozens) of large red 3M Sasheen ribbon bows, each identical in size and form. Mom spent hours on the bows — wrapping, snipping, tying and twisting each to perfection. There was a rumor in the neighborhood that 3M stock (and my frugal Dad’s blood pressure) went up that year. Sasheen was not cheap when you did not have a 3M employee in the house for the company discount. [Bulletin Board interjects: Too bad for your mom that she didn’t have one of these beauties!]
“Most memorable about that year was Christmas Eve, when Dad presented a gift to Mom topped with a huge red Sasheen ribbon, and a glaring ‘deflocked’ spot on the tree stared down at my mother, who had to decide whether to keep peace on the Holiest of Nights or raise a holy ruckus that Dad had stolen one of her bows.
“The Blue Tree also sticks out in my mind. Mom insisted on a blue-dyed tree, and decked it out in blue-toned ornaments, in colors from midnight to ocean blue, adding blue lights and a big blue star at the top. If I stepped back and squinted, she assured me, I would see her vision of Caribbean sea meets cloudless Minnesota-winter sky. Except I wasn’t sure what the Caribbean was. I said the blue ornaments and the blue lights, which lacked brightness, on a blue tree seemed wasted. Dad agreed with me, and she pouted through much of that Christmas of imperfection.
“It was not, I thought, her finest work, and I prayed we could go back to a normal tree like the Thompsons had. I hoped our school- and Girl Scout-made ornaments, which I was sure were stored in a box marked ‘Next Year,’ would finally be on display so the Coffee Klatch ladies could see how talented us kids were, too.
“But her failure to impress led my mother to double-down, and the next year was the Edible Tree. There would be no judge and jury this year; she decided to involve everyone, so that we all would have a stake in its success.
“She engaged my sisters and me (even the toddler) with Santa threats, popcorn bribes and sugar promises. We spent hours after school stringing cranberries and (eating) popcorn, until our hands were stained, our joints were numb, our fingertips bled and our bellies were bloated.
“A Christmas toy color book served as patterns and inspiration for the ‘ornaments.’ When it was done, the tree groaned under the weight of huge, coloring-page size, royal-iced sugar cookies. There was something from every kid’s wish list — from a red wagon to teddy bears in tweed vests to a curly-haired, green-eyed blond doll that looked very much like my baby pictures. Even Dad, who was usually seen in the kitchen only at dinnertime and manning the pancake griddle on Saturday mornings, gleefully got into the act. His contributions included a Lionel train engine that any little boy would give his right arm to own. Why, there was even a sugar-laden Red Ryder BB gun — over my mother’s protests, of course.
“When it was time for the Edible Tree to come down, Mom acquiesced to our pleas to cash in our IOUs (she promised!) for the right to eat the cookie of our choice. What we (and the cookies) lacked in good taste, we made up for in determination. When our teeth gave out, us kids got out the tools and hammered and chiseled our way through a giant cookie apiece.
“Mom has been at ‘the home,’ now for a few years, and her tree is a 2-foot tabletop model, bedecked in Boyd’s bears, collected in the last few years that she was independent.
“And so it goes that the Monday after Thanksgiving, she will ask if anyone knows what has become of her tree. She has, she announces with a flourish, decided to decorate it with bears.
“Her aides (whom she calls ‘my girls’) will haul her tree up from the basement and make a show of letting her direct them in perfect placement of each bear, with the ‘Love,’ ‘Peace’ and ‘Joy’ triplets placed in a line as if you were reading them left to right. And the large angel bear with the slightly crooked halo and the bent wing is always placed at the top of the tree over the protest of the new staff member, who has not yet been indoctrinated into what goes into a perfect tree: angel always at the top, even if it means you will have to use your cat-like reflexes several times a day to catch the tree as Mom grazes it with her wheelchair.
“Because my mother cannot remember from one visit to the next, she shows me the tree every time I visit, which is a few days each week.
“Her usually dull eyes shine when she introduces me to the bears, recalling where she bought each one, and how much she spent (Dad is still speaking to her from the grave about the need for frugality).
“‘Everyone who visits tells me my tree is the most beautiful they have ever seen,’ she always wraps up, glowing in the praise.
“We do not know what tomorrow will bring, but for today, I am blessed to give my mother the gift of Christmas Present, and to serve as the keeper of the memories of Christmas Past.
“Of all my regrets (which I try to keep to a minimum), when I see my mother’s eyes light up over the joy of a little tabletop tree, how I wish I had the year of the Blue Tree back. If I squint just a bit even now, I can see it. Hindsight is a powerful corrector of failed vision.
“May your regrets be few and your Christmas memories be as bright as red Sasheen ribbon on a flocked tree!
“Merry Christmas to you all.”
‘Tis the season!
Christmas Memories Division
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “This photo was taken the year when my baby daughter was old enough to hold my Magic Santa for the first time. The look on her face reflects exactly the way I felt when Magic Santa arrived at our house.
“Our neighbors were moving to California, and they gave me Gwendolyn (the doll who ate Wheaties) along with this precious Santa.
“His beard was so soft — and if I stared at him long enough, I just knew that he winked at me.
“He reigned beneath my folks’ Christmas tree until the year Mother gave him to me. He now sits at a place of honor on my fireplace mantel — and, yes, if you look at him long enough, he will wink at you.”
‘Tis the season!
And: Till death us do part
Little Sister reports: “I just finished watching ‘When Harry Met Sally’ . . . for about the hundredth time. What’s not to like? A good romance, some great humor, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, and the best scene ever: “‘I’ll have what she’s having!’ It’s hands-down my favorite holiday movie — my favorite movie of all time, for that matter.
“One perk to being retired before your husband is that you can curl up on any weekday morning or afternoon and enjoy those movies that drive him nuts. It isn’t the movie itself that he has a problem with; it’s just that once was enough for him.
“My thoughts are: A good movie is like a good book; I get untold satisfaction from revisiting them from time to time. Holiday movies especially fall into this category. Next up will be ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ then ‘A Christmas Story.’
“I’d better get busy. His holiday vacation starts tomorrow.”
‘Tis the season
Or: Immutable Laws of the Universe?
Grandma Paula reports: “I’ve been sick with some kind of virus for EIGHT DAYS! Today I feel a little bit better, so I figured I better get my indoor Christmas tree from the basement and put it together before it gets any closer to Christmas Eve.
“I opened the storage box and saw a note that I left for myself last year. I burst out laughing. Packed in with the tree were several plastic bags with strings of Christmas light. The note said: ‘Hi Paula, All of these light strings worked last year! Not the ones on the tree however!!’
“Darn it! The reason I started buying prelit Christmas trees is because I hate to put the strings of lights on the tree. I just wish the DARN tree lights would last more than TWO DARN YEARS!!😞
“I’m going to go lie down now.”
Jim Shumaker of New Richmond, Wisconsin sent us these pictures of “a few Trumpeter Swans, St. Croix River, St. Croix County, Wisconsin.”
Mr. Shumaker also sent us these photographs of “Otters on the Willow River, St. Croix County, Wisconsin. They are a beautiful animal!”
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: A few minutes with The Doryman.
“I like a slice of raw onion on my burger. It has to be a slice. The middle slice or two are the only ones I need. In my lifetime, I’ve thrown away a lot of onion ends. It’s not entirely my fault, but I always feel guilty doing it. The stores I go to sell single onions as big as your head, and the regular-sized ones come in bags of 12. It’s a conspiracy, I’m sure. The onion people took a page from the big-box home stores: They sell screws and bolts in packs of three. Need one or two? Buy three. Need four? Buy six.
“Some days I feel like Andy Rooney.”
Life as we know it (responsorial)
Snackmeisterin of Altoona, Wisconsin: “When I read Al B‘s description of his driver’s improvement class and the instructor’s question — ‘[H]ow often it is necessary to pass the vehicle ahead?’ — the first thing that popped into my mind was: ‘Usually only once.'”
The Hoot Owl of St. Paul: “Since one of us got a new metal license plate last month, we’ve been noticing how the state has begun its change from Minnesota license plates with three digits followed by three letters! All of the ones we’ve seen (and very few at that) begin with ‘M.’ So far we’ve seen: MAC, MAD, MAL, MAR, and then MBX.
“Has anyone else out there noticed this new trend? Just wondering.
“And why did the middle letter of the alphabet get chosen for the first series?”
Could be verse!
Or: Our times
Tim Torkildson: “From the Wall Street Journal: ‘Paper Planners in the Digital Age: Why We’re Still Addicted.’
“I keep a daily planner upon my messy desk;
“I find it very useful, and also picturesque.
“The tactile turn of pages gives me a sense of worth;
“Although to my cruel children it is a thing of mirth.
“A digital reminder is what they recommend;
“But I will not be pressured by any passing trend.
“My life is not held hostage by some distant murky Cloud;
“I’ll plan things out on paper just as long as I’m allowed.”
Band Name of the Day: The Santa Threats
Website of the Day, from The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “I never tire of these ‘goose bumpy’ videos.
“Merry Christmas . . . .”