Thursday, 19 December 2013

Fast Away

It’s a beautiful, beautiful day. A softly pink-striped dawn has given way to mild sunshine and a sky of baby blues and wispy whites. The extreme cold has (temporarily) departed. A fine fluff of brand new, sparkly clean snow lies over everything. A fine day to put on the snowshoes and start making winter walkways. If it weren’t one week to Christmas, that is.  And so … the laundry is littering the basement stairs, my second cup of coffee is empty and I have a laundry room full of gifts that have to be dealt with before I can do the wash. Seems like a perfect time to write a post, don’t you think? If I were Mary Poppins instead of Mary G, the dirty clothes would pick themselves up and dance into the washer, the paper and ribbon would obligingly clothe the gifts, making perfect bows, and I could brew up some more java. But.

I am not Mary Poppins. I can’t sing a note, in fact. I was teaching words to carols to my grandkid this last two weeks and the look on her face from time to time as I murdered the tunes was classic. On the other hand, I have had a brand new washer installed while I was away grandkid minding and it is much faster than the old one, with better temperature options too.  Also, I love wrapping presents, all to a theme, and placing them artistically under the tree. This fussing lasts only as long as it takes the family to arrive and pile all of their gifts in any old how, but it looks pretty before this happens.
All the decorations are up, even the bow on the mailbox, and the storage boxes moved back to the basement. I have found, after some panic, the container of Christmas table clothes and napkins. I have all of the special foodstuffs I will need for Christmas dinner except for the turkey and it is ordered for pickup on the 23rd

One of the things I like about Christmas, silly as it seems, is that it is a deadline. Crunch time. Everything must be done, arranged, ready by the 24th. I work better under pressure as many procrastinators do. Give me lots of time and I will dither and fiddle. Give me a firm date and I will manage. My poor daughters are both running under the gun at this point, with too many things to do and all sorts of pressure; the ED is philosophical about things but hates the pressure although the YD is more like me and goes into a fine whirlwind of Getting It All Done. The grandkid is more like her mother – the presents I helped her create are already wrapped and ready. This is not heritage from me, for sure, although my own mother was like that. What gets passed down from generation to generation is endlessly fascinating.

As many of our family’s holiday traditions are passed down. My husband hates the Mylar tinsel that has replaced the older, stiffer kind. So we do not tinsel the tree any longer, even though tinsel was a big part of our decoration for many years. The grandkid looked at our tree and declared it needed tinsel, grinned and said ‘Each strand must hang by itself.’ That rule came from one of my aunts, who was a master at decorating anything, and to hear it from the next generation was both funny and nostalgic. The things we pass along, mostly inadvertently, to the next generation and onward are truly weird.

When I was first married we bought all new decorations for our first tree, a stark arrangement of silver and white balls that suited my idea of modern and only mine. But after my mother died all of her decorations came to me, some of them glass balls that I had bought for her as a child when they first returned to the market after the 2nd World War. These decorations are now all on my tree and it is a kaleidoscope of colour and mixed themes. Lovely.


(The blue ball lower right is probably over 60 years old. Pile of gifts to be added! Later!)

And the wash is still festooned all down the basement stairs. Deadline time!

What are some of your decorating traditions?


  1. what a delightful post. I also love that Christmas is a deadline. I'm a party planner and I do love a big family party. Christmas is my favorite time of the year because I get to plan the biggest party of the year.

  2. Well, there was the severed head that traditionally hung from my In-laws' tree. Does that count?

  3. Our (ie Sue's) decorating begins early. There are decorations all over the place but only a small, pre-lit tree in this little house. We always have a tree decorating party, but this is now done at Shauna's house. The passing on of traditions is fun to see. Although this is not a Christmas tradition, I remember Shauna once (not too long ago) admonishing me to "clear your work surface" before beginning to cook. This is exactly what her mother says. every now and then I do just that.

  4. Ah, Parkinson's Law! "The amount of work expands to fill the time allotted." I am a follower also, sadly. Today is present wrapping day. My decorating is done (including a tinseled tree!), my foodstuffs bought for the family Christmas Eve open house, and the stockings are hung by the chimney with care. I would love to go ahead and put all presents under the tree now, but my boys (ages 25 & 28) insist that they not appear until Christmas morning, just like always. They are sticklers for that tradition.

  5. we don't use glitter here, Rory hates it! I used to love it, but am adapting :) We are still developing our traditions, but putting up the tree early, and taking it down the day after christmas, are definitely on our list of traditions even now :) Have fun! I hear you guys have a heck of a lot more snow than our 0 inches... :)

  6. Lovely post, so evocative. The oldest ornament we have was given me as a child by my grandmother. It is silver and has my name engraved on it. I guess it's 44 years old or so.

  7. Sarah, that's a real treasure, even if you have to polish it.
    Katy, we have a lot of snow - crunchy stuff, alas. I stupidly bought cards with glitter this year and I may take Rory's position in future.
    Nance, I try to have 'days' but Parkinson's Law is fully in effect here. My 40 something daughters need everything to be just the way it always was.
    AC, we have has a few tree decorating parties and I love them.
    Lynda, what?
    Kelley, yes. Ours is pretty laid back, but the grandkid (and the dog) are both pretty quiet. I bet yours rocks.