There was a time when I had very few ornaments. Now we have far too many to actually put on a Christmas tree, but there are two that I’ve had since I was a child that always grace the tree and will always do so as long as I have the strength to decorate a tree. They are also the ugliest ornaments we own. And truth be told, one is not really an ornament.
The first ornament was, at one time, the angel that sat on top of the tree when I was a child. I loved that angel. It was beautiful. It had the softest, whitest hair I’d ever seen. To me it was Christmas — or the promise of Christmas.
One year my parents gave into my begging to take the angel to bed with me. I held her tight and slept with her all night long. In the morning I awoke to a bright red itching rash on my face, neck and arms. At first my parents didn’t know what was wrong, but eventually figured it out. The beautiful angel’s hair was made of spun glass and while I slept, bits of it must have broken off and pierced my skin, leaving the rash.
I still loved the angel, though, but never asked to take it to bed with me again. As the years went by the angel lost much of its beauty, including most of its hair and both wings. When I moved out on my own my mother gave me the angel for my tree and we always put her near the top of the tree just before we add the Christmas Fairy to the very top.
The second ugly ornament was, at one time, a fluffy duck with googly eyes. It was the first thing my brother ever gave me. He didn’t know he gave it to me because he’d just been born. My father picked it up in the hospital gift shop so I could have a present from my baby brother. I must have played with it a lot through the years, it must have meant a lot to me or why else would I have kept it once the eyes fell off and the bill wore away?
This ugly ducking is always one of the first decorations on our Christmas tree each year and, like the rash-giving angel, will continue to be placed on the tree for as long as I am around.
I love most of my Christmas decorations, but these two will always have a special place in my heart.
Warning — if you are at all sensitive to quickly moving animations, turn your images off now….
Back sometime in late June or early July I noticed something strange on my Google+ photos: many of them moved. And they were not videos. I did some investigating and discovered that Google was making gifs out of my photos. Without my knowledge or permission. Not that it was that important, but I really hate animated gifs. I thought they were ugly in the 1990s and I think they are ugly in 2013. They are distracting and take away all semblance of professionalism.
What Google was / is doing is taking photos that were shot within seconds of each other and stitching them together to make mini-animations. For instance I took a bunch of photographs of various family members holding my grand-nephew at a family picnic and when I saw them on my Google+ page the photos were all part of a new photo/animation/gif. (although the photos were there as well)
When I took a lot of photos of the flower girls and other children dancing at a wedding Google+ made a rather cute animation. (okay, not all the gifs are bad)
Then, a week or so ago I took a photo of Rupert in front of a snowy scene. What did Google+ do? Made it snow in front of Rupert. In the house.
A few days later I took a photo of a Christmas tree in Bethesda. Google made the lights twinkle. (okay, that was kinda cool).
I took a photograph of our Christmas tree, and again, Google made the lights twinkle.
So, while I don’t like most of the stitched together gifs, I don’t mind the twinkles.
I didn’t always dislike Valentine’s Day. In elementary school, when we used to exchange Valentine’s Day cards, I remember being excited to chose particular cards for whatever boy I happened to like that year and to read more into the messages of the cards I received from those same boys than was actually there. The mere act of inserting the small white envelopes into the handmade “mail boxes” of each student was exciting as was opening each card and reading the name on the back, then taking them home and sharing my excitement with my mom after school.
When I was a teacher, Valentine’s Day was one of those days that we often turned over to “room mothers” for planning, at least in public school. It was always a party day and the kids got high on too much sugar and anticipation. It was nowhere near as bad as Halloween (or the day after Halloween).
When I was a mother of young children, the days preceding Valentine’s Day created an anxiety in me second only to Halloween. At least I didn’t need to create two costumes. I did, however, have to make sure my kids got exactly the Valentine’s Day card packs to send their friends then get after them to write their names on the cards and address them to the children in their classes. I also often needed to send in a baked product for the Valentine’s Day party.
My husband and I usually exchange cards and small gifts on Valentine’s Day and I sometimes make a special meal for him. His cards are usually silly ones and mine used to be romantic. Last year his was romantic and mine was silly. We never go out for Valentine’s Day but we did once and it was a disaster.
It was when we were first dating and I assumed that all couples went out for Valentine’s Day — like it was an unwritten law. He, however, didn’t think this way and felt pushed into a situation in which he was uncomfortable. The evening was memorable in that my date was obviously angry for being there. After that I never pressured him into celebrating Valentine’s Day and this year I said we should do nothing. No cards. No flowers. No chocolates. No special meal either — he has Tae Kwon Do tonight.
One Christmastime, long, long ago there lived a schoolteacher. The schoolteacher had many students and these students came from many backgrounds. Many of the students gave small gifts to the schoolteacher as tokens of the holiday season. Some of the gifts the students gave the schoolteacher were handmade by parents. Some were bought at the dollar store. Some were purchased at department stores. Sometimes the parents spent too much on the gift for the schoolteacher. Sometimes they regifted something they’d been given. If the schoolteacher thought about the gifts years later, she would probably remember most of them and who she got them from. The school teacher may even keep some of the gifts she received from her students for many, many years. Some because they are genuinely useful. Others because she has fond memories of the student who gave them to her. And then there are the gifts from students whose parents were sort of celebrities at one time.
The Kissing Clauses was such a gift. It was a set of salt and pepper shakers shaped like Mr and Mrs Claus. They were both slightly bent at the waist, lips all a-pucker, ready to kiss each other. Not really exceptional — the family most certainly did not spend too much on the schoolteacher, but it probably was not bought at the dollar store and probably was not regifted. It was an average teacher gift from a sweet 6th grade girl. A sweet 6th grade girl whose father was an attorney in one of the most public court cases of the year — Bill Clinton vs Paula Jones. He was on Paula Jones’ side.
One recent night when the [former] schoolteacher put up her Christmas decorations she could not find the Kissing Clauses. The schoolteacher could not imagine a Christmas with out the Kissing Clauses so she looked one last time and found, behind the doll house in the knee-wall of the attic, a box of more decorations. Breath held, fingers crossed, she opened the box and there, wrapped in tissue so they would not break, were the Kissing Clauses. Once again, all was right in the world.
Merry Christmas to my blogging friends. Kiss someone you love this season.
The nightmares have started early this year. I knew they’d come. They always do. In fact, as an incredulous young (and soon-to-be-a-father) Englishman overheard on New Year’s Eve, I discussed this reoccurring nightmare with a the hostess of the party.
Me: I’m so glad Christmas is over.
Alison (something like): Me too, it is so stressful
Me: I wonder when the nightmares will start — the ones where it is near the end of the year and I start panicking about Christmas
James (young and soon-to-be-a-father Englishman): Slow turn of his head and puzzled look.
Me to James: Yes, really. They usually start near the end of January.
James: Shakes head
Last night I dreamed that I remarked to someone that I couldn’t believe it was September already. Where did the year go, we wondered. Then I thought in the dream, only a few months until Christmas. The panic began to set in. I also recall thinking that maybe this year I should start shopping in September.
I wonder if these dreams might not really be about Christmas, but about life zooming by at an alarming rate. Either way, I’m relieved that it is only January 4th and not September 1st.