Tag Archives: Holidays

Oh Christmas Tree. How Lovely!

Oh Christmas Tree. How Lovely!

Some Christmas tree ornaments do more than glow, they represent a gift of love given a long time ago. —Tom Baker

This year our tree is a magnificent 12-foot, 6-inch Douglas Fir with near perfect shape. Fifteen-foot ceilings in our living room indulge my yen for a ginormous specimen. Each year, I tease my beloved that this will be the year of the 13-footer. Each year, he replies his ladder only allows him to top our tree with our oversized cardinal at 12-ish feet. He strings hundreds of colored lights and yards of silver beads, (which I rearrange) to create the glittering backdrop to our beauties.

We have hundreds of ornaments carefully collected over the past 40 years. Our tradition begun as newlyweds is to choose them as gifts for each other that reflect our passions, hobbies and spirit. T gives me angels—delicate and dainty, sturdy ones that require a strong  branch, ethereal fairies, assorted dolls and cardinals. I give him Red Sox and PMC ornaments, VW Beetles, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Penguins, a skier and Nightmare Before Christmas characters, even the tacky leg lamp from A Christmas Story. The Boys added construction paper creations in the early years.

My Oz ornament collection now numbers 50. Some are gifts from T and other family members, others I collected. Most are from the 1939 movie well known as my favorite, and personal lodestar. Glinda and the Lion, my favorite characters,  appear in multiple iterations. There are nine Dorothy’s. Most have sound and or motion. The Boys loved to be the first to turn on our tree as dueling ornaments plugged into light strings chanted, “Cabby Cabby,” and “I am Oz, the great and powerful.” One year I discovered they also have play buttons. I press each one, for the pleasure and remembrance now that The Boys are grown and in homes of their own, and because of COVID, cannot come home for Christmas this year.

My own cross stitch ornaments from my design company, Victoria’s Needle, are stories of my family. The Christmas Angel is the tale of Christmas morning in New Hampshire 1975 for a family holiday when we were caught in a snowstorm en route to my brother’s house and ran out of gas. My mom and I walked to the nearby phone booth to call my sister to come get us. As we stuffed into the booth, Mom realized she had no change. She prayed to Mary for help, pressed the cradle and out popped a dime! THAT was a Christmas miracle for certain.

Santa’s Reindeer was created to commemorate the Christmas when my nephew Joshua was returning from the Navy for the holiday. My brother Paul and wife Dorinda, her sister Mickey, Adam, Alex and I dressed as Santa’s entourage to greet him at the Syracuse airport in full costume — Paul as Santa, sister Elves Jingle and Jangle, twin reindeer and me in an oversized, rented reindeer suit. The plane was delayed so we entertained the disembarking passengers and their families as we waited. When Josh finally came down the walkway, he took one look at us and hurried past while we sang Here Come’s Santa Claus. He was mortified; we were gleeful.

The Gingerbread Star is tribute to my Mom Joyce Mallette, The Cookie Maker. Each Christmas, she’d baked the most beautiful trays of edible delights, shipping them off for those she couldn’t visit in person. She entered heaven in 1996 and I continue her tradition now. It is my most holy communion with the woman who inspired joy and love for family.

 Santa is homage to my Dad Henry Mallette. I recently rediscovered  the story I wrote for the 10th Anniversary Just Cross Stitch Collection which explained why it was my favorite submission. It is a celebration of that jolly old elf who always embodied Santa’s spirit. He believed in giving without receiving, caring deeply for others, and most of all, living in joy. 

The oldest surviving ornament on our tree came from my childhood home, the dimestore purple ball with spray snow poinsettias whose luster has mellowed over six decades. My absolute favorite was a brushed gold ball encircled in glitter that went up first on our Syracuse tree. Alex accidentally broke it one year and I had to walk from the room to avoid saying anything hurtful. He was devastated as he knew the story of how my parents chose me to hang this as the first ornament on our family tree each year. Sweet boy, he carefully collected the shards and bottled them in a small jar that now sits in my home office as a reminder of resurrection and forgiveness.

Most precious are the ornaments crafted by family and friends. We have paper glitter dreidels from Adam and Alex’s pre-school days. Aunt Aurora’s Holly Hobby’s, assorted felt stars, mittens and bells, and corduroy trees always graced the bottom of our Miles Ave. tree should the cats wreak mischief. Aunt Annie’s plastic cross stitch snowflakes mingle with hardanger gifts from the Stitching Bitches, humble to expert examples of their skills. Especially dear to me are the ones my Mom made—beaded beauties, lace angels and some odd little homespun angels endearing in their homeliness. These makers are now angels themselves, so hanging them on our tree is a prayer of thanks to them for their enduring gifts of love.

Here’s the thing about our collection. These aren’t random items bought as last minute gifts to check off a list. From the humble to the spectacular, there was considerable thought and time, and in some cases, loving handcrafting. Store-bought were chosen with the greatest of care given our likes and loves. As I opened the boxes and laid them out, it was a tenderhearted connection to joyful memories and loved ones. Especially dear are images of our tiny twin sons creating their idea of beauty as they loaded branches within reach.

This is the true gift of Christmas.

Now it’s time to part with some of our collection, sending off select pieces to Adam and Alex for their own trees. Each year I will gift more, offering touchstones to our shared past to bring them Christmas joy,  as they add to their own collections making new memories.

This Old Table

This Old Table

“Use it up, wear it out, make do.”—New England proverb

I’m sitting as usual enjoying my second cup of coffee as I began thinking about our dining room table. It’s not elegant or trendy. The top is scratched and the legs could use some serious refinishing. Calvin Kitty joins me in the mornings waiting for his taste of my scrambled eggs. He sits politely at the corner looking out at our backyard, chittering as the birds flit among the trees. I’ve never been one of those people who minds a cat sharing her table top has long as he waits until I’ve offered a dish for his tasting.

I ponder all that has happened around our old table. We’ve had it for 28 years. It was meant to be a short term solution when we were a very young family. Mark loves to tell the story of how we acquired it. Lechmere had just opened a store in the mall so we went to purchase a small dining set. We opened an account charging the set to get the 10% discount. As it turned out, Lechmere never charged us for it— though, honest as we were, Mark called them three times to tell them of their mistake. Apparently the Universe gifted us this set as they never followed up.

Raising twins, assorted business start-ups, part-time jobs interspersed with staying home full time to raise our sons meant less cash in the coffers. So our temporary set became a permanent fixture. On periodic moments of flush cash, I would lust after Stickley mission dining tables and chairs. Then circumstances would evaporate our windfalls and I’d polish her up, clean the dried bits of toddler meals and move on.  Read the rest of this entry

The Cookie Maker

The Cookie Maker

Life doesn’t come with a manual. It comes with a mother.

Happy 60th Mom!You would have turned 90 today. December 15 is the fine day you arrived, aptly named Joyce to herald in the joy of the Christmas season.

I think of you every day. Little memories come to me as I glance at your photo on my jewelry chest. It’s the old snap of us on my 4th birthday. We are looking up bright-eyed with happiness at the unseen photographer. Sometimes I stop and study the images, wondering about our lives then and how we would share it now.

Your cookie baking Christmas tradition binds us tenderly together in this season of joy. You loved making delicious trays of cookies and candies for us, dear friends and co-workers. I remember tins and Tupperware stacking up as you baked. You began just after Thanksgiving since you had such a huge volume to produce.

Your artistry was masterful as you assembled the trays with delectable confections. Round balls, cut-outs, drop cookies, bars, tiny pastry shells of pecan pie. Chocolate peanut butter balls danced among the sugary orbs. The tins and platters were also part of the gift, selected with the receiver in mind. Ours were child-themed for your twin grandsons. I still have those trays, and the dinged up Courier and Ives tins that housed your treats.

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