Sunday, December 12, 2004

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like...

box o' decorations
...I have work to do.  Trouble is, it actually does sound like work.

See, this is when I'm supposed to be cleaning up the insane amount of junk that's built up while I've been working and in school and such. I have boxes and boxes of unread mail, textbook printouts (all my textbooks for the past year have been Acrobat downloads), magazines I meant to read (and either did or didn't), envelopes with important addresses or handwritten notes on them (especially notes for fiction), Happy Meal detritus, and on and on. There are plenty of loose papers, too, unboxed.  And that's not even mentioning all the boxes of packed up stuff that John's loaded into our front room, either to find things or to clear out one of our two storage rooms. Y'know, I'd much rather have our wonderful 50s modern living room without all the boxes.

It's not all John's fault, though.  I started the problem when I closed down the storage space containing my mom's estate. It's been years.  I got rid of a lot of it with donations to the English Faire at St. Michael's in September, but there's still plenty left. It's mostly books, but we're seriously short on bookcases in this house full of books.  I believe I've mentioned this before.

What has all this to do with Christmas?  Well, it would be nice to get the house a bit more under control, so that Christmas decorations aren't sitting next to boxes of papers. Also, with all the junk in the front room, there's no place to put the white artificial tree John got at Ace two or three years ago after Christmas, or, alternatively, the full-size real tree that we can't afford this year. I don't know how much trees cost around the country, but I think we paid $74 one.  Or some outrageous price, anyway.

my stockingSo that means we go with the vintage aluminum tree again this year. The box says it's 6 feet tall, but it's more like five feet, if that.  It's designed to go with a color wheel. We bought the tree for $20 at the Tanque Verde Swap Meet several years ago. That's a great deal for people who like this sort of  thing, which John does.  I do, too, but I have reservations about it. It's not very big or fancy or wonderful.  The best thing I can say about it is that it's authentic vintage modern.  We like vintage modern at Chez Blocher, but this is perhaps not the epitome of that sensibility. Somehow, the fake trees with color wheels I remember from neighbors' houses in the early 1960s seemed much bigger, more colorful, and generally more wonderful.

See, I grew up with a real tree, always.  Even the year we went to Florida for Christmas when I was eight, my parents bought a real tree in a grocery store, three or four feet tall and sprayed blue (or green, or white flocking. I'm not sure.  It was almost 40 years ago!). A real tree is important to me.  It may be wasteful and expensive, but it's just not Christmas without it.

Besides, the aluminum tree will only take light, vintage (or vintage style) ornaments.  Glass balls work on that tree, but that's pretty much it. Garland probably wouldn't work well, although we bought a string of foil candy canes to try. Tinsel doesn't make sense, because it's nothing but tinsel already.  And what about all the other ornaments, the ones from Hallmark and American Greetings and street fairs and seasonal shops at the malls?  The Rowlf ornament with the holly garland on his head is too heavy for most real trees, and all wrong for a 50s metal tree that rotates in its stand.  If we only use this one tree, I've no place for the bunny-in-a-bag, the cookie cutter Santa made many years ago by John's library coworkers, the fake scrimshaw reindeer, the Shrinky Dink  ornaments I made depicting the Beatles and The Clash and Howard the Duck, a Snoopy ornament I glued back together and kept using because I loved it,  a carved and handpainted balsa hawk, handmade kachina ornaments from Goldwater's before the chain was bought out by Dillard's, cheap ornaments I bought out of self-pity during college or out of poverty in our first year of marriage--well, I could go on, but you get the idea.

John doesn't really care about all that.  As I explained at Thanksgiving, holidays don't really mean for him what they mean for me.  He was even annoyed with me last night for bugging him about the Christmas CDs, which were missing from their usual place.  He insisted that he hadn't moved them.  It turned out he'd put them in an obscure part of the same vintage wall unit.

the traditional stockings, hung by the chimney with care.And yet, last week I caught John researching the different releases of a Robert Shaw LP that each of our families had in the early 1960s.  John told me today that he's been downloading all the vintage Christmas music he can find, featuring Frank and Bing, Ella, Satchmo, Peggy Lee and so on.  He was even annoyed with all the anti-Christmas people who posted or wanted nasty deconstructionist songs about how terrible Christmas is, people who attacked regular Christmas songs as false sentiment. It turns out that my beloved atheist husband loves Christmas, too.  He doesn't like the work and the mess, but he likes the music (especially the Chipmunks) and the giving of presents.  Remember how I told you about our 25-year-old Christmas stockings, which we adorn a little more every year and then fill for each other?  That was John's idea, the whole stocking decoration gig.  It's our little tradition for two. Now I pass it on to anyone else who might read these words, and think it might be a fun thing to do.

I didn't get very far with this project!Another tradition for John and me is the annual trip to buy Toys for Tots.  These days you can just have a web site or Toys R Us debit your card for a cash donation, but that's no fun!  John and I both like to actually pick out and buy the toys.  Since we can't have kids, Christmas is our only real chance to shop for children's gifts.  We buy for Toys for Tots, my godson, and a couple of Angel Tree kids: one from a poverty-striken Arizona tribe and one the child of a prisoner. The prisoner's kid wanted a Toys R Us gift card, which was way too easy.  The Indian kid wanted a Bratz doll.  I used to think these were grotesque, but they've grown on me.  It was fun picking one out. For the other kids, we got 64 color Crayola crayon boxes, a Barbie (or friend thereof), 5 Hot Wheels cars,  a Finding Nemo Memory Game, a metal Slinky, a Play-Doh Fun Factory, and a Spiderman action figure.  I spent almost double what I paid in past years on the Barbie, not just because of higher prices and worse selection, but also because this particular doll (Kayla?) was especially attractive.

John's stockingThen today at the after-church coffee hour I got a foil-decorated blown egg, made by a member of the St. Michael's choir and left over from the Advent Bazaar last weekend. I didn't get to look around at the bazaar last Sunday because my friend Eva wasn't feeling well and needed to go home.  One or two of you may remember that Eva is 99 years old. She's up in the mountains with her wheelchair-bound surviving daughter this weekend, so she didn't go to church with us today.  Normally, I pick up first my friend Kevin and then Eva, and take them with me to the 10 o'clock Mass, since neither of them drive. Today it was just Kevin, plus we dropped off Jan at the mall after coffee hour. We often do that. The only drawback to taking Kevin to church every week is that most of the parish thinks he's my husband. I correct that misconception at every opportunity.  I like Kevin at lot, but with his health problems he's nobody's catch.  Poor Kevin.

After we dropped Jan off, Kevin and I went to Wal-Mart for a red straw hat to give Eva for Christmas.  Her current straw hat is several decades old, and well past the point at which most people would throw it away. even Eva no longer considers it wearable, no matter how many amused comments it brings her.  We're pretty sure she'll like this new, colorful, wide-brimmed one, neither too old-fashioned nor too trendy.

Tuffy's stockingAs Kevin and I left Wal-Mart, I couldn't help noticing the two Marines in full dress uniform, guarding the Toys for Tots bin.  John and I rushed over there when he got home from the gym.  One Marine thanked John for his bag o' gifts, and the other Marine thanked me for mine.  Must beat the heck out of being in Iraq, killing people or being ambushed.

I also need to deal with the outdoor decorations and the Christmas cards, not to mention the master file of Christmas trivia. That thing is kicking my butt. I've already pulled one all-nighter, trying to get all those questions formatted, sorted, renumbered and consolidated. One thing I did accomplish today was to hang the stockings, and get out the aluminum tree. I haven't gotten far in putting it up, though. Furthermore, now that I've taken pictures of the stockings, John wants to switch to the moderne turquoise and rose stockings with iridescent Mylar circles until the Big Day comes.  *sigh*



daephene said...

I pick one of the Salvation army angel tree kids up every year, also because I don't have any other excuse to buy toys, and want to.  Around here they don't choose specific kids, but you choose an age range and they offer the toys in a way that the parents can pick them out.  I got some My Little Ponies, because it reminds me of my childhood where my sister had a huge pony collection, and a Shrek play-doh set.  I picked up two angels, both for ages 4-6, one boy and one girl.  I had a lot of fun in the toy department.

deabvt said...

Karen, that`s a wonderful entry. God bless Eva, you and your husband.

ryanagi said...

I used to do United Way angel tree kids every year through work...but since I haven't worked in a few years now, I no longer have that opportunity. Hmm. They say it's important to instill "charity" in the young. I should find a local toy drive and have Tyler help me buy, wrap and donate some gifts. He is too "mine, mine, mine" these days. LOL You have to post a pic of the decorated vintage tree. And you could always hang your other ornaments along the top of the curtain rod/drapes or around door frames and stuff. :-) When I was at school, we hung a tinsel garland around our door frame and hung ornaments on that. Window frame too. It looked pretty good.