Friday, 22 December 2017

O Christmas Tree etc.

Everyone, meet Gladys. We brought her home a couple of weeks ago. And I've just finished dressing her in her beads and bobbles. She looks lovely, I think. Not too ostentatious or overdone. With a few slightly vintage accessories, and a few that are really old. She's kind of classic. And authentic... I mean she is a real tree after all. 

a decorated Christmas tree in front of a window
Gladys, all dressed and ready for Christmas

She looks lovely now. But she's a fiesty little thing; Hubby and I had considerable trouble getting her to stand up straight. Tree wrangling can be stressful, you know. It's one of those jobs that can put a bit of strain on a marriage. There was cursing, and fuming, and threatening that this would be the absolute last year we had a real tree. Then Hubby got his drill, and made new holes in the tree stand, and added new screws. And voilà, Gladys was upright. We sighed, and smiled at each other, and all thoughts of getting an artificial tree evaporated.  

Sounds silly to name your Christmas tree, doesn't it? But Hubby and I have been doing this since our very first Christmas tree back in 1985. Naming our Christmas tree actually started back home on the farm in the late seventies. You see, one year my stepdad brought the tree in from the bush and left it in the barn. Then the weather turned warm, and then cold again, and then really cold. And when we finally brought it inside, our poor tree was looking a bit bedraggled. Its spindly, needled fingers all gnarled and curled up. Kind of like it had arthritis, my mum said. And then she started calling it "Arthur." Get it? Because it had Arthur-itis. Sigh. We do love a bad joke in my family.

But surprisingly, once we had dressed Arthur in garlands, and balls, and lights, and tinsel, he became our best tree ever. Not perfect looking... no, no... not by any means was he a perfect tree. But he had personality. And we loved him.

A decorated tree with a view of the frozen river out the window
Gladys can watch the action out on the river from her spot by the window.
Hubby and I have had trees named Lucy, and Miriam, and Bill, and a small, sweet, very round tree we called Beulah. Ha. I'm not sure my paternal grandmother would have appreciated our naming a fir tree after her. She was a bit fastidious, a little hoity-toity. But Beulah was a perfectly lovely tree. Besides my father's mother was a little person, who was quite round.  

close up of ornaments on a Christmas tree
Love this clothes peg reindeer I bought at the farmer's market in Fredericton in 1983
As I said, Gladys is now bedecked in ornaments some of which are quite old, and some of which are really old. I love old Christmas trimmings. The papier mâché Santa Claus we put on the top of our tree belonged to Hubby's grandmother, and then to his mum, and now to us. It's well over a hundred years old. I have lots of ornaments that I don't put on the tree every year. Some made for me by students, signed on the bottom, 'from Andrea,' or Steph. One from my first year teaching is a beautiful wooden goose, made by an adult student who did lovely tole painting. I suppose one year I'll have to have a Christmas trimming clear-out. But not this year.

a very old papier mache Santa
This old Santa has seen many, many Christmas seasons... over a hundred.
I finally brought this old Santa in his sleigh, below, back from New Brunswick last summer. My Mum gave it to me years ago, but I could never fit in into my luggage. I've loved it as long as I can remember. It started looking a bit tatty when I was around ten or eleven years old, and so I refurbished it. I made new red ribbon reins and a new sack to put on the sleigh. Then I used cotton balls to fix Santa's beard and the trim on his hat, and gave him little boots made of black construction paper. Now... even the refurbished bits are fifty years old. The reindeer have lost most of their antlers, and the little green trees are bleached white. But it's precious to me. What an old softie I am, eh? 


Santa in his sleigh Christmas ornament
Santa's beard needs seeing to again. 
I guess we're all a bit sentimental around Christmas. The other day, Mum and I were talking on the phone about our Christmas plans. And we began to talk about our favourite Christmas stories. How my stepfather used to hitch up the horse and sled, and we'd go out back to cut our tree. The Christmas morning she awoke to find my sisters' boyfriends asleep under the tree; I wrote about that  in a post a couple of years ago. We talked about our favourite old movies. Miracle on 34th Street, the original one with Maureen O'Hara, and John Payne, and Ed Gwenn as Santa. And of course, my favourite, It's a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. I think I can recite most of the important scenes of both movies by heart. 

A lighted Christmas tree, in front of a window with a snow covered river outside
Gladys by night... and the view of the Rideau beyond
And partway through our conversation Mum's doorbell rang. I heard it distinctly in the background. So we said we'd speak later in the day, and hung up. Then a while later Mum called me back. She said by the time she got to the door, there was nobody there. She opened the door, and looked out on the deck, and in the driveway, and there was no one. 

But the bell had rung. She was sure about that. I'd heard it too, hadn't I? "Yep," I said.

"Well," she said with a chuckle, "I guess it was just Terry getting his wings." 

I laughed and brushed away a tear. Then I recited in my best imitation of little Zuzu from It's a Wonderful Life: "Teacher says... every time a bell rings... an angel gets his wings." 

And I thought to myself, but didn't say out loud, "Atta boy, Terry." 




If you aren't a regular reader of my blog you may not know that my big brother Terry passed away in September. This is our first Christmas without him. Now, I don't mean to get all soppy here. I may be sentimental in my inability to get rid of tatty old family Christmas trimmings, but I'm usually not soppy. Mum and I didn't get soppy on the phone. We laughed.  And, you know, the best part of her saying what she did was the shared understanding, the shared joke. Because I knew immediately what she was talking about. 

And that's the best part of Christmas, don't you think? The sharing. I'm not talking about presents, and on-line gift guides. I'm so tired of blogs and websites that purport to offer the perfect gift guide. We've pretty much eschewed the whole gift buying thing in the past couple of years. 

But the sharing of memories, and family stories, and old jokes. And, of course, food, and conversation, and time together, and just offering your company even if it is over the phone... that's the main thing. 

To me, anyway. 



So my friends. I wish you all a wonderful season of sharing. Even if your tree doesn't have a name. Even if you don't have a tree at all. 

That's it for me until the New Year. I won't be blogging for a week or so. Hubby and I will be doing lots of skiing... hopefully. And eating. Which will necessitate more skiing. 


And of course we'll be spending lots of quality time with Gladys. 






26 comments:

  1. Gladys, I’m still laughing. My husband and I name inanimate objects quite frequently. We have never thought of our Christmas trees though. Now I’m going to be on the lookout for something to name Beulah.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family.
    Ali

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Ali. My poor grandmother. Imagine marrying a man named Burpee when your name is Beulah?
      Merry Christmas to you too!

      Delete
  2. Happy Christmas Sue. Hope it continues to be every bit as lovely as the picture you've painted here. Thank you for so many amazing(!) posts this year. Look forward to more in 2018. Iris

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Iris. And thanks for being such a loyal reader!

      Delete
  3. Well Gladys looks very handsome in a dignified way . Her sister here ,(we have very similar taste in decorations you & I ) is rather more gaudy - younger sister Gloria ? She doesn’t know when to stop with the baubles & hasn’t heard of minimalism . Plus her twinkly lights are abit out of control . I love your old Santas , lots of old treasures here too . We gained a new treasure last year . One of our dogs found it on his evening walk & proudly carried it home . A little white , felt elephant which I cleaned up & is now sitting on our tree - much to his chagrin (nice word )
    You’re right about the presents business , we set a low maximum family spend now & it’s more of a joke really . For us it’s about gathering together , lots of good food , a little too much drink for some , not me of course :) & having a laugh .
    Wishing all the best at Christmas to you & your family , especially your mum - & to everyone in our little community here too .
    Wendy in York

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gloria sounds she could be the gaudy little sister of Gladys. Sounds like a duo act. Have you read the Magic Men mystery series by Elly Griffiths? The books make reference to all kinds of variety acts from the thirties and forties. Gladys and Gloria sound like a high-kicking dancing duo to me.
      I will pass on your good wishes to my mum...in case she doesn't see the comment herself.

      Delete
  4. Completely agree
    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you,your family and everyone here :-)
    Dottoressa

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't have a name for my tree, but now I suppose I should. Gladys is quite fetching in her baubles, and she has a lovely window view. Wishing you and yours a holiday full of stories, food and outdoor adventures.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Judy. Hope you have a happy holiday as well.

      Delete
  6. A beautiful tree, full of memories to look back on. I too have lots of baubles and decorations that don't get an outing every year but they will stay with me until the time comes to pass them onto my children for their own trees. Not yet. Remembering those who have gone ahead is always a bittersweet sorrow at Christmas and we now have a toast to absent friends before we start Christmas lunch; my throat tightens each time. My father died two months before Christmas many years ago and I remained convinced, in one part of my brain, that he would suddenly appear on Christmas Eve and join us. It was only on Christmas morning, up to my knees in tiny children, guests and food that I realised he was really gone because there was no knock on the door. After that, it was easier to adjust to mourning him. I hope you have a happy, peaceful and thoroughly twinkly Christmas, lights on snow and Gladys doing her splendid best to encourage merry memories. See you next year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the lovely story. And the twinkly wishes:) And wishing the same for you.

      Delete
  7. Gladys was the name of the wonderful little girl in the book and play, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. A perfect name for your tree.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never heard of that children's book. Thanks, Deborah.

      Delete
  8. Very few of the traditions that make Christmas for me will be observed here in Italy this year, but I'll be taking a few moments to remember and hoping my son-in-law doesn't notice me brushing the occasional tear away. Time to try out something completely different for one season, but next year, you can bet I'll be watching the Alastair Sims' version of A Christmas Carol and picturing my mom and dad laughing over the Christmas morning scene and decorating a real tree with all the old favourite decorations. . . .Meanwhile, we'll be taking a spin by Rome's giant Christmas tree, which sounds as if it's got nicknames all its own right now (apparently, needles have been falling at an alarming rate and it's been dubbed The Toilet Brush -- not so good!) and enjoying our Panettone with Prosecco. Merry Christmas to you and your fella (and your mom, too, she sounds a wonder!) and all the best of the season! Look forward to reading you in the New Year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Frances. I think your experiencing a different sort of holiday is wonderful. To be in Rome at Christmas. And to see traditions so different in many ways from our own. But to still be with loved ones at the same time. Sounds perfect.

      Delete
  9. My grandmother's name was Gladys and she was a prim and proper Methodist with nary a bit of feisty-ness in her. I LOVE it as a name for your tree.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha. Thanks for that Pepper. And Merry Christmas to you and yours.

      Delete
  10. Hi Sue
    A lovely read this morn...
    Wrangling the Xmas tree is an event for sure. We gave up one year and attached a string to the tree, put a hook in the baseboard & tied it up!! The hook has remained! It's hard for me to rid myself of our "old" baubles. They mean so much to me. When I see magazines with xmas decor, trees that match from head to toe...I admire but it's not my reality.
    We are in Nelson now and my son & his girlfriend surprised us with a 4ft tree. It's now dressed, lite up and standing proudly.
    The "first" occasion without a love one is hard. But I love what your Mom said. xx
    Merry Christmas Sue & Hubby!
    Merry Christmas to our community! (Wendy of York)
    Hugs....Robin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Robin. We have done the string thing as well, on occasion. The "string theory" being that the tree will stand up and not slide under the string's grip. Ha. Not sure how the tree fell over that year...when fully decorated.. and tied up with string. Stu said it must have sat there reasoning how to do it for days:)
      Hope your time in Nelson is good... with lots of skiing? Maybe?

      Delete
  11. What a lovely post, Sue. I am right there with you, from the tree to the old movies. We haven't put up a tree in several years, due to incompatibility with cats, but I still have all the beautiful ornaments. I used to love getting them out every year and admiring each one over again as I found the perfect spot on the tree. It would take me hours to get them up. Over the years I learned that the best way deal with the raising of the tree without too much marital strain was to have a couple of mugs of mulled wine first. The movies you mentioned are also favorites.vWe are going to watch It's a Wonderful Life on Christmas eve. I would add The Bishop's Wife, with Cary Grant and Loretta Young, to the list. That movie makes me smile all the way through.
    I'm pleased to hear Terry has won his wings. That was quick work. My best to you and your family this holiday season.
    Beth

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Beth. Mulled wine would have helped the tree wrestling I'm sure. I must try to find that movie. I love Cary Grant.
      Re: Terry earning his wings. He well deserves them after what he's been through in the past ten years. But when he was young.... oh dear... he was no angel!!

      Delete
  12. Oh,yes,yes,yes to The Bishops Wife and the best (and most handsome) Angel ever-Cary Grant!
    You have to find it-it is my favourite!
    D.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I now have it on order at the library:)

      Delete
  13. Susan, you may claim not to be soppy, but I am, and proudly I sniff! :)

    Your Christmas home photos are so lovely. You live in a beautiful part of the world and take such good advantage of all that it offers you and your husband.

    I wish for you and yours much joy, beauty and humor in 2018. The other things we covet are unpredictable. But joy, beauty and humor can always be found when we look for them.

    Ann in Missouri

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks very much, Ann. I wish the same for you in the new year.

      Delete

All comments, ideas, commiserations, questions, complaints... are most welcome.