I’ve lived in the past in many ways, ever since I was a child. Fascinated by old photos, old books, old stories. Old everything, it seemed. And never more so than at Christmas.
That’s why when my mum married my step-father and we moved to the farm I was in seventh heaven. There were old buildings to explore, piles of old treasures in the dirt-floored cellar under the kitchen to unearth, and many, many old stories to hear from my step-father who was himself a bit mired in the past. I was particularly thrilled to discover, our first Christmas on the farm, that Lloyd would be harnessing up his team of horses to head into the woods to cut our Christmas tree. Oh, joy. I might have been a character out of Little Women, without the fur trimmed muff, of course. I wonder if sister Connie remembers the long, hooded, winter cape she wore on our adventure that year. Now, she DID look like a character out of the past.
My favourite Christmas movies are, of course, the old black and white ones. I think I know every line of Miracle on 34th Street. Especially from the last scene where John Payne congratulates himself: “I must be a pretty good lawyer. I take a little old man and legally prove to the world that he’s Santa Claus.” I love that bit. I also love Maureen O’Hara’s wide-shouldered fur coat and fur trimmed hat. You can’t beat the forties for winter fashion, in my opinion.
The other night Hubby and I watched another old Christmas movie, one recommended by a reader here on the blog. The Bishop’s Wife starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven was new to both of us, and we loved it. I think Hubby liked it even better than I did. If you haven’t seen it you should do so. It has echoes of other favourite Christmas movies: an angel, and someone who has forgotten the important things in life. The same child actor who played Zuzu Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life plays little Debbie in The Bishop’s Wife. Plus Monty Woolley as the old professor is a dead ringer for Ed Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street. Then again, it may just be the beard.
Now, have a look at the tree from The Bishop’s Wife, below. It reminds me of all our Christmas trees growing up. The same sparse looking garland, the same lights, except we had tin reflectors on our lights, and a few bubble lights. They were my favourite. Remember having to test every single bulb on the string when one went out? And all that tinsel. Our tree always groaned under the weight of all those tinsel icicles. My sisters and I carefully draped every single, blasted one of those. One at a time, over and over. We were NOT allowed to just toss handfuls of the stuff at the tree, as someone (who shall remain nameless) might have been tempted to do.
Icicles on the tree is one tradition I was not sad to abandon. When Hubby and I were first together we still used them. Our old cat would sit in front of the tree for hours, paws neatly folded, waiting for us to leave the room. One night Hubby heard a suspicious rustle from the living room and returned to see the cat still sitting, facing the tree. He turned around when Hubby chided him with, “Doc, what have you been doing?” Ha. I swear that cat could look so innocent, and so offended, when accused of anything. And we might have fallen for it if it weren’t for the two inch trail of icicle dangling from the corner of his mouth. Sigh. I miss old Doc. But I don’t miss the icicles.
We’re a bit behind schedule with Christmas this year in our house. Hubby and I have our tree up. But I haven’t even started decorating it yet. That’s tomorrow’s job. I love to unpack all the ornaments, and put up the lights, and garlands, and the old ornaments that I brought from home a few years ago. Then the wreaths, and the greenery on the mantle, and whatever, wherever. I hate to rush when I decorate for Christmas. Hence it is my one, my only, job tomorrow.
I’ll be taking a week off from blogging during the holidays, like I usually do. Hubby and I will spend Christmas Day with my sister and her family. We have a few parties and open house events to attend in the next couple of weeks. But Christmas Eve will be just us. That’s how we like it.
We’ll enjoy a bottle of good red wine and my famous (at our house anyway) Christmas tourtière. We’ll have lots of vegetables; Hubby is trying roasted brussel sprouts this year. A lovely, green salad with my cranberry-pear balsamic vinegar and blood-orange olive oil dressing. I love that combo so much I think I could drink the stuff. And then something light and lemony for dessert. When I’m cooking dinner, we’ll listen to the late Alan Maitland read Frederick Forsyth’s Christmas story “The Shepherd” on CBC radio. I hate to miss that story. I cry every time. You can listen to it here, if you like. But I warn you, have the kleenex ready.
I watched the 1951 movie version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol the other night. I do believe that Alistair Sim is the definitive Scrooge. And although I’ve seen this movie a million times, I just noticed that Mervyn Johns as Bob Cratchit looks amazingly like Tim Conway. Ha.
I remember reading the original A Christmas Carol story when I was a kid. We had a big old hard-cover version that came from my grandmother’s house. Not to sound preachy, and I know you all know this, but I never cease to be amazed by how much we can learn from books. And from the films that are faithful renditions of books. About life, and how we should live our lives. And what resonated with me this year is the line that Scrooge says to Bob Crachit: “I haven’t taken leave of my senses, I’ve come to them.” That’s my wish for the world this upcoming year. May we all come to our senses.
And as for you, my lovely bloggie friends, I wish you all a wonderful holiday season. Have a warm and wonderful time with your family and friends celebrating whatever traditions you celebrate in whatever way makes you happy.
Love, from Hubby and me.