I meant to post this last guest blog from Harbor Mom before The Big Day, but things like cramming 100 packages into a car, and trying to remember where the stockings were put away last year, got me distracted and poof! Before I knew it- the 25th had come and gone. But this is a sweet story to end the year on... so here it is. I will be renovating Chez Veasey this week- I'll be back in 2010 with photos and stories about how Sexyhusbandomine weilds a hammer. Until then-Happy New Year to you all!!
HARBOR MOM's post:
I am the baby of the first three children in our family (the last two were born 9 and 18 years, respectively, after my birth, so they ain’t a part of this!), born in the late 30’s and early 40’s. Our father, once he returned from WWII, worked in the chimney department of a big engineering firm, and was out of town inspecting big smokestacks over the July 4th week and Christmas week every year. Our summer holidays were spent with him at whatever tropical spot he happened to be working: Pascagoula, MS; Pine Bluff, AK, Fernandina Beach, FL, not particularly garden spots in the 1950’s. Christmas was at home (so Santa would know where to find us), but without our dad until I was 15.
My mother was a terribly talented and creative woman, which was very lucky, as there wasn’t a lot of money for anything other than necessities. She could sew, cook, paint, and she once poured and laid a concrete foundation for our back porch all by herself, when Daddy just couldn’t seem to get around it. He said he wished she could join the Bricklayer’s Union, because she was as good a brick mason as he had ever seen. She was also bi-polar and obsessive/compulsive, but that just made life interesting and taught us tenacity and patience. Christmas was always an especially difficult time for her, and we never knew from day to day whether there would be laughter or tears. Again…it made life interesting, and we all adjusted.
Mother always bought a cedar tree at Christmas. They were plentiful in Alabama, and CHEAP. For those of you unfamiliar with a cedar tree, ornaments can be hung only on its perimeter, as it is so bushy and full from the trunk out; and it’s very scratchy (but it smells divine!). My sister and I begged each year for a tree like those on the postcards and in the movies. Where the branches stuck straight out from the trunk, instead of drooping down; and where there was space in between the branches so the ornaments could be hung “inside” the tree, nearer the trunk, as well as on the tips of the branches. At that time, spruce and similar trees were available in Alabama, but very, very pricey.
When I was about 13 or so, we all went off to school that December day, planning to get our tree after school and decorate it over the weekend, and hoping it would be a ‘laughing day,’ rather than the alternative. When we got home that afternoon, we walked into the living room and stood, dumbstruck. Not only had Mother gone out and bought a beautiful Colorado Blue Spruce, perfectly shaped, she had put on the lights and all the ornaments, then spent the entire remainder of the day “icing” the tree. I don’t know if they even still make Ivory Flakes (it’s what all women used then to wash their ‘delicates’), but she had put Ivory Flakes and water in her mixing bowl and beat it to a glossy froth; then, using a long-handled wooden spoon, she very delicately and gently laid pillows of ‘snow’ along each and every limb and branch of that tree. It took hours and hours, and the entire box of Ivory Flakes. And it must have required endless patience. It was a magnificent sight that I can still conjure up in my mind’s eye. It was as if she had transported a fully decorated tree from a snow-bound forest right into our living room. Back then, multi-colored lights were the norm, and the bulbs were the size of your thumb. She had loaded the tree with lights, and they reflected off the sheen of the snow. How I wish I had a photograph, other than the one in my memory, but snapshots then were saved for special occasions, as cameras, film, and processing were expensive for most middle class (if there were even class distinctions then – mostly just haves and have-nots, as I recall).
The most special thing about this memory was not so much the tree – spectacular as it was to our adolescent eyes – but that our Mother. Just. Did it. She overcame whatever she might have been experiencing that day and focused all her attention on getting that tree, wrestling it into the house and into the tree stand all by herself, untangling and draping the lights and unpacking and hanging all the ornaments to decorate the tree (which she particularly disliked doing), before creating the snowy miracle we saw that afternoon. I expect that was the good part of the experience for her. I imagine she was able to be inside her own head while she meticulously ladled the snow onto each limb and branch of that huge tree, and I hope the serenity of the finished product filled her mind and heart at the end of the day. I am ashamed to say that I don’t remember whether any of the three of us realized at the time the sheer amount of mental as well as physical effort she had put into her gift to us (or whether she or we even realized what a gift it was at that time); and I don’t remember any of us ever discussing it in later years. I hope she knows that, nearing 70 years old now, I still remember that vision as if it were yesterday. And maybe I’ll try it next year, on a small tree, for my children and grandchildren.
That’s my Christmas memory.