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Ramblings by Rose Mary

Please refer to the Ramblings by Rose Mary main page for columns published in other issues.
Rose Mary can be contacted via e-mail at rwclarke@mibor.net.

 

 

 

 Coming 'Unstuck in Time' for the Holidays

 

On Sunday the greenhouse window had a lovely tracery of frost and dripping. Outside, a lone cardinal sat on a branch beneath the empty feeder as if waiting for breakfast. I put on a heavy, hooded jacket and boots, then went out into the bitter wind to fill the feeder. Within minutes flocks had arrived.

Christmas is less than a week away! Of all the times in the year, it bears the heaviest freight of remembrance, nostalgia and vivid images of the people who have enriched my being. My mind becomes a kaleidoscope of brilliantly colored scenes that shift back and forth constantly from past to present to future, triggered by some memory or thoughts of the present and of times yet to come.

Christmas Past: At school, talented kids like Mardella Anderson have painted on the classroom windows, and I hear the chorus, led by Miss McKinney, caroling through the halls. Here my parents and me, stand on the sidewalk at the corner of Franklin and Carey, admiring how pretty the tree lights look through the front window. … The image and the tense change:. Here five-year-old Vicki stands on a chair, rolling out Santa Claus cookie dough. …

Christmas Eve: We're at Irvington Methodist with Sarah and her mother, my mother holding her candle high and singing "Silent Night." … Christmas morning: Our mothers, Vicki and we -- eldest first -- slowly go down the stairs and into the kitchen where the table is laid for breakfast … then into the dining room where the festive, candle-lit scene is worthy of Charles Dickens. Silver dishes and crystal gleam and are heaped with delicious treats -- fruit, candy, cookies, and chocolates. Last comes the living room, where the tree is knee-deep in brightly wrapped presents. …

After the second time that our tree fell last week, a disgruntled Bill used a coat hanger to anchor it to a picture hook. One year his sister, Joyce, and he had a row when he caught her drilling a hole in the tree trunk in order to install a bough in a gap. Deja vu! I really hated it when the tree fell over because we had to repeat the annual Is-the-Tree-Straight? debate that dates back to our first Christmas together. Bill lies on his belly under the tree, making adjustments to the stand. My job is to tell him when it's straight. "Is it straight?" "I think so." He crawls out from under the tree. "Rose Mary! It isn't straight. … (Sigh.) … I can't do it all." Back under the tree he goes. It's as bad as when the opthamologist asks, "Which is better -- A or B, A or B? -- Mrs. Clarke, you have to make up your mind!"

1963: We'd only been married since October and were still learning all of those details that you don't know until after you've lived together. We worried secretly about Christmas. "Will he choose a scraggly, prickly old tree like the one Daddy bought that scratched you when you decorated it?" "Will she decorate the tree in a slapdash fashion?" "Will she be a bah-humbugger?"

Not to worry! The Clarkes really knew how to celebrate Christmas, and Bill chose a gorgeous tree. He discovered that I am a perfectionist when it comes to decorating the tree, even though I may be slapdash, for example, about unimportant trivia such as getting down cobwebs. Some of his family threw the tinsel onto the tree. Tinsel back then was heavy, rather than this lightweight stuff that hangs crookedly and moves when a current of air hits it. Like my brother, Earl, I insist that each strand be hung individually and straight. Both of us preferred a star to an angel as a tree-topper. Bill had a star made of foil with holes pricked in it to lent the light shine through just like the one I'd had at home. Every year we taped it back together until, finally, it disintegrated. I'd pay a premium for some old-fashioned tinsel and a foil star.

Christmas Present: The house and tree are decorated, and much of the baking shopping and wrapping are done. Next comes cooking dinner for the Boards of the Benton House. This weekend we'll visit Vicki and the boys. This Christmas will be a poignant one because our eldest grandson ships out for Iraq in February. Christmas Eve will find us at Irvington Methodist, and Christmas Day will be just as it's always been at our home. My oldest friend, Sarah, will be with us for dinner. I learned when I was a child that Christmas is a matter of the heart rather than commerce. The joy of it lies in the details and in the comfort that the continuation of beloved customs brings. I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

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