It goes crunch.

Walnuts3I was 9 or 10 the year I bought my father a gift with my own money.  I remember it fairly vividly.

My brother and I were alone together in a grocery store at the Ala Moana shopping center in Honolulu.  My parents were elsewhere, no doubt procuring Christmas gifts hence my brother and I being trusted alone.

My father liked nuts.   And there, stacked in a high heap, were bags and bags of walnuts.  I can’t remember for sure, but I think they were 88 cents which seems high for 1969.  Then again it was Honolulu and walnuts were not, I don’t think, indigenous.

I whipped out my money, plunked it down and walked out with a gift I was sure would delight my father.  I was sure that newspapers across the land would herald the story of the good daughter who bought the most fabulous gift of all time for her father.  Walnuts.  From a grocery store.  In a shopping center.

broandmeI pledged my brother to secrecy.

Now my brother was the youngest and a whiny brat.  I was the oldest and a bossy brat.  I all but beat the need for secrecy into him.  And I wouldn’t have hesitated to do so.

So we all get home and I’m prattling on and on about the fabulous gift I have procured for my father.  I have even wrapped it and put it under the tree.  My father, a character, is teasing both my brother and I unmercifully.  Even at a young age, I knew Christmas presents were for Christmas.  I never wanted mine early.  The surprise and delight were the best part and delaying that just added to the joy.

But my dad starting working on Little Bro.  And to my brother’s credit, he held under hours of barrage of Daddy asking for just a hint.  He finally cracked (pun intended) and said, “All I can say is they go crunch.”

And the heavens rained down wrath and sorrow.

I sobbed.  I shrieked.  I wanted to kill my brother.  Really, what else would go crunch besides nuts.  He might as well said, “Father, my sister procured walnuts for your holiday gift.”  The surprise was ruined.  Ruined.

I was bereft.

My father wrapped me in his arms and cooed that he had no idea what the gift was.  He assured me.  I wasn’t buying it.  Between sobs, I plotted my brother’s demise.

Of course, it all turned out fine.  Of course, my father was shocked and delighted at the great surprise of walnuts.  And to this day, we say, “All I can say is it goes crunch.”

walnutfinalI don’t need  more ornaments and I’m limiting new acquisitions to the truly special.  This year I was enticed by a vintage style Kurt Adler walnut.  When it arrived, I remarked to the cat that it didn’t look much like a walnut, but the memories surfaced nonetheless.  And that’s the point of everything on my tree – memories and stories and the weft and weave of my life.

At my age, Christmas is more about memories than presents although I still strive to find presents that will knock their socks off.  I hope your Christmas finds you wrapped in lovely memories of all the people you have loved and do love.

Christmas Guests, Memories and Memorials

doug's tree guest room 016I’ve spent the day finishing HMO’Keefe’s Christmas tree.  I’ve been working on this for more than a week now.  It’s a pre-lit tree, but whole sections refused to light.  I checked bulbs, cords, fuses, the alignment of stars and planets, and everything else and nothing, nada, zip, could persuade the lights to work.

I decided to put up HMOK’s tree in the guest room primarily so his daughter could enjoy it when he comes to visit, but also because it is a slim tree and fit into the room like it should always have been there.  He was mildly annoyed when he got it home after buying it to discover it had colored lights.  He and I both prefer trees with either white lights or a solid color.  This one has red, blue, pink, white, green and gold.  It’s grown on me over the years and the multi-colors are great in the guest room.  I’m right fond of it.

But I was not fond of its refusal to work.  So, I trundled off to the Lowe’s and found an exact match for the lights.  Now, really, what are the odds?  So, I added more lights to the sections that aren’t working.  (Maybe next year I’ll take off the non-working lights, but I didn’t feel like wrestling with cable ties this year.)

doug's tree guest room 038I was so afraid that celebrating the holidays this year would be hard that I resolved to begin early so that if I did end up in the pit of sadness, my obligations to the family and friends would be taken care of.  Funny thing.  The more ahead of the game I got, the more I have enjoyed the season.  I’m still mourning HMO’Keefe, but I think I’ve moved to the acceptance stage of things and spend a lot of time reminiscing about our years together — particularly our Christmases.  We had a long-distance relationship for years, but regular as rain, I went to Boston or he came here.

He particularly loved the spectacle that is my house at Christmas time when I put everything out.  I felt I owed it to him and to me to make sure the house is at its Christmas best this year.  I’ve had a ball doing it.

doug's tree guest room 023Today, I fixed the lights and got out the boxes of his ornaments.  He was fond of Santas, kayaks, chili peppers, cowboys, and his daughter.  His tree reflects those things.  It’s a beautiful, funny, eclectic memorial to the man I loved.  I’m so pleased that his daughter is going to be able to sleep in this room with that tree when she comes to visit.

I’m also excited that Chef Boy ‘R Mine will be here for 5 days this year.  I can’t remember the last time I had him for 5 days.  So, I’m in a frenzy to have the house clean and orderly, to make cookies, to celebrate all the time-honored traditions of an American Christmas.

doug's tree guest room 042The guest room is almost ready, and boy-howdy I’m glad my two guests don’t have problems with cat hair.  I’m pleased with how the room turned out.  I bought the furniture this past summer upon realizing it drove me crazy that my son and step-daughter didn’t have a proper bed to sleep in when they’re here.  The suite of furniture is gorgeous and suits the room perfectly.

Upon excavating and decorating the closet, I got the hidden writing closet up and running again.  I can’t wait to spend some serious time in there writing secrets and memories.

Hugging Lazzie Bear

big tree 010The big tree is finally up and decorated according to tradition. This is always a monumental undertaking, but this year the tree was especially recalcitrant.

The little tree is the kid-friendly one. This one is for me. Some people have scrapbooks – I have a Christmas tree. Every ornament on the tree, though mundane and seemingly uninteresting, has a story even if the story is only that it was on my first tree. Indeed, I procured my first ornament while still in high school. I love Christmas trees and this one is a lifetime of stories.

rositascantinaUnder the tree sits a Christmas Village consisting of 32 houses, several large accent pieces and a score or two of village residents. I have always put the village under the tree and the population of explosion of a couple years ago has stagnated. This year I added one new structure, Rosita’s Cantina, to honor Doug. But that one little café apparently was more than the town zoning commission could take. No matter how I arranged and re-arranged, everything would not fit and just looked terrible. I was perplexed.

thenewtreeskirtSince I am the Queen of Online Shopping, I ordered a new tree skirt which is, as is usual with me, a tablecloth. This one is a 90” round. I miss the ridiculous lace of the old one, but this has a beautiful damask texture. I’ll get used to it. But, baby, we got room for growth now! Um, actually no. Even though I added a bunch of new real estate, the village barely fits. It would seem the opening of a Mexican cantina is the sign that a town has all it needs.

lazziebearI love the walk down Memory Lane when I decorate the trees. As is probably true for most folks, most of the stories center on my child. My favorite story to tell is why there is a pink baby rattle on the tree, but my second favorite story to tell is the Lazzie Bear Event of 1987. It might have been 1986, but Chef Boy ‘R Mine demonstrated some mad running skills so I’m thinking he must have been 2 ½ at the time.

I had the most well-behaved child on the planet and it had nothing to do with my parenting, he was just a compliant, good-natured kid. So much so that I feared for him.

izzy still helping(He grew out of this in his teen years and I quit fearing for him and started fearing for me, because I was losing my mind with his behavior, but those are other stories. Back to the one at hand.)

He and I were in Lazarus, now Macy’s, and the full-on Christmas shopping frenzy was in place at the Huntington Mall. The place was crazy busy. Jeremy held my hand and stayed close without me having to tell him. He overwhelmed in crowds and wanted me to carry him, but I was laden down with too much stuff to comply. I feel strongly about folks dragging little kids around the mall and Jeremy usually did not go with me. I can’t remember why he was with me, but it was out of the ordinary for him to be plunged into the depths of commercial craziness. Neither of us were cranky, but we were both anxious to be done.

taekwondokidWith no warning at all, my compliant, well-behaved child took off at a run through the perfume department, through the jewelry department, hung a right at shoes, and launched himself airborne into the arms of one, very surprised adult wearing a white bear costume.

Lazzie Bear was the store’s mascot and for a price, children could have their photos taken with Lazzie Bear. The child had wanted nothing to do with Santa, but a large white bear trying to go on a bathroom break was the love of his young life. The smile on his face! The exuberant hugs! The myriad of kisses! The perplexity of the poor guy just trying to get to the bathroom and out of a hot suit for a minute or two.

Lazzie Bear doesn’t talk, so a patient clerk tried to explain to my son, who I was desperately trying to get to, that Lazzie Bear needed a time-out and Jeremy would have to wait awhile before he could sit on Lazzie’s lap. Jeremy was hearing none of it, still enveloping the guy in sweet, toddler love.

lazxziebearphotoI arrived on the scene, sorted out what was happening, and told Jeremy we had to go a different way to a different place and then he could have his picture made sitting with Lazzie Bear. Well. That was that. He marched me down the aisle, up the escalator, and we patiently waited at the empty Lazzie Bear booth for Lazzie to return. I have a sweet photo to remember the day by and I have a Lazzie Bear hanging on the Big Tree.

I hope you are making stories to tell this holiday season. Enjoy it and the children in your life. These are magical times.

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Myrna Loy Primping for William Powell

white-shoulders-cologneLately, I’ve been very annoyed with my perfume bottle.

Not the perfume, mind you. I’ve worn the same perfume since I was 10 – White Shoulders. I love it. I have always loved it and, recently, I learned it was the first perfume my dad ever gave his mom. He was about the age I was when he saved his money to buy it for her.  It was given to me by my great aunt and except for a brief flirtation with some heavily advertised brands in the early 70s, it’s the only perfume I’ve ever worn.

It’s a delicate scent that mixes well with my body chemistry. While it’s an affordable perfume, it’s not cheap. Someone generally gets me a bottle every other Christmas which works out well because that’s about how long it takes me to go through a bottle.

perfume bottleThe last bottle was not a spray bottle. I just opened a new one and it’s been aggravating me – trying to pour out just enough and then splashing it around like after shave. It’s a barbaric way to handle a delicate scent.

I’m on the “one for them, one for me” Christmas gift shopping plan. On a recent online foray, I ran across perfume bottles with those old-fashioned rubber squeeze bulbs. Oh my.

Now we know how I feel about my dressing table. And we know how I feel about the elegance of times past.

So how could I not buy it? Honestly.

It arrived today and it’s just wonderful. I feel like Myrna Loy primping for William Powell.