Saturday, December 18, 2004

A (Child-Friendly) Discussion of Good Old St. Nick

"It's a Wonderful Life" - what a great, old movie. I can't remember the first time I saw it. Like the "Wizard of Oz," it seems to have been around for my whole lifetime. Although I've seen it many, many times, I don't get tired of it or think it's cliche. The movie reflects my attitudes well; life is challenging, but the wonderful moments make everything else worthwhile.

The Christmas season is one of my most wonderful times of the year. Yesterday we put up the Christmas tree and I displayed my collection of Santas. I have a lot of Santas, too. Let me see how many I can describe:

There is a tall, Eastern Saint Nicholas with a crook, dressed in brocade and satin; a shorter Saint Nicholas with a red striped staff dressed in velvet; there's a funny, hand-sized, stuffed Santa that holds a Christmas music CD in the pack on his back - he rides in my gold wire sleigh that's pulled by a reindeer and full of "fir" branches and pine cones. I have a Coca-Cola drinking Santa in a snow globe with a train that travels around and around as the Coke theme song plays. The finely carved Santa from Oregon and resin Santa with a beautifully detailed blue cloak were both gifts from Michael. One unique Santa is a little round tin with a Santa hat for a lid; another is a squat Santa bell from Cozumel. In addition, there are probably another 10 or 15 Santas of various sizes and shapes, some whimsical, others solemn. My special new Santa for this year - purchased on sale last February and on display for the very first time - is a Texan Santa with all the Texan trimming. He is too cute. Oh, and I have a lovely, hand-made Santa with a curly beard and hooded cape with a fleece lining. He is quite beautiful.

My collection isn't limited to Santa figurines, though. I have a plate and cup for Santa's snack of cookies and milk, a set of 4 Christmas mugs, and 4 tiny Christmas books by Mary Englebreit. My friend Ann gave me the books. I have a Santa toothpick holder - purchased at Goodwill for 79 cents - that I use as a candle holder, a Santa mini-mug that I use as a candle holder, and an actual Santa candle holder that I use as a -- candleholder! And thanks to my friend Bertie, I have the biggest Santa yet, a stuffed Santa doll that's about 4 feet tall and is currently sitting in the easy chair in the Cozy Corner looking like he's all done in from the hectic pace of his workshop. (Okay, I posed him to look like that ... the real Santa probably has it completely under control.)

There are more, but you get the picture. I like Santas and I don't care who knows it. While I carefully unwrapped and set out Santas, Michael and Tori put up the tree and decorated it. Sometimes this is contentious, but they did it in pretty good order this year. We have an artificial tree because I'm allergic to real ones. When I was a child (in the fifties) no one took any notice of things like allergies. If you had one, you'd better keep it to yourself, especially if it involved the family Christmas tree. So every Christmas my eczema raged and my eyes ran. Of course, I didn't know why until I left home and was too poor to have a Christmas tree.

That first year, I made one out of paper chains. It had a kind of unnatural beauty. The trunk was the tube from a roll of wrapping paper. I made a wide round circle out of cardboard, covered it with tinfoil, and attached it a few inches above the bottom of the trunk. Then I strung paper chains from the top to the edge of the cardboard circle all around the tree. Michael unearthed a photo of it recently and I had to laugh (kindly) at my own creativity and persistence for celebrating Christmas while starving. That year, I had no Christmas itching and eye-watering. At some point, the ah-ha moment exploded in my brain and I have never had a "real" tree since.

This morning, Michael strung lights outdoor. The Christmas lights on our house are not fancy or special. We will never win a neighborhood lighting contest. It is a miracle that today wasn't freezing, because, in our relatively mild climate, Michael always seems to miss the nice weekend and put the lights up the one miserable weekend of the season. Congratulations, Michael, on your good luck this year.

Later in the day, Michael and Tori left for the Houston Photographic Society's end-of-the-year photo competition. It turned out to be a nice father-daughter event. Michael is chair of the competition committee this year so he had to go. Tori recently took a black and white photography course through the Girl Scouts and had a high interest level in the show. While they were gone, I organized and wrapped all my Christmas presents. They are now under the tree. Yee-haw, as we say in Texas.

I have been helping Santa, picking up some items that are hard to get at the North Pole. While looking those over, I decided that there wasn't enough stuff for Nick and Julia's stockings. Actually, I don't have enough stockings, either. I will have to address that. Any ideas for inexpensive stocking stuffers for two 26-year-olds? They have been singularly unhelpful about Christmas lists this year and so Santa's working blind here. I guess that means they'll be surprised!

Santa leaves us each a box of our favorite sugar cereal, a liter of our favorite soda (AKA pop), and a package of our favorite candy. I always have to help with the cereal and soda because Santa has a lot of trouble shopping at the grocery store. (There's a tendency for small children to mob him ... ) Check-out clerks and the people in line behind me kind of goggle at me the day I buy the cereal and soda. I'd like to know what's so strange about 5 boxes of sugar cereal and five liters of soda in a shopping cart.

I haven't exhausted the subject of Christmas, but I'm exhausted. As usual, everyone else is asleep and I am the lonely night owl. But the rest of my day is packed with stuff, so I have to blog late at night or there wouldn't be any blogging.

Michael listed my blog in our family's Christmas newsletter, which I mailed out in the Christmas cards on Friday. With any luck, some friends or family will actually read this. Hi, y'all!! Leave a comment if you do stop by.

Whether I know you or not, I hope you're having a wonderful life, too. When I say Merry Christmas, I mean best wishes for the season whatever your spiritual focus. It's the Solstice, Hanukkah and Kawaanza, too. Probably something else I've forgotten or don't know about. I honor them all. Santa is my hero - generous and warm and utterly trustworthy.

Ho-ho-ho and ciao!

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