Last week we bought new outside lights, because our old lights died 3 years ago, and we just didn’t bother for 2 years. We installed them and admired them, texted pics of them to Miss M in Brooklyn, who cannot wait to see them on 12/23. I bought new chili-pepper lights to put around the kitchen window over the sink; I found some shortly after we moved here in ’98 and used them until they died & I couldn’t find substitute bulbs. The last 3 years I settled for less-worthy lights and had that nagging feeling of “meh.” This year I’m back to festive around the kitchen window.
Yesterday we went to the local Christmas Tree farm, as we have for the last 14 yrs. (with the exception of ’09, when we bought an 8′ Douglas Fir for $25 from a tree lot that was struggling). We get Leyland Cypress or Incense Cedar because they last so long, smell so good, and don’t drop needles as do pines and firs.
Today we installed it and cut off the net; the guys who netted it used the smaller netter and broke a number of branches. We can’t hide all of the broken stuff but we’ll work around it. While the tree is soaking up water and relaxing, we decorated the loft railing and the stair railing, and found a stocking for A, C’s gf, who’s coming to spend Christmas with us.
Chris tenderly unwrapped and set up the hand-carved crèche we bought in the Republic of Korea in 1983, and have displayed every year since. I did the stair-railing lights and hung the stockings. The Chinchilla stockings, a mere token on the stair railing in the past, will be hung on the tree. Gone, but not forgotten.
Before we started decorating I cued up the London Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of “The Nutcracker.” Nothing beats that iconic music and our traditions. And since C danced 3 seasons in the Santa Barbara Festival Ballet’s “Nutcracker” the music is especially signifiant; I can picture who danced what when the music changes.
What’s different this year as we decorate with what we know M & C love is that we discuss the origins of the ornament or decoration. And today I was very easily moved to tears about all of it. Hormones? Sentamentality? Something else? I don’t know. I just know that tying the stockings to the lights got me more choked up than I ever would have imagined.
Keeping traditions helps one (or a family) hold onto something safe and dependable over the years. So a kid can count on something that doesn’t change (or if it does, it morphs gradually), even when the rest of the world disrupts right and left. The recent elections, the unrest and protests over Michael Brown and Eric Garner, et al, freak out all of us. What do we make of it? Where is our country heading? What’s wrong with the police and their policies and our judicial system? Is everyone texting and Instagraming and missing the Big Picture?
I have no answers. At this time of year I fall back on our traditions, that allow us a safe place to be, and while we’er there, perhaps a new perspective from which to view the world. Traditions make the changes tolerable, because we have a safe place to which to retreat, where the world is as it was at our most safe-feeling time.
I hope you all have that place to retreat, experience, and launch from. Amazing things can happen if you’re open to them.