By Betty Cook
It hardly seems real, but here we are, in yet another new year. 2022 seemed to fly by, marked by unexpected incidences and a sense of being behind most of the year.
My pre-New Year’s resolution of staying caught up has already been tested by my fall since I can’t do much except sit in my chair and carefully perambulate when absolutely necessary.
Two days into the new year, and ten days post fall, I’m still pretty bruised up and uncomfortable, but hopefully getting a bit better each day. I see an orthopedic specialist tomorrow and will get a better idea of how things are progressing.
I would like to share something with you from the old year. Each Christmas, my sister, Ruby Ida Denton, composes a Christmas Letter that she shares with all her family. I always enjoy reading these letters and was especially moved by this year’s offering. Ruby Ida titled her 2022 letter “Colors of Christmas”.
She wrote: “Christmases have come and gone. This year will be my 90th Christmas. How the years have come, and how they have gone and how they have changed. And yet, their basic tenet has remained the same. Christmas is, and always will be, a commemorative celebration of the birth and life of Christ. Its many components of gifts, decorations, of Santa and his many helpers, make the season bright. But the underlying message through all these outward aspects of Christmas is LOVE. So, we honor HIM with our love. As we show love for our families, our friends, even those we meet. We show love for HIM. “So, we honor Him, pa rum pa pa pum…”
Christmas memories, as all memories, are bits and pieces kept by the memory. These are most often recalled through one of the senses, sight, touch, taste, smell, or hearing. I hear “Jingle Bells” and we stand singing in our fourth-grade school Christmas program. I hear “Away in a Manger,” and I sit hearing my children and others singing in our church Christmas program while waiting for Santa Claus to come with his “Ho, Ho, Ho.” I pull our soft blanket up around my ears and I remember the old house with its unceiled room and my little bed with its double flannel blankets to sleep between and its four quilts piled on top to keep out the cold air after the fire had burned down in the fireplace. I smell gingerbread baking and I remember my mother, standing at the old wood cookstove, opening the oven door so carefully, to test the doneness of the gingerbread. Just maybe I can sample its goodness before Christmas.
My Christmases are all tied together with a bright colored string. It is a tiny string, no bigger than a crochet thread. It is red or green, or it may just be a piece of twine that my mother has scrupulously saved from the opening of her sacks of flour or cow feed. This string is the final touch to the white tissue paper-wrapped packages she has so carefully wrapped for the family Christmas gatherings. There is no gift bag, no shiny gold or silver paper, no big fluffy bows. There is just this simply wrapped white tissue paper package, tied with this little piece of string. But how beautiful it was!
Christmas colors we think of most are red and green, silver and gold. But many colors have brought joy to my Christmases. From that first bit of colored string to mother’s “Merry Christmas” made from cardboard wrapped in the foil carefully saved from gum wrappers throughout the year, to the red paper honeycomb tissue bell hung in the center of Ma and Pa’s living room, to the freshly cut green cedar tree with its many-colored glass balls and its silver foil icicles, Christmas was always a time of many colors.
The tree was not always green. One year it was a holly with red berries. That did not seem like a Christmas tree and was hard to decorate. The red berries dried up and fell off before Christmas, so it was just green after all.
Time went by and I was the mama and doing the tree. I got creative and decided to have some different trees. I had seen flocking kits at Perry’s 5 & 10 cent store. You added water and color to the bag of flocking, then connected the bag to the blower end of the cannister-type vacuum cleaner. Then, carefully, you pointed the nozzle toward the tree and turned on the vacuum cleaner. Oh, yes, you needed to be outdoors!
The flocking kits came in several colors. In 1959, we had a white tree, with red balls. In 1960, we had a pink tree, with pink balls. In 1961, we had a blue tree with blue balls. In 1962, the vacuum cleaner wore out.
Years later, I had a white tree decorated with all purple. It had purple lights, purple balls, purple garland, and some beautiful purple birds bought in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Of all the Christmas colored lights I have seen, the dearest to my heart are the many-colored ones, like Joseph’s coat of many colors. They bring a warmth and a glow to Christmas that triggers many other senses. So, bring on the colored lights, the warm blanket, the Christmas music, and gingerbread, the cedar and the holly. Bring on the little Christmas string and the white paper tissue and the red Christmas bell. And let there be love. Merry Christmas with love!”
Mother’s string tied gifts are an integral part of my early Christmas memories also. I suppose that is the reason that a few years back, when I spotted colored twine in the Christmas craft section at Hobby Lobby, I had an irresistible impulse to purchase some, and began using it to tie my gift boxes up. Now, my boxes weren’t plain; they were sturdy, decorative versions, intended to keep one from having to actually wrap the package. However, rather than taping the boxes shut, I used Mother’s old method of tying them shut. It brings back a warm feeling as my mind drifts back to those long-ago days.
The honeycomb bell Ruby Ida mentioned also triggers warm memories as I remember them hanging in our home throughout my childhood. For many years after I married, I hung honeycomb bells of red and green in my own home also. But those bells disintegrated from many years of use and were discarded.
So, I was thrilled when I spotted a trio of them hanging in a booth in one of the antique stores I went to with my daughter and granddaughter while visiting Diana in Abilene back before Christmas. They were in surprisingly good condition, likely packed up in someone’s holiday treasures for many years. I immediately decided that those bells were going home with me. Looking deeper into the booth, we spotted another trio of bells that left the store with Karen.
Another special antique store find during that trip was a tree decorated with white plastic reindeer like those I put on my Christmas tree during those early married years. I had already collected a number of these, but the ones on this tree were very well priced to begin with and had been reduced in price by 40%. So, five of them that were exactly like my early ones went home with Karen, and the other five, very similar, but not identical, went home with me, to join my other collection. It’s always such fun to find nostalgic items like that.
One day soon, my Christmas decorations will return to their storage boxes, officially putting a period on the end of 2022’s Christmas season, even if we are already days into the New Year. There is always a touch of sadness to this day, but it’s nice to get the living room back to “normal”.
This time, I have some new décor, purchased quite a while back, that will replace a few things in the room. I look forward to having the new things up to enjoy and brighten the remainder of our short, early darkening, winter days.
Mother often received new items as gifts, to decorate her home, but she hated taking anything she already had down. So, as the years went by, her walls and shelves became somewhat crowded and cluttered.
In past years, I’ve had a tendency to do that too, but found that the crowded look didn’t bring gratification, rather made me anxious. So, I decided that while I might not get rid of things I was taking down, they could certainly be packed away while I enjoyed the new décor in the room.
Another thing Karen and I usually do during the often-dreary winter days is get back to our sewing machines, working on new inventory for the American Girl doll clothing we sell throughout the year, but especially on towards Christmas. Last year, we didn’t do much sewing, resulting in very few items left at the end of 2022. We’re both looking forward to having new pieces to offer in 2023.
It will likely be a few more weeks before I can sew, but I can keep company until my sewing side is fully healed.
Given the history of the last few years, it is definitely going to be a good idea to try and get our sewing and crafts well on their way during the first part of the year. Pushing the work later on the calendar is guaranteed to cause issue as one thing or another comes up that would delay our work. It’s a proven thing!
2022 had many challenges. Illness, injury, loss and more. But it also had times of great joy, such as when my great grandson, Wyatt was born. I already derived so much joy from his older sister Abigail, and his arrival was a great additional blessing! One of the ladies at Soules Chapel UMC where I attend church refers to Abigail as a butterfly, fluttering from one place to another, spreading joy as she goes. I’d have to agree that this is a great description of her personality.
Our little ones are such a joy, and their excitement and happiness at their milestones add so much to my life. I look forward to sharing their lives in this new year and will undoubtably be sharing some of their stories with you over the next year.
It is my hope that all of you will find things to celebrate that bring you joy in 2023; “the best things in life are the people we love, the places we’ve been and the memories we’ve made along the way”.