By now, you’re getting a bit panicky. When you put last year’s Christmas “away,” where did you put the list with all the names of friends who get cards or gifts or coffee cakes?
And what about the red and gold banners you stick on the pasture gate and the cemetery fence with green duct tape (which gives you a fit when you try to remove it come summer)?
At least you remember where the rolls of red plastic ribbon are that turn the porch’s white pillars into candy cane look-alikes when it is spiraled around them.
It is said that if you can’t lick ’em, join ’em, and I’ve finally been forced to decorate outside even before the first of December. In the past that was unthinkable.
No sooner than at least two weeks into the month was the correct time to begin. But now, while Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations are still up, many homes already display lighted Christmas trees in the window and professional decorators have filled the yard and the exterior and roof of the house with every gimmick and lighted figure they can cram in.
I have had to join ’em. While the weather was still comparatively warm and dry (and it was still November!), I did hang a wreath on the barn door. I did hang a wreath on the storm front that protects the porch from the west wind, and after finding the banners I put one, “Happy Holidays,” on the gate and the other, “Peace on Earth,” on the cemetery fence.
As I taped it down, I thought how very sad. Surely there will never be peace on earth, no matter how many banners we hang or how many times we sing about it in carols. Which shouldn’t surprise us, because there are many families who have difficulty achieving peace within their “own.”
As a friend said to me after she had attended a large family Thanksgiving dinner, the Norman Rockwell vision of a “normal family” no longer exists and the more generations that are present, the more confusing the relationships become. It is the age of his and hers and ours, of ex-spouses, and of in-laws and outlaws.
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Changing the bedding this morning, I marveled at the size and material of the top sheet which is pure linen. I’m sure you couldn’t find a hand-hemstitched linen sheet anywhere today except in some attic.
This sheet was no doubt purchased by my mother, perhaps in the ’40s or even earlier, and was probably saved for the guest bed when company was coming for overnight. It is still in perfect condition.
When I emptied my childhood home in 1984, I was careful to save it along with other linens which, believe it or not, I continue to use. Goods in those days were made to last, and were not subjected to beatings by drying machines!
There was a problem, though. Polyester had not been invented and linen sheets wrinkled at the touch of a finger. But they were carefully ironed and were exquisite when first spread on the bed. The ironing was done on a mangle and great skill was needed to operate the machine.
Lyman Orton, proprietor of The Vermont Country Store (great catalog), writes entertainingly about his mother’s mangle and how in the ’40s she taught him to use it.
“She taught me how to set the heat on the curved presser, engage the rollers by pressing the levers with my knees, and feed a sheet through it, first one half and then the other. Out came a beautifully pressed – at least theoretically – sheet and, of course, pillow cases. It was not so easy to do this without pressing in creases. One had to keep the sheet taut as it got pulled through, something I was not always successful at doing. But that was OK with my mom; at least the sheets got mangled, in more ways than one!”
I can recall hearing horror stories about the severe burns inflicted by those metal rollers. And lately I have heard that mangles are experiencing a comeback, but in much smaller versions than the old behemoths.
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Yes, I will do more decorating for Christmas, but in my own good time. Last year, personal events – Ori’s passing and my sister’s stroke – very effectively erased ay holiday spirit, and I didn’t even have a tree except for a little lighted one Judy loaned me. Nor was the Christmas house and barn taken from the closet.
Hopefully, this year will be an improvement – and I think I feel the holiday spirit returning. Keeping my fingers crossed, though!