Monday, November 21, 2011

confession: holiday decorating memories

Getting ready for the holidays can be stressful.  Oh, I'm not talking about all you Martha Stewart wannabes who love the challenge of creating a 6 foot Christmas tree out of the empty toilet paper tubes you have been collecting for a year.  You rise to the challenge, year after year.  Creating beauty out of thin air and magic.  You take the leftover turkey carcass from Thanksgiving and turn it into a Santa's Sleigh centerpiece.  You carve the jellied cranberry sauce into a wreath shaped side dish for your holiday feast, as you fill your homes with the sweet music of Christmas and mistletoe covered cat perches.

I'm not knocking you.  Oh, contraire.  I admire you.  Because I used to be just like you.  Well, sort of.  For about 35 years I spent the pre-Christmas season getting worked into a creative frenzy, so much so that by the big day I was a zombie and couldn't remember half of what happened due to exhaustion.  Some years do come to mind though.

There was the year I made stuffed animals.  Not just for my kids, but for the nieces and nephew too.  That adds up to about 10 big animals.  Bears and dogs mostly.  And let me tell you, sewing fake fur is no fun.  I broke so many sewing machine needles trying to sew that material that I kept at least one needle manufacturing company in business all on my own.  Not only did I have to sew those animals, but stuff every last leg and head too.  And animals always have four legs.  There were eyes to sew on.  Even though the kids were big enough to know not to chew the eyes off (I think they were all 5 years and older at the time), I always believed in safety.  Those legs and eyes weren't going anywhere when I finished them.

Then I discovered gingerbread house making.  My sister-in-law showed me how to make a precious little gingerbread cottage and decorate it with candy.  She had learned to do it while she and her husband were stationed overseas in Germany.  I took that little cottage to a whole different level.  The culmination of my gingerbread making career was a Noah's Ark, with pairs of animals on it.  I know, Noah's Ark isn't very Christmasy.  But it was all about design for me, what I could make out of gingerbread.  Good Housekeeping magazine had a gingerbread house issue every year that I drooled over, with gingerbread craft at a level of difficulty I could only dream of.  Noah's Ark was as complicated as I ever dared try.  I figured making all those animals made up for not being able to make a Victorian gingerbread house with real working electric lights in it.

Dessert making during the holidays was my niche too.  The others in the family would prepare the meal.  My contribution was always some special recipe or two or three that I had run across.  I think the low point of my career as a Christmas Dessert Maker was the German Chocolate Cheesecake that tasted like chocolate vomit.  After that I stuck to cookies and pies, cakes, that sort of thing.

So I pass my Martha Stewart hat to those of you who are more creative and better organized than I am.  I'll be spending my Christmas season with a glass of wine and Stevie Wonder, watching old reruns of Christmas Vacation and Miracle on 34th Street on television.

And thinking of all of you as you rush to make the perfect decorations and food.

As I sit and look at my thirty-five dollar, four foot tall fake Christmas tree with the twinkly lights.

~cath xo
Twitter @jonesbabie
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