Tuesday, December 23, 2008

As a matter of practicality

We decorated the Christmas tree today, a tree that is always a hodge-podge of ornaments and lights.  Mostly, I like it this way, and so, apparently, does Edith.  She wanted to hang absolutely everything on it, from the beat-up pieces of kitsch to the Frog Hollow ceramics to the Ikea father christmases with the odd little grey beards to the ornaments from my parents' house that my mom brought down with the words, I don't really like these anymore, but maybe you will.  These included a rock from the Lake on which someone had painted a kind of folk-art Santa, which I actually did like.  For my mom, this fell into the "different" category.  That is, as in "too."

Edith busily hung nearly all of them.  I had to practically wrestle her to hang those from my childhood and assert my adult authority over hanging the delicate set of red glass ornaments (some machine-made, a couple probably hand-blown) that my aunts decided I'd like from my grandmother's vast collection.  Without ever having seen that weird semi-animated, pre-claymation version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (narrated by Burl Ives in the role of mustached snowman), she hung, purposefully, as a mini-commune, the whole set of little plastic figurines we bought at Target out of some mass-culture sentimentality a couple of years ago.  Or, rather, I bought, as my husband jollily tolerates Christmas, but is just as happy to have nothing to do with it.  

I do, though, really need to go to the fabric store and buy some kind of gilded twine.  I have a mental block on purchasing ornament hooks, and have defaulted to household twine on a regular basis as I discover ornaments lack some sort of hanging device.  Household twine does have the benefit of being sturdy, even though it lacks presentation value.

Our tree topper is still a 5-pointed, double-sided, slightly out-of-proportion star cut out of some kind of glittery yellow craft paper and taped to a yellow construction paper cone--an improvisation the first year we were in the new house, the first year we had a tree of our own, and I realized there was nothing to put on top.  My family (my parents now) has an angel with a stiff brocaded gown, wings, and a wax face.  I feel pretty happy with the crummy star these days--it reminds me to be simple and to keep in mind what self-sufficiency meant to me before we became parents of a disabled child in a society that would rather give welfare to corporations than to children.

My point tonight is, though, at least I think it is, that this whole economic downturn business seems both frightening, but oddly familiar.  One of my neighbors noted that, so far, she hasn't heard anyone say that they're relieved to be able to take some of the material emphasis off the holidays for their children.  They all say, according to Rebecca, that they'll double-up next year.  I am relieved.  Between Robert's disabilities and Edith's diminishing sense of want (it peaked at about age 3 or 4 for her when she wanted a "batteries not included" for the holidays), gifts are odd birds in our house.  My husband and I feel that books are the equivalent of food, so they have books.  After the early childhood years when developmental toys are good gifts, everything for them right now is cheap plastic junk.  Edith has been after me to get my dollhouse down from the attic (my parents bought it in Germany when my dad was in the service), which has all of this lovely handpainted furniture.

My childhood was mostly hand-me-downs as a matter of practicality, of gifts longed-for over months, of limited disposable income, of few stores (and almost no chain stores), of what felt like a limited number of possessions.  Disposable income created in me a sense of filling up some kind of void with things that were there for the sake of things.  Especially if these things were for my kids.  I have too many clothes.  I take care of them, though.  I have stuff.  We have stuff.  The house has stuff.  Not a thing matches or coordinates, really (except in the living and dining rooms), but it's perfectly fine stuff.  


Elizabeth said...

The tree sounds lovely, jeneva -- I hope you and your family have a blessed Christmas.

jeneva said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. Merry Christmas to you, too!