Sunday, 20 December 2009
Since moving to New Jersey somewhere about a decade and a half ago we've had Christmas trees of all sizes. There were trees 10 feet tall (one at a time, I hasten to add.) Carol would come over with her tall stepladder and a bottle of champagne. I'd set up my big stepladder. And the two of us would guzzle champagne and string lights on the tree. Then there was the year Paul took the Quad into a neighbor's field, with me riding pillion. We cut three modest-size field junipers, Juniperus virginiana. One was set up at the foot of the staircase, another in our bedroom, and the smallest as a table-top tree in the dining room.
While I love the smell of evergreens these winters we don't have a tree. Doesn't mean I don't decorate. The small tableaux I'd set up continue to be part of the solstice celebration, decorations that are welcome reminders of holidays past and present set here and there throughout the house.
Always, the first one up is this little mobile of the goose girl and boy
that slowly twirls in the foyer. We were living in Connecticut then.
Caroline and I found them in a semi-wholesale florist shop, just two.
Perfect. One for each of us. I think back and remember her, gone now.
I found the five white horses and little sleigh in the same store.
My father took little matchboxes and gift wrapped them
with pretty paper. Years later I found the the little Santa.
They cavort on top of a bookcase in the great room.
Then there is Mrs. Tiggywinkle and her assemblage. The shed, I think, was intended for a creche.
No matter, it serves for the washer woman. The last few years it's been in the downstairs bathroom.
Here's a closer look at Mrs. Tiggywinkle, and a basket of porcelain vegetables
that I found at White Flower Farm when there on a bus tour one summer.
Beautifully made little basket, then I "shopped" for potatoes and onions,
a couple of cabbages and a napa cabbage, beets and leeks. Tasty.
Then there's this deer. I found the plastic doe at some shop, and spent
forever individually gluing scales from hemlock cones over the figurine.
Tedious. Glue a few, wait while the white glue dries so the scales don't slip,
glue a few more. Lovely now it is done. There's a second, incomplete one.
And, especially appropriate for BelleWood Gardens,
a little wheelbarrow and tiny flower pots.
Tucked in a little corner alcove where the hallway takes a turn is a cuddly bear clutching a fish.
A garland (artificial, I confess) wraps around the telescope's legs for proper woodsy look.
A moose, with jewel bright garland around his neck, strides out of the trees on my bedroom bureau.
When my father was a boy his family lived in Malmö, in Sweden for several years before immigrating to the United States. One winter, many years later, he told me about tomten. A tomten is a mythical creature of Scandinavian folklore who take care of a farmer's home and children, protecting them from misfortune, especially at night when the housefolk were asleep. He looks like a small, elderly man, often with a full beard and wearing the everyday clothing of a farmer. In return for his protection of the family and farm animals the tomten receives a bowl of porridge with a pat of butter on top.
Enchanted with the story (and his recital of Victor Ryberg's poem, in Swedish, which he'd memorized as a schoolboy attending gymnasium in Malmö.) I asked him to carve me a tomten from a substantial branch. Which he did.
There's another story, about the tomten and a fox. Adapted by Astrid Lindgren from a Swedish tale, the sly fox sneaks toward the farm in the moonlight, hoping to steal a chicken or two. But he’s forgotten about the old tomten who guards the farm at night. The tomten offers to share his porridge with the fox if the fox promises to leave the hens alone. So now I needed to find a little fox.
Since the tomten is also a woodland creature I found a reindeer and some rabbits to keep him company.
And then one Christmas my dear friend Judie gave me a copy of Astrid Lindgren's charming book,
inscribed to her only friend with a tomten of her own. A sweet book. wherein the tomten knows
that foxes too, can be hungry on a cold winter night. He'll offer the fox something else to eat,
while the hens safely sleep in the barn, feathers fluffed against the cold. God Jul, happy and warm.
The various figures and accessories appear in the week before Christmas, then are packed away
the day after New Year's day. Another seasonal item needs year-round attention, but not much.
A Christmas cactus flowering on the kitchen window sill against a snowy backdrop.
I've had this one for a couple of years. Outdoors in summer, left out in the fall until
Halloween or about to be kissed by frost. Then into the cool, 50° Fahrenheit greenhouse
where it obligingly sets its flower buds and blossoms in the short days of winter. I found
some at half-price at Lowe's, just $1.99 each because their flowers had withered and
fallen off. I chose three that I think, looking at the shriveled remains, had apricot flowers.
Guess I'll find out next year. These are so simple to care for, and so rewarding.
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