Past due

“I think mom had a shopping problem,” I say to my brother and dad. They laugh because even though I’m exaggerating a little bit, my mom did love to shop. My brother and I are in Winslow with our dad. Our mission: go through the massive amounts of holiday decorations collected by my mom through the years, and divide stuff up amongst us.

My mom had tubs and tubs of Christmas decorations and looking through them all, and sorting them, took us into the late afternoon. We are enjoying ourselves. “Judy, really?” I say, when I come across something particularly schmaltzy. Plus when’s the last time I hung with my dad and brother for a weekend, just us?

My dad observes that if we wanted to, we could decorate each room in the house with a different Christmas theme. Like, a Snowman room, say, or a Classic Santa room, or a Playful Winter Penguins room.

Later that night after going out for tacos, we gathered at the kitchen table to play some cards. I said, “Hey dad, do you have any Tequila Rose?” Because he usually does have the sweet strawberry flavored tequila. It’s something I like to drink at my parents’ house. I think I’ve only ever had it at their house. My dad said, “No, but I’ve probably got something else.” He stood on the kitchen step stool and rooted around in the high cabinet until he found a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream. “Hey, I’ve got this!” he said triumphantly. It was a jumbo bottle, and looked almost full.
“Sure, that’ll do,” I said.
We all three poured a glass while I shuffled the deck of cards.

A half hour later, my dad was examining the bottle while he waited for his turn. Our glasses sat nearly empty “Listen to this,” he said. “For optimal consumption of this product please use by date on bottle . . .” he paused dramatically.
“Well, what is it?” we said.
“November, 2008!”
We crack up. We’re four years too late for optimal consumption.”

We reassure ourselves that it’s liquor so it can’t go bad, right? And it tasted perfectly fine besides. More importantly it’s possible that my mom bought this bottle of Irish Cream, and since she’s been gone since 2008, that seems remarkable in itself.

Nothing says Christmas like crafting your heart out

My grandma and her three living sisters liked to try and out craft one another. A new craft project would start with one of them, but spread like wildfire to the other sisters once they had been shown the new craft du jour.  One year when I was a kid, and I mean literally a whole year (at least), they embarked on making Christmas decorations.  The decorations were “people” made out of two brightly-colored silk Christmas balls stacked on top of one another, the lower forming the torso; the upper-ball becoming the head.  They each had different hats and feet and hair styles made out of felt and push pins and chenille pipe cleaners, and pom-poms, and sequins and sticky tacky craft glue and the magical ingredient – glitter.  They made so many characters: Santa and Mrs. Claus of course, but also an elf, a Jack Frost, a Swiss chalet girl, a boy and girl skier, a snowman, a snow woman, an angel, a toy soldier, a jack in the box.

But wait, they also included a slew of barnyard animals:  a duck, a frog, a skunk, an elephant, an owl.  Also a Carmen Miranda with fruit on her head, some pilgrims, a jack-o-lantern, storybook characters like Little Red Riding Hood, and many more.  They would get together and show each other new characters they had come up with. This went on for months.  The crafting flotsam and jetsom swelled.

The production of the ornaments spread out, eventually overtaking the entire kitchen table.  My grandpa would look for a little space to place his coffee cup; a corner to rest his paper.  He was losing ground daily and there was glitter everywhere.  On every surface.  On his toast. On his shirt.  It smelled like drying craft glue. You could see him mumble, “Goddamn it” quietly to himself in vain.

I, on the other hand, loved it. My grandmother’s dining room table was like peeking into the North Pole. Little piles of spilled sequins and glitter seemed to celebrate the new creations being produced.

She made several complete sets of these people and I thought they made the most marvelous tree decorations I had ever seen. There were enough to cover an entire Christmas tree, and more.

Liam finds them a bit overwhelming I think, taken in total. But we always put a few of them out each year at Christmastime.

Here’s wishing a Merry Christmas to everyone out there who, from time to time, gets a little carried away.