The tale of Xmas stockings goes this way. We had no chimney. But Santa arrived and brought the kids something for their stocking. He didn’t wrap them. And we left cookies – another story – on a plate for Santa. On Xmas morning, the kids would rush upstairs and examine their stockings first. I’d get photos and video. It was a close quarters narrow space because we hung the stockings on the stairway bannister. We never spoke of when the kids stopped believing in Santa. Really! They were in their twenties. Finally I asked when the moment came to them that there was no Santa… probably around the age of six? Well, they laughed sheepishly and told us they didn’t want to disappoint us. Too bad the spell was broken because that was the last year we did stockings. Oh the cookies… every year I had to eat the cookies and leave some crumbs so the kids would think Santa ate them. By the time Xmas eve comes you are pretty stuffed and even eating one more cookie is a chore.
I’ll mention one more anecdote. One year we were on Captiva Island on Christmas eve. Our flight was due to return that night. Rather than put together Christmas on December 25 we decided to tell the kids that Christmas was the next day 12/26. So on Christmas day we didn’t turn on a radio or the television and we actually pulled it off. The family came on 12/26; we all celebrated. I had taped Christmas music from the radio (the station played carols for 24 hours on 12/25). No one was the wiser. There was only a bad moment when the pilot on Christmas eve called out on the PA that he saw a man, a sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer outside the jet window. In reply to Julia’s question Lisa responded, “Santa has so many places to go, he’s getting a head start. I didn’t spill until the kids were past twenty.
This tradition ended pretty fast. For a while, every year Lisa would assemble a gingerbread house. It took her a few tries to work out construction issues. She wanted it all natural without any non-edible support. Believe me when I say that there were issues. When the kids were old enough they were the decorators. We’d have all manner of candy to apply. Though some people preserve the house and display it year after year, we ate ours in gleeful destruction. Then Lisa decided it was too much to do every year and we stopped.
There was a tendency to overdo the Christmas gifts in our house. It must have been a childhood compensatory thing. It means that there is ‘cleanup.’ Jane and David took it in another direction. It looked like they were having more fun with the wrapping than the gifts. As the commercial states, “It’s priceless.”
We always had a live cut tree since Lisa and I have been together. She told me her dad made a tree from cardboard once when she was little. Money being what it is, he said it just didn’t seem right to spend money on a dead tree. It’s another thing you do to correct things in your childhood. The kids always put the ornaments onto the tree. Initially it was just the ones you couldn’t break. Later on we still had to put the delicate ones above the height that the young nephews could reach. And finally with grown children we didn’t put up a tree at all last year. We went to my sister in law. …all grown up.
We’re in transition. The kids are grown but not yet married. There are no grandkids. Lisa’s tired of all the Christmas decorating (and especially the take down). So last year was a minimal year with presents exchanged and a Christmas tree visited at my brother’s house. But back when the kids were small…. We spent a few Christmases at the Westhampton house. No matter where, the kids were all excited about the tree decorating. Julia loved to read and I had hooked her into reading the Nancy Drew series. Meanwhile I had to test the strings of lights to see if they were working. As soon I tested the lights, Lisa would put them on the tree. She didn’t think I could do the lights quite right. And here’s Julia all set to go, right in the middle of it all. Yes, it’s a fond memory.
It’s Soho. And obviously, it’s near to Christmas. We were down shopping in a furniture store as I recall. The wet snow was covering the trees. I like this impressionist take on what would have been a wet dreary day. I don’t know the settings – film. But it works for me and it evokes a memory each time I look at this image. I am reminded of Maggie Sherwood, whose image totally blurred in the rain from a cab inspires me to this day.
In response to Happy Anniversary, my wife responded, “Are you really?” Well I suppose I am at least feeling merry. I wish a good holiday to all and happy new year. While there are many people who don’t celebrate Xmas, i didn’t realize that much of the world doesn’t have the same new year. And there are those unique holidays like Thanksgiving and Halloween. I also know that it is near impossible to stage a family photo. The old folks hate how they look in pictures. The kids never sit still. The fact that you have anything at all on film is just pure luck. So, don’t sweat it. And leave out the old people. I don’t even care if you blink. Happy and safe holidays to all.
Early on my wife collected ornaments. So we don’t have a tree with one or the same ornaments. It’s a motley collection full of memories. She has dated the years and many have stories of our travels and places visited. So far it has not become an issue as to how to split the group up. Each year we unwrap and then hang them. The joke is to put the ugly ones to the back. And for a long time the delicate ones had to be higher than the kids and the dog.
Another annual tradition was to bake cookies. The kids really enjoyed doing food art. These were real homemade sugar cookies and the decorating would be fairly impressive. At least I thought it looked pretty good. There were no leftovers. And when Santa had to eat the cookies the kids left, I got more than my share.
Lest I forget, it’s John’s birthday today. It’s tough at this time of the year. You have nothing to look forward to when you celebrate Xmas and a birthday so close together. He never complained. I have this theory on how my mother named her three sons. She told me she used a baby name book. She got down to the V’s and I think she panicked. What happens if you don’t find anything and now you have X,Y Z to pick from. So I got named Victor. And when the youngest was born, mom picked Eric. See my logical thinking works. She wasn’t going back down to the end of the alphabet again. For the record mom didn’t pick out a middle name for me either. She stuck in the letter “T’ on my birth certificate and later told me she thought of my middle name. Oh, and it wasn’t till much later than that when I found out she lied about her age on my birth certificate. This story came to me from my mother’s younger sister, Fu Ching. Emily, the oldest of the three sisters, told my mother she was old when I was born. So she advised my mother to change her age. It’s too late now to find out the truth in all of this. So, to John, I didn’t forget.
This is a jelly roll cake layered in whip cream covered in chocolate frosting and a semi-tradition at our house. Well it was until my wife refused to make it any longer and I’m too unskilled to want to try. I did try to build a gingerbread house after she stopped and that was a disaster. We’ve had a lot of fun with this dessert over the years. The icing is now store bought Pillsbury or some such. We threw out about 3-4 batches of icing one Xmas when the chocolate seized up during the cooking. The cream is bad for you. So it’s a dessert that the kids were never encouraged or inclined to consume. Me, I miss it but am doing fine without it. Of everyone who should be on a diet, it’s my wife who has struggled the most. So it’s better to remember the picture.
We have close friends with whom we have had gatherings at Christmas. Once when the kids were small I got a great shot of the four kids sitting patiently waiting until they were permitted to tear at the colorful packages. Since then we line them up and they pose in roughly the same way for me. Looking at this reminds me how fast they grow up. Everyone’s (the kids) got a job now.
Early on my wife made the gingerbread houses at Xmas. They looked very good. When the kids were old enough she made the gingerbread and assembled the walls and roof. Then the kids had a go at decorating. I would have to say that a lot of candy never made it onto the house. The glue was sugar and when it hardened the house was hard to disassemble. But bit by bit over time, most of the house was torn down and eaten. The idea was to put a lot of candy all over. There was more to eat later. The nuts were something that I did – roasted cashews. Somehow homemade is a lot more personal than a gift card.
Soho, New York. In a pouring snow-storm I took this slide. It was a wet heavy snow. There was a Korean green grocer on the corner. You can’t tell but they like to stack their produce in a nice neat geometric pattern. I just like the drama, the fog from the steam pipe construction, and the snow covered trees waiting for Christmas.