Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas "Time"

Three or four years ago - I think...

Albert Einstein famously said "The only reason for time is so everything doesn't happen at once."

And yet at Christmas time, more than any other time of the year, it feels as if everything is happening at once.

That garland on the tree? I bought it in Maine, across the river from where I grew up and suddenly I am in grade three again, and we are colouring a Christmas scene across an entire chalkboard in dusty shades of red and blue and green and yellow and I cannot believe how beautiful it is and how wonderful my grade three teacher, Miss Read, is to let us have a picture we've done stay on the chalkboard for three whole weeks instead of wretched math problems.

Then I'm six and fighting with my grandmother, who is staying for us for Christmas for the first time because my grandfather is dead, and she thinks the tinsel garland ought to be hung vertically, when everyone (at least my father and I) know that it must be hung horizontally. We are both in tears by the end, for different reasons, and she is the bigger person and acquiesces, though it feels a hollow victory to me and I try to be extra nice.

A glass of sherry and her dog Happy...

That stocking hanging on the mantle in the basement this morning?

same crazy hair!

It's in my hands when I am one year's old and there is still the old stain of an orange I left in the toe for too long, concentrated as I was on my chocolate orange.

The Christmas of the Barbie Camper mixes with the Christmas of the air hockey game. There are all the boxing days in Hampton, and some in St. Stephen, and the year my older cousins got a pool table which I thought made them the luckiest people in the world.  I discover The Chieftains and Elvis Costello singing "The St. Stephen's Day Murders" and always think of my cousins.

There are the years my mother cooked, then me, and soon enough I suppose, someone else. I am forever thirteen in my mind, hugging a giant stuffed Pluto with delight, then I am a mother and watching my children vibrate as they waited to go down and open presents, just like Margaret and Patrick and I did.

There's my dad's best friend Johnny Walker getting a race track for Christmas when he was in his fifties (I was so impressed!) and us playing it again and again all Christmas Day night while the grownups drank rum.

There are Christmas Eve services and the love I feel for those people in the small church, who only weeks before had watched me be an angel in a pageant or mangle my verse from "A Visit from St. Nicholas" - why'd I have to get the "As dry leaves that before a wild hurricane fly" verse anyway?

There is the Queen, Christmas Candy, dirty dishes, the goose. My mother is thirty, then fifty, then gone. We are sledding, it's a green Christmas, it's a blizzard.

I'm lying under the tree, bereft that it's over. I'm opening paper advent calendar doors, lighting advent candles, almost sick with anticipation. Barbie and I are singing Holly Jolly Christmas on the radio, Joanne and I are sliding on New Year's Day. I am caroling after a gift exchange at Anne's.

I am a mother and there are videos and handmade ornaments and "Baby's First Christmas Ornaments".

There is the great Battling Tops tournament in St. Martin's at my Great Aunt's. My grandfather in Port Elgin has a table top tree and I am secretly horrified. There are books and sweaters and fudge and Smarties towers that become banks after Christmas. Someone has made us mittens. Someone gave me scratchy pajamas. Mostly, I want toys and later, a boyfriend.

My mother is dead and my dad spends Christmases with us and one morning he sleeps so soundly that my five year old son thinks he's passed away in the night. Later, there is a Christmas morning in the O.R. while the kids wait at home to open presents. Then I am in Saint John at a hospital with my grandmother on Christmas Day and she holds my hand and can't speak much and I am scared because she is supposed to speak A LOT.

It's all there and more. We exist together, these memories and I, and they can overwhelm me and make me sad and they can make me smile with delight.


That time is a construct is a thing of wonder to me, and yet I feel it in my bones. Every cell in the body of that small girl cuddling the stuffed animal above has changed since that Christmas morning many years ago and yet I have all of her feelings and I can slip back into that morning as easily as I slip into my evening's bath. She has never left me. I am not visiting the past I feel, but opening another door in my mind. We are all there together, in the present.

As a great philosopher named Dr. Seuss once said:  Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp.

Some of those hands are here in 2015, some exist within us. Both are real.

I wish you the loveliest of Christmas and holiday "times" this year and wish nothing less for you than a blessed and healthy 2016 for you and your loved ones.

xoxo wendy


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Mix and Mingle and Sparkle and Ruminations on Style (or my lack of interest thereof)

Some wonderful posts by Kim at Northern California Style and Jennifer at A Well Styled Life made me think about this post.

I haven't bought much this year, clothing-wise, but I always do like my shoes. And while an expensive shoe is no doubt a thing of beauty and longevity, sometimes you need something else. Sometimes you can only afford something else.

My dress this holiday season was black.

Boring huh?

But I added some accessories, and most of the sparkle came from my shoes.

It seems that over the last few years, I have allowed my inner disco ball to have its day. This morning I lined them all up and kind of went "huh, that's a lot of sparkly shoes."

The red ones were $30 at Payless and make me feel like Dorothy!

Perhaps I do not need any more sparkly shoes.

On the other hand, a pair of sparkly shoes in the dead of winter is a fine thing: a conversation starter, something to look at under the dinner party table, something that makes you stand out, for good or bad. When my toes twinkle, I twinkle.

At one point, I considered ridding myself of some of these things, and yet I loved them, in spite of it all. In my book, loving something is a sign that one should keep the thing even if they aren't perfect or tasteful. I can think of dozens of things I would part with before I could completely eliminate sparkle in my life. And while darling Jennifer helped me realize how best to present myself to the world now that I am in my fifties, a sparkly party shoe will always be in my closet. It seems my shoes are the Iris Apfels of my closet.

I have learned many lessons this past year: that like is best with like, that creativity and bravery are valued by me more than anything and that I don't have enough to say about clothes, especially when compared with those who genuinely have a flair or budget for it. I like clothes, I just don't care enough it seems to work at, and it is work for me, as I am not a natural. A few nice pieces of clothing are swell, sure, but it doesn't go much further than that for me.  I much prefer to see what others do there and admire from afar.

Shoes on the other hand, are a different matter. I love my shoes. And I love variety in my shoes and boots. None of the shoes in the picture above were expensive (save my old Donald Pliners) but they are comfortable and I love them.

Over the past year I have struggled to keep this blog interesting and I suspect at times I have failed. When I started blogging several years ago, it was a way to get back into writing and truthfully, the fashion blogs were what I stumbled upon first. But really, I wasn't particularly good at it and I spent more money than I cared to in order to keep up. I am not a fashionista and the effort to try and be one was not satisfying for me.

I will always admire the style of others, but to be my authentic self, I must admit that while I like to look nice, I am not all that comfortable sharing my blah outfits of the day! :-) And this is no critique of others for their love of clothing and their beautiful style. We are all unique, and our interests  should be celebrated.

I am even contemplating a moratorium on clothes shopping for awhile, and simplifying things further.

So I hope you will stick around as I muse on other things (and the odd pair of shoes), including creativity, bravery, family, and all the goodness in this old world.

xoxo Wendy

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

An ode to the Christmas Card and other types of card

There was a time when everyone sent Christmas cards, wasn't there?

I can recall being a wee lass and waiting for the mailman to arrive (ah the heady days before Community mailboxes) and the delightful thwack! as a small stack of white and red envelopes, many festooned with seasonal stickers, came through the mail slot and landed on the floor.

It seemed as if most of the cards were from people I didn't know (my parent's old university pals), but I didn't care. Many were from neighbours from across our small town, for in those more formal days, people sent cards to their friends, or it least my mother and her friends did.

Some of those cards contained thick handwritten letters that shared the highlights of their year. Others had mimeographed notes inside (remember them!) - the iconic "Christmas Letter", with a small signature at the bottom written in the perfect penmanship of adults who had grown up in a time when fine penmanship was graded.

I miss those days. Each year I find myself sending fewer and fewer cards. Sure I hand-deliver cards to my friends, but somewhere along the way I've lost addresses or I talk to them weekly or monthly on Facebook and it feels as if the Christmas Card is superfluous.

And yet...

There is something inherently delightful in taking a moment to choose a fine card, or box of cards, and writing a small personal note that wishes the recipient the happiest of Chanukahs, the merriest of Christmases, good cheer for the coming year. Those fine sentiments warm our hearts to send and receive, and they are like sprinkling fairy dust on our friends and neighbours.

This post is mine to you. And if I had all of your addresses, I would send you a real one!

And speaking of cards, I got my new author business cards this week. It was very exciting! I have seen a rough draft of my book cover, and I am about to get into the editing with my editor. No final date yet for the release, but things chug along at their own pace and I am grateful.

The fellow who did the design was aces and is currently working on my website!

Have a happy rest of week! Will write more on the weekend after my annual Christmas dinner with lip-synch battle attached (because it wouldn't be Christmas at my house if we weren't singing and dancing!)

xoxo Wendy