Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Stop And Smell the Poinsettias

Tiny tots, with their eyes all aglow...

In the past few years, I have set a pattern that seems to work for me in celebrating the season as I wish to do. I usually start my Christmas cards in November with personalized letters so that I can have them mailed by December 1st. I've learned over time that if I wait beyond that date, it just won't get done. I try to have my trees up and decorated by the first week in December. I was running late this year for that task, but just a few more ornaments to be hung and that is done. I want to finish ordering gifts today, I need to deliver some wreaths this week, and then next week is about truly relaxing and enjoying the holiday.

My mother's wreath

When my mother died a few years ago, (too soon, but is there any good time for that?) I set aside some dates to take flowers to the cemetery: her
birthday (which was also close to Mother's Day), the anniversary of her death, and then I got into the habit of making a wreath for the grave in December. My mother always made wreaths at Christmas, and I suppose, in part, this skill and task is an ongoing affirmation of what I learned from her.

I've been buying my Christmas trees from the same landscaper for a few
years now, and this year his tiny son was helping and had his little spiel down in greeting the customers and guiding them to the trees. I started talking to the father, and he said he had been teaching his son how to work in the garden and take on adult tasks since he was five. I think the boy is about nine now. I told him that my mother had done the same with me. I distinctly remember her handing me sharp pruning shears to do edging work with grass with the admonishment "Don't cut yourself," as my guideline. The landscaper told me he had done the exact same thing with his son, and that it had been that way for him, as well. I'm not a parent, but I think it's important that children learn these responsibilities early on in preparation for what the world has ready to land on them down the road.

I was going to give the father a tip, and I added in some extra money for his son, and he said, "Please hand it directly to him. If it comes from me, he won't understand the meaning of it." I gave the little boy a five-dollar bill, and he stood there with the stretched out money in his hands and stared at it before putting i
t in his pocket. I just loved seeing him out there in the cold, working side by side with his Dad.

My friend's wreath for her parents

This year my friend in Annapolis lost both of her parents. Her mother got up one morning in January, bathed, dressed, put on her makeup, made the bed, laid down on it and died. Just like that. It was a terrible shock to everyone, but it became a nightmare for her father who went into an immediate tailspin and decline. He never seemed to be able to recover from this horrible loss, and he died this summer. This isn't the first time I've heard of or seen this phenomenon. You will never convince me that people can't die of a broken heart. Her parents were buried just across the road from my mother's site, so I told her that this year I would make up another wreath for her and we would go out with my brother to leave these things for our parents.

My wreath

For me, this time of year is about traditions, as I am sure it is for a lot of people: which ornament is hung on the tree first, or always serving a certain food for a holiday feast, giving a party (which one of my friends does very well from his swinging bachelor pad), those special Starbuck's lattes, or seeing relatives from whom you may be geographically (or emotionally) removed. Try and honor your own traditions, and try not to get too frazzled during the coming weeks. Stop and smell the poinsettias.


Blogger A Unique Alias said...

Charming story about the father and son :-)

10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

who are those tiny tots? cute!

10:13 AM  
Blogger Kathryn Is So Over said...

That is a beautiful story and a wonderful gesture, making the wreath for your mother. My grandmother always made wreaths, and she passed away before I was old enough to learn from her. We still hang some of her creations at my dad's house at Christmas.

10:15 AM  
Blogger KOB said...

This is just an incredible story, Cube.

10:44 AM  
Blogger mommy22ss said...

What beautiful wreaths! You are very talented. I enjoyed the story about the father and son too.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Momentary Academic said...

You're a very talented woman, Cube.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Lizzie said...

"Try and honor your own traditions, and try not to get too frazzled during the coming weeks. Stop and smell the poinsettias."

A great lesson that is all too easily forgotten. Thank you for the reminder. And those wreaths are beautiful!

12:20 PM  
Blogger DC Cookie said...

Funny how you can get a first impression of what the story is going to be about, and be absolutely and completely wrong.

I saw 'put the X back in X-mas' and a picture of some cute Santa chicks in short skirts. I was thinking "how Christmas is sexy..."

That's SO sweet that you make your mother a wreath. I bet she's helping you pick the right colours without you even knowing it.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

AUA: There was so much I wanted to write about that little boy. He was out the door and walking toward me before his father even got out of the hut. He has his whole little speech prepared, but you could see him faltering during parts of it. I told his father exactly what I was looking for, but the son was already leading me away saying, "I want to show you this tree." He had tiny leather work gloves and tiny construction boots that matched his Dad's. He was never whiney or sullen, but rather responsible and out there doing what his father had taught him to do. At one point I was talking to him about his name, and he turned back into a little boy and got shy on me and turned his face into his father's leg with this smile on his face, but for the most part, when I looked down at him, I could already see the man in the boy, if that makes sense, and I thought a lot that afternoon after how his grown man character was already forming within the child.

Anon: I dunno. Google Chicks.

Kathryn: It's wonderful you have those things of your grandmother to continue using. I would bet even money when you hang those ornaments, somebody voices, "This was Grandma's."

Kob: Thanks...and you laughed last night when I swore to you I was writing about grave wreaths and not joking.

Mommy: Thank you. I thought a lot about that child after my interaction with him. After speaking with his father at length, I admired the heck out of him for how he is rearing his son(s)...I met his other older son further along, and he was polite, fun and interesting as well. When those two boys are grown, some girls are going to be very lucky, that's all that I can think.

Academic: Thank you. I try to express myself in all sorts of varied ways.

Lizzie: Thanks. I just hope everyone is out trying to squeeze in some fun things during this month. By the end of this week I want to be out and more social. That's my goal, anyway.

Cookie: You nailed it. I don't know why, but her colors and style ALWAYS come through when I am doing those arrangements for her. Her wreath is a lot more subdued than the others with antiqued pinks and greens. One year at Christmas we snuck into my office and went crazy. We hung boxwood kissing balls, garlands, a Dellarobbia wreath on the door and candle/pinecone arrangements. My employer was floored. I didn't tell him this, but that Sunday I took a picture of my mother sitting in his big important man chair, hugging a stack of his papers to her chest and looking like a kid that had just done something naughty. I treasure that memory.

1:58 PM  
Blogger cuff said...

Several good stories in this post, Cube.

2:16 PM  
Blogger DC Cookie said...

Wow - the man-chair picture story just made my day. Mothers are wonderful, even in spirit...

2:28 PM  
Blogger Jamy said...

Lovely post. Thanks for sharing.

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mother took our old family silver tree and fashioned it into two wreaths, trimmed with blue velvet. What had been a tired old tree was transformed into beautiful silver and blue wreaths hung above the fireplace. They are still lovely.

I still have her old Santa candle holders and little ceramic mice. I'll have to give them a new place this year in our new little house.

Traditions evolve. Happy day Wednesday before Thursday sleet, Cube.


3:25 PM  
Blogger Indri said...

I love the part about how the son had gloves and boots to match his dad's. And the wreaths are lovely.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Grince: I was thinking about how this year you have a brand new home to celebrate in, so you can now start building new traditions while adding to the existing ones.

Indri: I tend to have an eye for detail, and I zeroed in on the matching attire right away. His father was amazing with him. I thought a lot that day about the male father-son bonding that was going on and what it means to a boy child to be exposed to that.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Dutchess said...

Beautiful wreaths! My mom makes those too. You've inspired me to ask her if we can make some together when I go home next week. Those are special times and warm memories.

And, I certainly agree you can die from a broken heart. My father swore his father died from a broken heart 2 weeks after his wife (dad's mom) passed.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Velvet said...

Your entire post reminded me of my dad's parent's for two reasons. First, the boy working with his father - that's something my Greek Immigrant grandparents did with my Dad. But you don't see that now - American parents want their kids to be kids. So I'm wondering what the ethnic background is of the landscaper, if you know.

Second, at my paternal grandmother's funeral everyone was whispering, "They were married 50 years, he will probably go soon as well." Who says that at a funeral? Oh wait, crazy Greeks who are trying to remind you that you'll be coming back to Pennsylvania. But the theory is true - once a couple spends 10+ years together the odds of one surviving the other past a year decline significantly. Very sad. Ok, must have happy thoughts.

7:53 PM  
Blogger Laurie (aka buggy) said...

Those are so pretty! I wish I was more crafty like that. It's fun to do things you are good at.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

In Reclaiming we talked about wreaths as symbolizing the circle of life. Wreaths at solstice hold the promise of the returning light. What a perfect way to remember your mother. wow.

Thank you for the stories and pics. A toast to your mother - and to you, for remembering her with the skill of your hands, for honoring her with such beautiful works of art.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Jamy: Thanks. Hope you are enjoying the season.

Dutchess: I hope you get to do this, and yes, I know several couples that have gone this route.

Velvet: I think the father was probably of Celtic ancestory, and his other son had his coloring, but the little boy was dark, hair and eyes, so I have a feeling he took after his Mommy. It is an old-fashioned virtue to have your children working with you, I agree, and I think that's what amazed me so much was that this family was really geared to developing skills in their children outside the role of their being a "kid." When couples go quickly like that together, I call them "old faithfuls."

Laurie: I wish I made more time for crafting things, but there never seems to be enough time to develop new skills, let alone use the ones you possess.

Reya: I was aware of the symbolism behind the wreath, thus making it more poignant in it's usage. Also, the Winter Solstice holds a special meaning for me, so I invariably am honoring that day in some fashion.

8:34 PM  
Blogger always write said...

Beautiful traditions. They give rhythm to your life. Your mother must be touched and proud. I've often wished for a reason to fashion a wreath or trim a tree in my house. Not that I need a reason beyond simply wanting to do it, but... my mother would be less pleased than yours.

9:53 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Always? Laughing. If you EVER hung a wreath in your me, you would have a WHOLE new blog entry based on your mother's response. ;)

10:10 PM  
Blogger VP of Dior said...

i loved reading this story..... it puts things in perspective.

12:22 AM  
Anonymous Mataz said...

Cube, two things; 1)thanks for stopping by and 2) thanks for for being one of the few (not lightly) that I can't wait to hear from.

1:35 AM  
Anonymous John said...

Wonderful story (and a winner of a title right along with it).

1:51 AM  
Blogger Megarita said...

Gorgeous post, and a wonderful tradition. My wreath now has an deep sense of inadequacy, though, so I have to go tell him how pretty he is for a while.

8:54 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Miss VP: Thank you. I love reading your blog, tooz.

Mataz: You've been writing these lengthy, informative pieces on your blog, and I've been enjoying them.

John: I have fun playing with my titles. It doesn't always work, but it amuses me.

Megarita: I LOVE your pretty wreath. Don't you dare say anything negative about it, not even as a joke. You were so creative in how you put the wreath and tree together, and I commented early on about how cheery and lovely they were. Luckily my friends know how I enjoy the decorating aspect of it all, so they leave me alone and chuckle. I'm like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas "Do you think I'm a clown? Do I ammooze you?"

11:46 AM  
Blogger Blue Dog Art said...

Absolutely beautiful post. Thank you. My father and I used to always share some egg nog when we returned home from church on Christmas Eve. I have been toasting to him with egg nog on Christmas Eve for 13 years now. My own little tradition. The loss of a parent is like none other. You are a good friend to offer a wreath for your friend's parents grave. That to me, is what Christmas is about--sharing and caring about friends and family.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Even though Christmas is not officially my holiday these days, I love all the trappings of Christmas. I love making things. I could spend a fortune in the Paper Source in G'town buying "ingredients" for cards. I just finished a batch of homemade chocolate raspberry truffles for my nearest and dearest friends for Christmas. Ho! Ho! Ho!

12:21 AM  

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