• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Saturday, December 10, 2016


While talking with my mother this morning (age 86, and living in a full care facility), I asked if she was ready for Christmas.

She said we only really are ever ready in our heart and mind.

She said she has her memories.

And shared a few.

Trees were decorated with paper chains, and strands of popcorn and tinsel. The thin metal strands of tinsel glinted and swayed in the light. They were made of an actual metal (perhaps similar to tin foil), and carefully rolled up after use each year and saved for the following year.

From Wikipedia we learn that tinsel was originally made of extruded strands of silver and invented in Nuremberg around 1610. But "silver tarnishes quickly, [so] other shiny metals were substituted. … It was added to Christmas trees to enhance the flickering of the candles on the tree. Tinsel was used to represent the starry sky over a Nativity scene."

We also learn that one of the primary other metals used was lead. "Lead foil was a popular material for tinsel manufacture for several decades of the 20th century. Unlike silver, lead tinsel did not tarnish, so it retained its shine."  And I agree with Wiki that the new plastic forms of tinsel that replaced the metal types "do not hang as well as tinsel made from heavy metals such as silver and lead." Sheesh - lead!! It is a wonder we all survived and aren't mentally deficient.

When Mom was growing up in HillSpring, Alberta, Canada there was seldom a lot of fruit. Near Christmas each year Red Delicious Apples would become available in stores. She explained, with great longing in her voice at the memory, how they looked forward every Christmas morning to that single apple in the toe of their stockings. They wanted that apple more than any candy!

There were also a few peanuts in the stockings, always peanuts she says, and sometimes maybe one walnut. That would be an exciting thing!

I'm ready for Christmas, just like mother. I have past Christmas' shining in my memory: tinsel twirling, popcorn threading as Dad builds the tree stand of 2x4s a few days before Christmas, and family - so many special times with my family.

When Mom raised her children, our family always traded beef for apples. In the fall, usually in late September or October, Dad and a few other local men would take a truck (or trucks) to Creston, British Columbia, Canada and get a load of apples - usually several kinds - but the Red Delicious Apples were always saved until Christmas to eat. What anticpation, though apples in our family were never rare in the winter.

On  the tree or in the box new apples look almost dusty. That is a natural wax that is part of growth. We would rub the apples with a wool stocking and they would shine until you could almost see yourself in the smooth skin. Sometimes we would hang them as Christmas tree decorations by tying them on with a string knotted on their stems. 

Oranges were more rare.

Mandrin, "zipper skins," were a treat available only at Christmas. We loved how easy they were to peel.

They came in a box, and were individually wrapped in green tissue paper. I could have eaten a whole box by myself!

They were however, guarded and doled out as the rarity they were.

Are you ready?