By Guest Author Cheryl Anne Stapp
This year I’m really going to do it: clean out all the Christmas clutter that’s accumulated since my marriage twelve years ago. Our first house together was small, with just enough room for a two-foot tree atop a plant stand, a miniature crèche on the mantle, and a wedding-gift crystal bowl filled with bright scarlet balls. Then we bought a bigger house, with plenty of room for a five-foot tree that required many more ornaments, not to mention the purchase of side tables that practically invited holiday whatnots to sit on their glass tops.
Today the stored boxes of Christmas paraphernalia take up two six-by-seven foot cabinets in the garage, not counting the space for the artificial tree.
True, each of us had a few ornaments from our single years—insufficient, in the eyes of someone (me), who prefers a Victorian-style Christmas tree to the Minimalist Look. After placing the gossamer-winged, little-girl painted angels (his), the Cheshire Cat and White Rabbit set (mine), our combined assorted baubles, and ten just purchased, adorable tiny drums, the outer branches were still pretty bare, so I bought a dozen six-inch silk poinsettias in red and cream to slide into larger areas. Ceramic angels and bisque Santas (his) smiled from the side shelves of our oak entertainment center; my red velvet-robed Santa figure (and two more I couldn’t resist at crafts stores) surveyed the room from its top. Unfortunately, the five-foot tree’s lights failed toward the end of that holiday, so during the after Christmas sales we upgraded to one that is seven feet tall.
This must have been when my obsession with acquiring yet more Christmas stuff took hold—in the full knowledge that there would be two more feet of tree to trim the following year and for the foreseeable future thereafter. I no longer remember exactly when each piece of an expanding collection snuck into the house; only that at some point I became besotted with that Twelve Days of Christmas song. I was thrilled to learn that each verse has inspired the manufacture of iconic holiday décor, available in all sorts of retail outlets, if only one keeps a sharp eye out: partridges, pears, drummer boys, golden rings, song birds, and the like, although admittedly maids-a-milking are hard to come by.
On one Sunday drive into the foothills, I scored four wooden partridges balanced on carved yellow pears—tree ornaments—from a going-out-of business bed and breakfast. Another year I hummed all the way home after snagging a magnificent, two-foot high tin drummer boy (on sale!) enameled in vibrant reds, cobalt blues, and creams edged in gilt, to stand on a side table. Trips to a local craft emporium yielded a whole matched set, and some extras, of feathery-tailed song birds to clamp on tree branches. Somewhere along the line, blown-glass angels, delightful Santa tree hangings in a multitude of artistic styles, and balloon-shaped, beribboned and bejeweled tree trimmings all found their way into my shopping cart. The pair of spectacle-wearing Santa and Mrs. Claus Christmas stockings for the mantel seemed, at the time, the ideal fit, even if I did have to purchase separate heavy, hooked holders to hang them from. As to when I acquired those three tall nutcracker statuettes or the multiple boxes of ordinary tree-balls for “fill-in,” my mind is a blank.
My bridegroom contributed, too. Over the years he brought home a darling set of box-displayed Twelve Days wooden figurines, a beautiful porcelain salt-and-pepper-shaker bunny duo bedecked with tiny wreaths, and two magical plug-in tree ornaments that move, light up, and make noise when the tree lights are turned on. We smile every year to unwrap Hallmark’s tiny cream-colored cat with moveable legs and the little Mickey Mouse for the tree’s upper branches. We’re also proud of the two sets of exquisite porcelain reindeer we display from December through January.
But it’s all gotten to be too much. The lights on that seven-foot tree have given us grief for at least two years now, and we’re determined to downgrade to something smaller, come this year’s sales. There’s just the two of us, and after all we’re both over sixty—who needs all this strictly seasonal stuff that’s such a headache to disassemble and pack away each year? It’s going, I swear.
Well…most of it, anyway. Actually, the pricey Fitz & Floyd salt-and-pepper-shaker bunnies and the elegant Fitz & Floyd reindeer sets aren’t just holiday décor—they’re loving gifts to a wife from her husband to be treasured, aren’t they? Would the Drummer Boy be happy to find himself on a Goodwill shelf? I do believe it’s time for the Santa and Mrs. Claus Christmas stockings to find a new home, seeing as how we always feel obligated to stuff them with little Christmas morning surprises and we’re really too old for that now, aren’t we?
Okay, piles of extraneous stuff are leaving my house…but not, I think, the good-sized, Swedish made, Nativity scene I bought four years back or the enameled drummer boy or those carved partridges. The rest, though, especially the mass-produced tree ornaments and the battery-operated singing snowmen, are toast—if not before December 2012, then sometime in 2013 for sure.
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A native of Sacramento, California, Cheryl Anne Stapp returned “home” in 2000 when she married a former high school friend. Before that she had lived in Los Angeles for many years, where she was a contributing editor to Working World magazine. She graduated from California State University, Northridge.
Disaster and Triumph: Sacramento Women, Gold Rush Through the Civil War by Cheryl Anne Stapp is a thoroughly engaging history of chaotic times, told from the viewpoint of pioneer women who survived major fires, devastating floods, and other disasters, while lending their talents and energies to the development of California’s enduring capital city.
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