Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter Thoughts

Winter in San Francisco is wonderful!

One day, it's sunny and up to the mid-60s or higher; the next day it's barely 50 and sheets of rain are pounding the streets. Yesterday afternoon, the fog was so thick I could barely see the house across the street -- an old fire house, now divided into two posh townhouses. One is for sale: See What a grand neighborhood I live in -- and as Joel pointed out, my view is better than that of the pricey townhouse.

Still, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and not just in the celebrated Union Square. Lights are up in many neighborhoods, wreaths hang on doors, carols ring out from sound systems at the grocery store, the dry cleaners and the coffee shops.      

Fully aware of the irony, before I moved to San Francisco I hauled five of my six boxes marked "Christmas" to the resale shop run by the National Council of Jewish Women. "People of all faiths shop here," the manager said when I asked if my merchandise was welcome. I left all of it.

Because I have little storage space in the apartment, I asked P&J to keep a box of my remaining Christmas items at their house. When I picked it up the other day, I noticed my ornaments were missing. I called, and we discovered they had been packed in a separate plastic bin, apart from the larger bin that held assorted small trees, candles and gift bags. I stopped by a day later to retrieve the small bin.

Back home, I spread all of the ornaments out on the table. Distant past mingled with more recent past -- ornaments from my childhood (antiques now, right?), ornaments Joel made in elementary school, ornaments crafted by friends, ornaments given to me as gifts long after I had stopped buying Christmas trees.

Some years ago, at the doctor's office for the third Christmas Eve in a row, the doctor mentioned he could not figure out why I kept getting horrid sinus and respiratory infections the same time every year. "I know you don't have a real tree in the house," he said, "because that would really set off your mold allergies."

Of course I had a real tree in the house, a big one, just like every year.


For the next five or nine or 13 Christmases, I set out my three groupings of small artificial pine trees, displayed a candle or two and added a cheery moose figurine to the scene, and that was that. While friends took days, even weeks, to decorate, I took about an hour. The years I traveled to San Francisco, I didn't even bother with that.

The day after my ornaments and I were reunited, I found myself examining tiny live trees at the hardware store in Cole Valley. They were, in a tiny way, beautiful -- full, lush, evergreen. They also started at $35 for a tree under 24 inches high. Then I remembered the mold allergies. Plus, what would keep the cat from nibbling on a branch or two and then throwing up on the rug?

I marched into the hardware store and for $15 bought a small fake tree, green, strung with little white lights. This tree is not what anyone would call lush, but nicer than the plastic Charlie Brown trees that Walgreen's sells. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is my favorite holiday program, and I appreciate what Walgreen's is doing -- sort of. But this is nicer.

I burrowed through my big Christmas box, located a bright red napkin, spread it on the faux burled wood drum table, set up the tree and decorated. At first, I worried because I had neglected to buy ornament hooks, but many of my dear old ornaments had their original hooks attached. They are only a little rusty. Really.    

Under the tree, I placed a few larger ornaments -- some of them Peanuts themed -- and my favorite photo of Joel and Santa when Joel was just two months old. I added the baby Jesus from the manger set that I had as a child. The manger, alas, collapsed with age before I left St. Louis and all the other people are gone.  Most of them were missing a hand or foot -- in one case, a head.

Susan asked about Joseph just the other day. Regular readers may remember that Joseph from my childhood manger set (he cost 19 cents new) was employed for a time to help me sell the condo. At his post, packed in a Ziploc bag and positioned upside down in the big pot that held geraniums on my deck, Joseph collapsed in on himself, done in, no doubt, by icy weather. Sorry, Joseph.

On the top of my tiny tree I placed an angel given to me when I was 5 -- another antique, made by a friend of my parents. When she gave it to me, she made me promise to always put the angel on my Christmas tree, That was so long ago that my memory of it is in black and white.  Still, the promise has been kept this year.

Around the apartment, I set out my mother's small ceramic Christmas bells, "Joy" rendered in stained glass by a friend long gone, three small ceramic snow-covered trees made by an artist in Michigan, a tiny snow globe with a tinier polar bear inside, a scented red candle and a couple of Christmas-themed books.

That's really all I need, now or ever. 

I packed up much of what was left in the bigger Christmas bin and drove it to the owner of my neighborhood salon. Lison loves Christmas, loves "vintage" decorations and loves my salt-and-pepper naturally curly hair, so it was a no-brainer that the stuff should go to her. She was thrilled.

Two weeks ago, I wrapped gifts while listening to the "Glee" version of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Now that the place is decorated, I guess I need some Christmas music. It's too bad my old Muppets Christmas record with John Denver on it is gone.

I wonder if that's available on CD?   

1 comment:

  1. Well -- I must say this has made me realize how much I miss hiding the baby Jesus in the ice trays at your house. Also your Winter Solstice party .... but clearly you are at the place you were meant to be!