Thursday, December 24, 2009

Getting Ready

As Christmas approaches, the inevitable preparations began. Cleaning the house, cooking food, shopping... This year, there would be dinner at the farm with my family and brothers who made it home for the holiday. And then Christmas day, a brunch at my house for the influx of in-laws.

But after a particularly busy and stressful December-so-far, I have not been particularly inclined to do much in the way of cleaning - or cooking for that matter. I made several lists of goals for the day and rarely met them.

Finally, on the day before Christmas Eve, ZBoy got me started. It's been kind of warm and humid around here - not very Christmasy at all. So he offered to wash my car.

Though the weather was warm, the cold water coming out of the hose was not, so he bundled up against getting wet and went to work. Did a pretty good job, too!

While he was out there, a man came by the house. He's been by before. He lives a few streets away and is handicapped. He has a club foot and doesn't have the use of one of his arms. He wants to work, but no one will hire him. Normally, we don't either. For one thing, my husband likes taking care of his own yard. And for another, we really haven't had the money to spend on hiring people to do stuff we could do ourselves. But on this, two days before Christmas day, I yelled out the window to him and asked how much. "$30, ma'am!"

That gave me pause. Seemed like an awful lot for mowing the front yard, but we were running out of time to make our house presentable for company, so I agreed. I needed it done - he needed the money.

He worked hard. It took him about an hour. When you only have one arm that works and one leg that works well, it takes a while. I'd say it was $30 worth of effort on his part - and it DID look good when he was done. I'd say that was a pretty good investment.
The house was finally starting to come together. I got the living room cleaned up, including shampooing the carpets. We have dogs. They come in the house. I know we can't smell it, but I'm sure my house has a little bit of a doggy air to it. So carpets were cleaned. Darling Man did the family room, I did the living room. Our joint effort produced a sparkling clean house and I felt much more comfortable about having people come be in it.

My grandmother (maternal) has been gone for a little over 10 years. But there are certain times when she is very much there in my mind. She was sitting next to me as I began wrapping presents last night. She's the one who taught me how, you see. Every year from the time I was old enough to work scissors without destroying things, she would invite me over to help her wrap Christmas presents. We'd have cocoa and cookies and wrap. One of the bedrooms in her house was devoted to Christmas one month a year. The presents went in there, the wrapping happened there. I thought of her as I set out paper and tape on my own bed and made stacks of presents according to purpose (stocking / tree) and person.
Grandma was a saver. Every year, the paper was collected, flattened and folded away to use again. Ribbons, bows, paper, boxes. All went back into the closet when Christmas was over. I remember certain boxes in particular, and this stretchy gold cording that she used on at least one of my gifts each year. I never see it in stores, but every now and then, it will turn up on a gift even now (usually from my mother). I suppose in this day and age, she'd be considered very green in her thinking, but as a person who lived through the Depression, every bit was precious.
I can see it from both sides. As a child, I found part of the joy of receiving a present to be stifled by having to be so careful with the paper. It got folded before you could go any further with the present opening. As an adult, I am conscious of the virtues of thrift and recycling. But I don't encourage my boy to be careful when he unwraps. I want his enthusiasm undampened by care. We are lucky that we can afford such "waste". Of course, I don't use foil papers, so whatever we use can be recycled - in the larger sense, rather than in the back-into-the closet sense.

I still miss my Grandmother, but I know she is still here when I do things that we used to do together... like wrapping Christmas presents. Merry Christmas, Grandma...


Native Mom said...

how fortunate that u had such a great tradition at the holidays with your grandmother

gayle said...

You are very lucky to have such nice memories of your grandma!!!

Faye said...

Great post, Sayre. Love this one family account of all the preparations for Christmas and the traditions that you want to always keep.

I hope you've had a good Christmas and a chance to slow down just a bit. Even better, hope you get a few extra days off work before the new year to unwind.

Pamela said...

I think the old term from the "depression era" was


I don't have any fun memories of my grandmother. Christmas was so difficult for my mom because she never had any money to spend. She did what she could. But I could tell she was overwhelmed and felt inadequate. But I have fond memories of our family singing together and having a wonderful dinner together.

Gattina said...

Hope you had such a nice Christmas as I did !