Sunday, December 18, 2005

Scissors...Rock...Paper Christmas

Sit my children. Sit with me on the floor by the radiator and regale in the simple wonders of Santa's Toy Shop, or carefully open the pages of the advent calendar or stare wide-eyed into the tiny glowing windows of your Christmas village. All staples of Christmas in my house when I was growing up. All made of paper and pretty much insignificant at the time. Little did I realize how impactful those paper "supporting players" were to me now that they are gone. Welcome to the bookish world that adorned my Christmas.
By the way, for those of us growing up in a middle-middle class home
without a fire place, did the floor radiator just not beat all for an instant warmth gratification? The trick was put your feet on either side of the radiator and then throw a blanket over them. The heat would then be trapped inside the blanket and you could hog the warmth and not share it with anyone!
There were a few books that I had to read like clockwork each year. The first was this expose of the goings-on inside Santa's Toy Shop. So scandalous. Little men in tights! Santa painting in such a style that the paint is shown flying everywhere! Then the chubby one has the chestnuts halfway through the book to sit in a comfy chair and have cocoa brought to him! But he was such a rock star you know! He is the one that was going to bring me my Optimus Prime that one special year. Oddly, this book must have been old because all of the toys I saw in this book were weak like rocking horses and toy soldiers, mostly stuff made of wood. blech!
There were many books about Rudolph but I only read THIS ONE ------->
I didn't realize at the time that it was written in the early 60's nor that the art reflected that period of time but I owe my fascination with graphic modern style to hand-me-down books like this one.
The Advent calendar was something that my mom hung up in my bedroom window as she put up the rest of the Christmas decorations, but something that I didn't give much thought or attention to until the days wound down closer to Christmas. It was a flimsy piece of Hallmark card stock that had small windows that you would peel open each day in December and reveal some sort of special surprise, which would end up being something really not so fabulous or surprising for that matter since you looked at it each year for like 15 years in a row. Also, it was kind of annoying in that when it was placed in the window, it would of course absorb all the moisture from the window pane and eventually become warped and curly. Still, for as many years that I had it, it never failed to show up in perfect holiday conditions. I haven't seen a proper one in years that doesn't involve wooden blocks or that crappy country-style art on it, I miss it like crazy. Every day you would open one of the paper windows (usually in some 14th century village scene) and reveal some amazing piece of ... something that essentially had nothing to do with Christmas. A candle! A small bird! A piece of hard candy! All crap! It was a test of your mental and physical will not to jump right ahead to the 25th and pop open the last window to see baby Jesus!
Ideals. Ideals was this magazine that my Grandma had that was always brought out at Christmas and featured Readers Digest quality essays on Christmas, poems, recipes, sheet music, blaaaaaah blah blaaaaaah. It is funny that I remember it now because I hated looking through it as a kid, but when you are hanging out at the Grandparents it was a lot better to read that the Saturday Evening Posts they had from the turn of the century. I think they had an Ideals for all seasons but I remember these the most.
Christmas at my Grandparents also meant visiting their miniature village that would always be located on the hi-fi. Usually embedded in a cloud of cotton for the snow, the electrical bulbs inside the houses and church lit up vibrant red, green and yellow. The rough paper buildings had sandpaper-like roofs and if you weren't really really careful, you could bust right through one of the brittle little windows with your large pointy nose. I loved these little buildings. Yeah they were simply constructed but I thought they were oh-so retro even back when I didn't know any better. I also loved the way the trees were flocked with fake snow. I would stare at this little scene imagining all of the people inside all warm and snug. Strangely, I pictured everyone in this village really old and cranky. The progression of this tradition (from a German tradition called Putz Village) can be found in those horribly cheesy, but highly collectible, Department 56 ceramic villages.

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