Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house a sigh could be heard from this very tired spouse.
The house is decorated, the shopping’s done and the wrapping will get done on Friday. Time to sit down to a quiet breakfast and enjoy the blessed stillness of early morning.
It’s also time to reflect on the ghosts of Christmas past and share with you a few of my favorite things.
This little guy with the red nose is the first Christmas decoration my husband and I ever bought for our first Christmas together. He’s just sticks of wood stuck together with a red light bulb for a nose, but it was love at first sight for me. I don’t know what they treated the wood with, but he has survived 40 Christmases. His legs have gotten a bit rickety over time, but then, so have mine.
Mme Mère gave us this beautiful Christmas angel and her celestial splendor has not diminished over the years.
This adorable Snowman tea pot, complete with carrot nose and woolen muffler, was a gift from my college roommate and dear friend, Paula. Pouring a hot cuppa from this jolly gentleman has warmed up more than a few frosty faces over the years.
Eight years ago, Miss Annie in her red velvet bloomers and bows holding a sachet pillow peaked out from the top of Mme Mère’s Christmas stocking. It was my mother’s first Christmas as a resident of St. Mary’s Catholic Home and she was unhappy and angry at everything and everyone who was responsible for her being there, me being at the top of that list. Needless to say, it had been a rough year for all of us.
Mme Mère had made it very clear that under no circumstances was I to give her a stuffed animal for Christmas. I believe her exact words were, “Don’t give me any of those stupid stuffed animals that all the crazy old ladies in this place have. I hate stuffed animals! I’ve always hated stuffed animals!!”
So, when I saw this adorable teddy bear in a little shop in Haddonfield, I thought, “Oh well, if she hates her, Miss Teddy can come home with me for Christmas.”
On Christmas Eve, I walked into my mother’s room with all her presents and a Christmas stocking stuffed with goodies. From the top of the stocking you could just make out two furry ears with velvet bows. Christmas presents duly opened and approved of, it was time to check out the stocking. Mme Mère pulled out the little bear, took one look at her and smiled for the first time in a very long time. She named her Annie, and for the next five years, Annie sat on my mother’s bed and was by her side when she passed away quietly in her sleep.
And while we’re on the subject of family, this lady has been in our family for almost 400 years. She was the wife of the Mayor of Brussels and an ancestor of Mme Mère’s mother. We don’t know her name, but we do know the name of the artist. The portrait was painted by Dutch artist Caspar (or Gaspar) Netscher (1639-1684). If you look closely, you’ll see she’s holding a King Charles Spaniel and the child standing next to her dressed as a little girl is actually a little boy. It was common to dress little boys in female clothing during this period.
The Lenox Christmas wine glasses were a gift from my husband’s childhood friend who was the best man at our wedding. We are still very close.
On the far left is a tiny red house with Santa and his sack of toys on the roof. If you place Santa at the top of the wire pole, he bobbles his way down the pole to the roof. He’s been doing that for almost 60 Christmases since I first found him in my stocking hanging at the foot of the bed.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the distinguished gentleman in the top hat is the great Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901).
I found this Santa with the little boy and girl in a local vintage shop. The figures are painted on a piece of wood and it has a tiny music box attached to the back that plays “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” It sits under a portrait of Maurice Lumley, my British grandmother’s grandfather, painted in 1867.
My white Mikasa crèche sits under the portrait of Maurice’s wife, Julia Hart Lumley, painted in 1865. I love the juxtaposition of the sleek, white figures and Julia’s heavily embellished dress and elaborate sleeves.
A little Christmas tree sits between the portraits, and if you look closely at the center, you’ll see two zaftig opera singers (soprano and tenor, no doubt) with their mouths opened wide going for that high note. This pair of whimsical ornaments was a gift from a college classmate, Pat Ciarrocchi, still a dear friend. Pat recently retired from a 30-year career as a CBS 3 news anchor and co-host of a daily talk show, but knowing Pat, retirement just means moving on to something new and exciting.
Like whiskers on kittens and warm woolen mittens, these are a few of my favorite things.
Have a Blessed Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Wonderful New Year. May you have the joy of sharing favorite things with those you love.