Tag Archives: decorating

Jingle All the Way

It’s possible that I might be slightly smitten with jingle bells—more specifically, with the completely delicious and decidedly hypnotic sound they emit. A feast for the ears. A balm for the soul. A window into the past for people like me, who’ve harvested decades-old memories that involve horses, snow-covered cornfields and wintry afternoons spent on my grandfather’s farm. As a result, I am fairly incapable of resisting the allure of a store bin filled to capacity with sleigh bells. That said, I cannot walk by without reaching in to sample each and every melodic wonder. To pluck great hordes from the array, one after another, appraising each with regard to its heft, luster and, of course, the inherent splendor of its sound. Call it a weakness if you will. Perhaps even a debilitating fixation. I have no shame.

Needless to say, there is a profusion of jingle bells in this household—both brass and silver, embossed and etched—many of which adorn our tree, several that rest near our beloved crèche, all of which are patently adored. Additionally, at least two clusters of bells, ones that are tenuously affixed to braided strands of crimson and gold, dangle freely from doorknobs so that our comings and goings, as well as those of friends and family who visit, are joyfully announced. What’s more, there are bell necklaces and bell bracelets, bells on stockings and bells on sleighs. Even a pair of plump snowmen COMPOSED ENTIRELY OF BELLS are poised to welcome Christmas Day—as are the hand-painted variety that a favorite student teacher recently bestowed upon my brood.

As one might expect, I spend an inordinate amount of time each December perfectly enthralled by the chorus of ringing the aforementioned bells are capable of producing (i.e. I move from room to room, gently waggling each bell in succession, holding it to my ear so that I might savor the sound as it lingers deliciously). Some offer a mere tinkling and the suggestion of an echo, as if a tiny man were inside striking the walls with a hammer, while others resonate seemingly forever a sound so rich and so pure it can almost be tangibly held in one’s hands.

The latter is my favorite and the special sort that we resurrected from my mother-in-law’s estate several years ago, along with a host of ceramic centerpieces she crafted herself and a handful of wooden blocks that spell out MERRY CHRISTMAS when properly arranged. Not surprisingly, I’m drawn to the sleigh bell—a silver-plated, baseball-sized genuine collectible manufactured by Wallace more than 30 years ago. Naturally, it makes a distinctive sound. And whenever I want to revisit a time when my husband’s mother was here (which is often, since there are so many conversations I wish we could have), I pick up the bell—which, I suppose, is not unlike the days I find myself wandering around in search of the Carter’s slippers my children wore so many years ago. The ones with tiny jingle bells housed inside their wooly dog exteriors, triggering fond remembrances of a pair of pajama-clad, bedtime-story-toting toddlers at will. In an instant, I can see them shuffling about, their rounded bellies protruding ever so slightly, their smallish hands clutching a toy of some sort.

Come January, as I take down the tree and unceremoniously stow away the remnants of Christmas cheer, I simply cannot bring myself to box up the bells, banishing them to the attic for an entire year. Not yet anyway. I’m not ready to say goodbye. Long after the Moravian star is removed from its lofty perch, the garland is gathered and legions of ornaments are shrouded in newsprint for safekeeping, the sleigh bells remain. Perhaps in defiance of society’s urgings that the Yuletide is over. Perhaps in spite of my longing to restore order to my hopelessly disordered world. Perhaps because of the warmth they engender, during this holiest of seasons and always.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (anxiously awaiting the sound of sleigh bells). Visit me there at  www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel 

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, Holiday Hokum

Merry and Bright. Sort Of.

IMG_0148I love indoor Christmas lights. Tiny white ones, more specifically—the sort that cast a soft glow at dusk, filling a darkened room with ambient warmth, reminding me that it was totally worth risking life and limb to hang them atop windows and French doors as I foolishly balanced on a step stool, the meaty arm of a sofa and once, even upon a tall stack of pillows that were strategically placed upon said sofa. Yep. Totally worth it.

My husband, by contrast, adores such festive trappings, but is less than enamored with the idea of wrestling with them for more than 27 minutes—the average time it takes to retrieve the tangled masses from the attic, arrange them in clumps on the floor and then wrap them around a Christmas tree in a manner that is both geometrically and aesthetically pleasing. What’s more, he can’t stand it when he makes the inevitable discovery in the thick of decorating madness (i.e. lights that won’t light, bulbs that are broken or flicker with the slightest bit of movement and entire strands of lights that are sporadically lit at best, a far cry from merry and bright).

Of course, these are the very same lights that functioned perfectly last year—the ones we tested before boxing them up and shoving them into the deep recesses of the attic. I’m convinced that something criminal happens in there between New Year’s and Thanksgiving. Something that can probably be traced to Elf on a Shelf, or an equally reprehensible little creature inclined to tamper with our trimmings. However, we don’t own any of the aforementioned elves, nor would I feel compelled to put them on a shelf or anywhere else because they creep the cranberries out of me. Nevertheless, it’s clear that something goes on in that attic that would explain our less-than-functional lights.

Yes, it’s possible they’re just chintzy, and that we’re too cheap to care.

At any rate, we are then faced with a dilemma—the one my husband and I experience each and every year. Do we ditch the strands of lights that refuse to cooperate completely, effectively ridding ourselves of the headache that is defined by tightening and checking ALL of the bulbs individually? Or do we stuff the dysfunctional segments of strands into the tree, where we hope no one will notice and subsequently judge our character?

And let us not forget the problem of what to do with the strands that won’t light at all. If you’re anything like my husband, you’ll keep plugging them into the wall socket and jiggling the wires, repeating the idiocy that is wrapped in denial. Admittedly, I am slightly amused by his antics, so I encourage him to continue trying. Again. And again. Eventually, though, he decides to part with the wretched strands, leaving them for dead. Meanwhile, I cram yard upon yard of half-functioning light strings into the tree, doing my level best to disguise the ones we’ve determined to be misfits this Christmas—because a) I’m too lazy to go to the store to buy more and b) I’m too stubborn to unravel what I worked so hard to position on the boughs in the first place.

“It’s fine,” I rationalize. “We’ll manage with the ones that DO work and no one will be the wiser.”

I have to wonder, as I cruise around town at dusk, peering into yellow squares of windows at fir trees and mantles aglow with twinkly, white lights—do rogue trimmings plague their households with the same ferocity as ours? Maybe we’re an anomaly. Or maybe the universe hates us. Or maybe, just maybe, our Christmas spirit is being tested. I suppose it stands to reason that we continue to pass since we rise to the occasion each year, making our home merry and bright in spite of the intolerable struggle that has become familiar if nothing else.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, probably messing with Christmas lights. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Holiday Hokum, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Normal is Relative, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

On the Cusp of Christmas: 12 Days of Lunacy

It has certainly been said that normal is relative. Clichés aside, the only notion of which I am completely certain is that my family is relatively un-normal—especially during the maddening month of December. For whatever reason, being on the cusp of Christmas seems to make those with whom I reside even more deranged than usual. I am no exception.

Once the feathery flakes and the distinctive sound of sleigh bells fill the air (and the bitter cold makes me seriously entertain the notion of spooning the dog), I am smitten with holiday cheer. I make lists. I shop. I hang mistletoe here and a slew of stockings there. I heap great masses of fake pine boughs atop windows and door frames, twisting it unmercifully around banisters and idle children. I devise convoluted and exceedingly impracticable (read: destined-to-fail) plans for that-which-needs-to-be-done-before-Christmas. I begin squirreling away Scotch tape and shameful quantities of wrapping paper that beckon to me from afar. I formulate a cheesy State of the Union/holiday letter in my head, vowing to embellish twice as much as last year. I actually clean—because it is ENTIRELY WRONG to set a crèche full of camels, sheep, the wise guys et al upon a layer of dust so thick it would choke the sweet baby Jesus. Sprinkle me with a wealth of tacky ads aimed at my heart (yet cleverly striking my wallet and guilt-ridden, impulse-buying command center) and I’m well on my way to becoming profoundly immersed in the season of good cheer. Ho ho ho.

Yet it is clear the Yuletide frenzy thing plays no favorites in this household. Indeed, I watched it literally consume a seemingly lucid individual (aka Captain Quirk) as it drove him to hoist his entire body into the far recesses of our attic at an ungodly and completely frigid hour—so that he might haul wreaths, herds of electric deer and plastic whateverness to the lawn. He then hammered a multitude of tent stake thingies into the frozen ground (sans gloves)—so the hoofed creatures would, in theory, refrain from toppling over and making a mockery of his efforts. And let us not forget the colorful language that filled the air that night, the clothes that offered a mere suggestion of warmth and the ferreting-around-in-the-basement for a tangle of extension cords that were decidedly less-than-cooperative—especially when our heathens wove deliriously in and around said lawn luminaries. For a fleeting moment, he foolishly considered stringing lights, too, and hunting for a stupid screw to repair an apparent defect that made our antlered wonder violently jerk its head back and forth.

Thankfully, though, those little thoughts went away.

Of course, the circus-like hauling-of-Christmas-décor could have waited until the wind stopped howling. Or until sunrise. Or mid-damned-day for that matter. Sadly, the man’s thoughts and actions on that particular evening were not related to anything derived by logic. December lunacy had struck with a vengeance.

Later that week, in fact, it led us both to question the notion that we were fairly sensible parents—having succumbed to the irresistible allure of a last minute/late night sale in which we chose to drag our sorry brood through aisle after aisle of wonderfulness kid-tedium on a (gasp!) SCHOOL NIGHT so that we might snatch some good deals on Christmas gifts for friends and family. “Mom, don’t you know we’re THE ONLY KIDS in here?!”

Naturally, my husband and I blame our inexcusably imprudent behavior on the celebrated 12 Days of Lunacy.

Even our charges have been afflicted with this so-called malady, cleverly weaving coveted items into everyday conversations, leaving updated versions of wish lists seemingly everywhere, laying fliers from various toy stores in can’t-miss-it regions of our home and dog-earing favorite pages for our convenience. What’s more, Frick and Frack have been acting peculiar since the first of the month—remembering to flush toilets, to pick up their shoes and to abstain from bludgeoning one another with snow shovels and whatnot. That said, they’ve been minding their p’s and q’s almost to a sickening degree, obsessing over the very uncertain nature of being placed on Santa’s “Nice List” methinks.

A coincidence, no?

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (on the cusp of Christmas). Visit me there at www.melindawentzel.com.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, "S" is for Shame, Captain Quirk, Holiday Hokum, Home for Wayward Toys, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Normal is Relative, The Natives are Decidedly Restless, Vat of Complete Irreverence, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction