Monday, December 31, 2007

The Year in Review

We mark 22 years living in the house and get our third fence and first new windows. I can see clearly into the side yard for the first time in fifteen years. By modern standards, that's a long time to live anywhere. Ro has lived here all her life, Miggs can't remember living anywhere else.

I visit IKEA for the first time, and immediately make plans to sell the house, all the furniture and go live in an adorable little vignette filled with inexpensive mass-produced home products. In the course of a year, we will buy eight bookcases, one storage unit, a bedside table, a chair, a worktable, a queen-size comforter, curtains, a wooden doll bed and numerous kitchen items from them.

We celebrate Dad's 80th birthday in April with a big party in Austin.

The two red tabby brothers, Silk and Shakespeare, aka "Get down!" and "Stop that!" come to live with us, having worn out their welcome at Migg's.

I attend an audition at The Local Community Theater, mention "It says here that you could use a costumer" and wind up doing three productions from April to December. In the course of which I learn many interesting and useful things, about theater and self.

In February, Nini turns five. In August, she starts all-day kindergarten. We are not impressed with what turns out to be government funded day care.

In June, Bubs is one. In July, he learns to walk and, his father's son, embarks on a course of self-destruction, caused by fearlessness and clumsiness in equal parts. He develops the biggest vocabulary I have ever seen for a toddler boy and I'm not just prejudiced because I'm his mimi.

Brother introduces us to his new girlfriend, who is also his boss, so we have to keep this on the down low. She instantly clicks with the family and spends Thanksgiving and Christmas with us.

My little Ford is totaled in an August car wreck, which focuses my concentration on some issues and completely prunes others out of my life. Having it absolutely impressed upon you that you are, indeed, going to die someday makes a difference.

The two of us take an extended vacation in October in my new car. We have many good times, and see a lot of pretty country, but also remember why we don't take extended vacations together.

Bob makes retirement plans for early next year.

Ro, after much soul-searching, decides to take next semester off and work. Miggs, ditto, decides to apply to grad school.

I get to meet a Raccoon, the fabulous MizzE. And her wonderful sister.

The Y's add Romo, the puppy, to the household. After Christmas, they announce that they are moving to Arizona ASAP to help his mom care for his dad, who has ALS. I take a day off to mope, but helped by this, come to grips with the situation and prepare to help pack.

And that's about it for 2007.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Enchanted Forest
and how it grew...
When I was a very small girl, my grandfather used to take me to the Christmas display at one of the downtown department stores in Fort Worth. This was so elaborate that you actually rode an amusement park mini-train around a circular track, with dioramas and panoramas and general Christmasiness on either side. In reality, it was probably cheesy and glitzy in the way of most 1950's department store decor, but to a little kid it was an enchanting fantasy.

Fast forward almost fifty years...
This began with an innocent purchase: a set of that trio of artificial trees from the Home Depot. I set them up on one of our folding tables and hung a few of the mushroom bird ornaments among them and added some of the extra little trees from the creche (which is a story for another day). For a natural touch,
I scattered some enormous acorns on the green cloth base. My tiny Steiff bear and Bob's resin troll, a gift from a fantasy fan co-worker, were the other inhabitants. And that was all, at first.

This project must have struck some deep childhood chord, a memory of delight. Because the next year, I bought another set of trees at Jo-Ann's, pre-lighted this time, and several bags of those miniature, glittery, jewel-tone fruits: pears, apples, and pomegranates in gold and red and green. Through the year, I'd been collecting any little birds that I thought would fit, as well.

I mixed the lighted trees with the plain trees, hung them with fruit and clamped on the birds, which were now an ornithologist's delight. Besides the ubiquitous mushroom bluebirds, there were an owl, a mallard duck, a hen, a dove and a pheasant with a long tail. And the bear and the troll and the acorns.

There was some slight criticism.
"You've got fruit on pine trees. In winter."
"Well, it's an enchanted forest, you see."
"Mallards don't roost in trees."
"Yes, they do, if it's enchanted."
"So, the bear is, what? Fifteen feet tall?"
"Scale doesn't count here. It's enchanted."

And it was, with the room darkened and the trees lighted, reflecting off the jewel-like surfaces of the fruit.

The next year, which was also the year Nini and I made beeswax candles, Father Christmas made his debut. His face and hands are modeled of beeswax, like German nativity figures, and painted. At least, his face is- his hands missed that for some reason and remain a ghostly white, wrapped around his twig walking staff. He has hair and a beard and fine bushy colonial mustaches of wool roving and a stern, yet kind, expression. His robe is olive green suedecloth trimmed with braid and he wears a hooded cape knit of some leftover Homespun in a red, purple and gold mix, to blend with the fruits. The troll, depending on whim, either meets him on his way, or walks ahead as his little helper.

For the last two years, Nini has been my official assistant in setting this all up.
We consult, or we debate, or we both act like five-years olds and argue, about every detail. Do we like the tree placement? Which should be the apple tree? Which should be the pear tree? Do we want one tree to be all white doves (this year's addition)? Do we want the resin elf sitting in a tree or sitting on a log? Shall we move the knitted sheep to the Christmas tree? Yes. How about letting the two cardinals sit under one of the littlest trees, as if they're looking for food? Spread out the insects (rescued from a bridal shower project) or make a bug tree? You know what we need? An angel! Wouldn't that be great? Up high on the big tree, like a guardian for the forest.

And so it evolves, little by little. When it's finished and the lights are turned on, it's a small, magical world of its own, where anything can happen. Where you can recall a cherished memory for yourself and create a new one for the dearly loved. Where fruit can grow on conifers and the bear can lie down with the fawn. Because it's enchanted. Because it's Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

My Advent Treat

So, I'm wandering through the Kroger's late Saturday afternoon, picking up a few things to go with That Beef Thing That Jake Likes, simmering at home in the crockpot. I'm grinning so that I'm scaring people a little. They're sidling away down the aisle: 'That lady is just a trifletoo happy."
And why is this, you ask?
Because I'd just met my wonderful blog-friend MizzE for the first time face to face. She (and her equally wonderful Sister) graciously added a trip to the community theater to see the show, while on a visit in the area.
What a joy. I had greenroom duty again, and was counting down the minutes: first act over, intermission over, second act half-way over, Charlotte's dead, baby spiders hatching, final speech, curtain calls, and scene! Then I was off to the lobby.
We recognized each other instantly, and had a lovely half-hour's chat. She took a few photos, which are up at her site.
So, if you haven't followed the link already, go and meet this wise, gracious and lovely lady yourself. She expresses herself much better than I could ever describe her.