The Forth Stair

I counted the stairs. Every time I went up or down the stairs, I counted the stairs. The fourth stair up, I had to step over on the way up. The eleventh step on the way down. I had to step over it. The baseboard had a hole in it. It probably, when it was put in, was supposed to be for a stair. It was stair shaped. It was only on the living-room side of the room. Things disappeared into that hole. Pencils. Change. Things. When I was little I was shown where the hole was supposed to have gone. Into the closet in the living-room. The closet that no one EVER went in to. Occasionally someone would open the door. To get out one of the TV trays. Or the cool little lap tray. We didn’t use them often, with their painted on fruit and the metal legs.
Supposedly, the hole in the stairway went there.
Just a closet.
Nothing scary there.
But I always had to step over that stair, the one where the triangle extra hole was.
I was sure, even up until I was a teenager, that there would be a hand, if I stepped on that stair tread, that would shoot out and grab me by the ankle.
I don’t know if that hand would have drug me down into the hole, or as far as I would fit. I don’t know where any of the things went that disappeared down into that hole. I was sure I didn’t ever want to find out.
That closed closet door, in the living room, that lead to the room under the stairs, didn’t open for years and years and years. Why? What was in there that everyone wanted to hide? Or was everyone as scared of whatever lived behind that hole as I was?

Santa in 2011

We were out and about yesterday and we ran into Santa in the courthouse square.  It was wonderful to see the kids just arriving to visit with him, get their pictures taken with him (and it was free, amazing).

Santa was totally getting into the season and into the kids and he was talking to a very little little one and her daddy.  Santa wanted to have a picture of the little girl to take back to the North Pole with him.  I’m thinking that it was so he can keep a record of the kiddos over the years in his naughty and nice list.  So he pulled out his cell phone and took her picture.

It was incredible culture shock for one of the onlookers.  He could not believe that Santa would need a cell phone, that Santa would own a cell phone.  It was kind of a touchy moment for the mom but all was good.  After all, it is probably the easiest way to keep track of the naughty and nice kids, it can transmit the pictures instantly to the North Pole without having to develop them.

It is interesting what time and technology can do to traditions.

Christmases Past…

This year, Squirrel Girl was all for putting up the tree early and getting it decorated.  I was forbidden from decorating it before she got up this morning.  She was up at 7.  We waited until light in the house before we did much with it.  I turned on the Holiday music station (Domonic the Donkey was even on… and the dogs barking jingle bells… that one drove Peanut crazy), I lit an oil lamp and made tea and we have spent most of the day decorating the tree and talking about Christmas past.  She has been in a very contemplative mood this year and she is into making connections.  It has been a good day.


This is what I remember from Christmases past.


When I was little we always had a real tree.  We often went out and cut our own on family farms.  One year I remember momma and I went out behind Ginny’s (aunt and uncle in law) barn.  Momma always went out and tied bread bags to trees that she thought would make wonderful trees to cut for Christmas.  She usually did this in September and October when the weather wasn’t bad.  When we went back, first of December, to look for them, either something had eaten the bags, someone came and untied all of the bread bags… or… (more likely) there are dozens of trees all over the back side of the barn with bags tied to them.  The trees would have to be about 20 feet tall by now.

Route 80 was off to the side of Ginny’s farm.  It ws on the right when you walked away from the house and on the left when you headed back.  One year we went out tree findng (saw in hand) and it got darker and darker and darker.  We found one, cut it down and decided to head back… it was probably a mile back in when we found the one we wanted.  We started pulling it back down to where the car was parked by the barn.  We walked forever.  It was my job to sing loudly to scare away the bears.  There weren’t many bears when I was growing up, but it was still my job to scare the ones that weren’t there away.  So I sang… and sang… and sang… and sang… after a while it started to dawn on me (ME… not momma… just me… the probably 9 or 10 year old) that route 80 was on the wrong side of us.  We had pulled the tree probably an extra mile or mile and a half the wrong way… so back we went, signing to scare the bears and pulling the tree.  By the time we got back it was late and WAY dark and freaking cold.

The trees we cut were alway… um… unique.  It is amazing how bad people’s judgement of size is when you are in the woods in the twilight.  What always looked like it would fit easily into a room with 8 foot ceilings wouldn’t have fit if we had 16 foot ceilings most years.  Wen almost always had to cut off half the tree and we were always left with the chunk of tree that had a naked spot… which was good, because we had a perfectly good wall to butt up against the naked side.

The tree would always lay in the yard against the cellar porch waiting for the right time to come in the house.  Chrsitmas Eve at about lunch time.  We heated with coal when I was growing up and we never brought the tree in until Christmas eve and we would put it in a bucket of coal and water it and let the sap warm up and the branches relax into the room before it could be decorated.  The tree had to be tied to the wall with fishing line to keep it from falling into the room.

Squirrel Girl seems to kind of understand where her redneck roots came from…

We used fishing line because you couldn’t see it tying the tree up.  Then we had to wrap tinsel around it so no one would hang themselves in it…… looking back that seems awfully counter intuitive.

After I went to be (almost every year until I left the farm) the tree was decorated by Santa after I went to bed.  I don’t know if Santa always decorated our trees.  He never decorated the trees of anyone else I knew from school.  He even decorated ours long after he should have stopped….

That is probably why I over compensate by having the kids help me decurate the tree and NEVER EVER complaining about two red bulbs beside each other.

I remember the year my mom had a silver tree and a spotlight that spun different colors on the silver metal.

I remember aunt Bea’s trees with their missing branches so you could see the deorations swinging freely from all the branches the whole way back through the tree.

I remember watching Aunt Dutchy make the spool ornaments and the beads ornaments that still hang on my tree decades later.

I remember wishing we could have the tree up for more than a week but becuase it was real and coal heat is dry, we had to drag it out (branches bare of any needles but the floor had thousands of them all over it) the naket tree becuase of the fire danger.  I figure that is probably why I again over compensate by having the tree up early in November (only a COUPLE times did it beat Halloween… and then it was always because of a perfectly logical reason).

I know that I’m making memories with my kidlings… and I’m starting my own sets of stories for them to tell their kids some day.

I wonder if he will always remember that he was sitting watching the laser light show at the lights in Wheeling West Virginia and the dancing candy cane in  a vague cube shape jumped and wiggled… and he said “ooooooo… Jello” because it looked exactly like finger jello cubes… and everyone in the audience cracked up.

I wonder if Dominic the Donkey will always have the chorus to her “Jiggidy Jig… hee haw… hee haw… It’s time to like the donkey… jiggidy jig… hee haw… hee haw… the Italian Christmas Donkey”.

Sitting here looking at all of the memories hanging from the branches… memories of my childhood and theirs, things that I brought with me, and things that I thought up all on my own I have to smile sadly.  My babies are grown (almost) and there are so few Christmases left to do this as a family unit before one or both of them move out.

Today was awfully nice having my squirrel girl help me and spend time with me.

And I deliberately hung a few bulbs of the same color close together.  I’m a rebel that way I guess.