Nutcracker memories

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Little One’s fascinated by them too.

Since I was a child, I’ve always loved the classical music of The Nutcracker, written by Tchaikovsky. I mean who doesn’t love the idea of a sugar plum fairy dancing in your head while you listen to that beautiful music?

A long time ago, I started a small collection of different nutcrackers and they almost always adorn someplace in our home at Christmas time. I don’t really recall which one I acquired first, but over the years, I’ve added more. But before the collection became too large, I decided to stop and just keep it small.

Of course, The Nutcracker is a famous ballet, usually performed during the Christmas season and I do have a vague recall of having seen it televised when I was a child in the early 1960’s.

Later, as a married adult I attended a live performance of The Nutcracker danced by a ballet company in the city where we lived at the time.  And as our children came along, I decided that one day we would take them to see the ballet as a holiday treat.

We managed to accomplish that, although our son, who was pretty young at the time, fell asleep and missed more than half of the performance. Still it’s a lovely memory in my mind: the five of us all dressed up in Christmas finery traveling into the city to enjoy a live ballet with a Christmas story line.

Our oldest granddaughter seems to share my fascination with nutcrackers. We’ve read the story to her and she remembered that Nana has a set of nutcrackers that decorate the top of the piano at Christmas time.

While Papa and I were hauling out the holly to set our house ablaze with lights and decorations, Little One was here as it was a baby-sitting day.

“Nana, can I help you get the nutcrackers out?” she asked. Well, I’m a grandmother, a doting one, and even though I probably never allowed my own children at her age to help with the nutcrackers in fear that they would break one, of course, I said, “Sure!”

I found the plastic storage bin where the nutcrackers were located, opened it, and one by one, Little One helped me release them from their protective layers of tissue and bubble wrap. Something needed my attention in the kitchen, so I left our granddaughter in the dining room with the decorations.

Re-entering later, I found myself amused that she had lined them all up mostly by height and was enjoying them. So I left again to do something else.

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“Okay, all of you nutcrackers, line up!”

Soon, I heard a little bit of thumping. I called to her and asked if she was alright. She assured me she was. A few minutes afterward, she sought me and asked me to come into the living room. I was shocked at what I found.

My four-year-old grandchild has an eye for decorating! She had crawled up onto the piano bench and placed the nutcrackers, one by one, in a very nice fashion. She was so proud of her accomplishment that she dragged her mama, when she got back from working, in to see her display.

We all chuckled when she announced that she did it all by herself and “I didn’t even get distracted.”

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Little One’s display — just as good as Nana can do!

Those nutcrackers gave me yet another Christmas memory to cherish. And some day, when she’s just a tad older so she won’t fall asleep, this Nana and Papa will take our granddaughter, dressed in her Christmas finery, to see The Nutcracker ballet in person.

And that will be yet another Christmas memory for her and me, I hope.

“The nutcracker sits under the holiday tree, a guardian of childhood stories. Feed him walnuts and he will crack open a tale.” ~ Vera Nazarian

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Broken

blogIMG_4790It happened while I was trimming the tree.

I hauled the over-sized plastic tote full of ornaments up from the basement, opened it, and started to carefully unwrap all the baubles, balls, and special decorations packed in it. 

Each one brings back memories.  There are the ones we purchased at various locations where we’ve vacationed over the years.  There are the ones commemorating special times in our lives like family occasions or anniversaries or new homes.  There are the antique ones which used to hang on my childhood Christmas tree at my parents’ home.  And there are the ones made and/or given by special friends which always bring them to mind.

I arranged the ornaments and since I was adorning the tree alone, I needed to use the step stool to reach the top third of the tree because, yes, I am too short and Papa usually is assigned that task.  The tree was almost completely embellished with all of its garnishes when, while standing on the top step of the stool, I leaned into the tree a bit to hang a wee star ornament that I remember buying in a specialty shop in Seattle. 

And that’s when I heard it, that familiar jingle jangling sound of something falling off the tree followed by the sound of splintering glass. I suspected it was one of the ordinary department store variety glass balls which I have plenty of and wouldn’t miss. 

I glanced down to the side of my stool and there a glass ball lay, perfectly intact on the living room carpeted floor.  Okay, no problem.  But then as I stepped back down off the stool, I saw something else and immediately, I cried, “Oh, no!”

Lying at the base of the stool was a broken glass ornament which apparently had hit the metal step stool on its way to the floor.  Oh, not this one!  This one was irreplaceable. 

It was a clear glass ball with the face of Jesus inside.  This one was special and always hangs front and center on our evergreen tree.  This one was crafted and given to me by a church friend when we lived all the way across the country in the Pacific Northwest those many years ago.

Shards of glass sprinkled my living room carpet and I gingerly picked up the largest pieces left and placed them on the top step of the stool as I vacuumed up the rest of the mess. Why did it have to be that one, I thought.  Why not one of those that had no special memories attached to it?

But then I looked – really looked – at the broken ornament. 

Broken.  Jesus.  He was broken.   

And it occurred to me that is exactly what He did for us.  He allowed himself to be broken. Broken for you.  Broken for me.  Broken on an old rugged cross to save us from eternal death because no matter how hard we try, we just can’t be good enough to save ourselves.

Immediately the words from the King James Version of the Bible came to mind.  That passage in 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 where the Apostle Paul tells us that on the very night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread, gave thanks for it, broke it, and told us to eat the bread, which symbolized His soon to be broken body.  And to do that to remember Him.

“And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” ~  1 Corinthians 11:24 KJV  

Just last week, I read a friend’s Facebook status which was a quote by Pete Wilson, pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN.  Wilson said, “Jesus didn’t come into a perfect world full of perfect people, He came into a broken world full of broken people so that He could redeem us.”  

Yes!  That was exactly what that broken ornament at the beginning of December reminded me.

So as Christmas Day approaches, I will celebrate the birth of my Savior.  I will sing of that tiny babe born in a manger, the One who came to save us all, the most amazing gift God has ever given us. 

But I will also remember the grown up Jesus. The One who was born in Bethlehem, lived a human life yet became the Savior who entered this broken world to save broken people like me and you by allowing His own body to be broken. 

I will sing Joy to the World, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King and I will rejoice not just for the babe in a manger but for the Son of God on the cross and the empty tomb of Resurrection Sunday.  

And I will give thanks for a broken Christmas ornament that reminds me.

Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing.

God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume.”  ~ Vance Havner

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Hauling out the holly

blogDSCN8188What a difference a year makes.  That statement may sound cliché, but it’s true.

Here’s how I know this.

Today is the first Friday in December, Page 2 in my 12th Chapter of my book called Opportunity.  Last year around this time, my attitude was notably different than my attitude is today.  Don’t believe me? Read this.

Last year, I was:  (Pick one)

A.  Grumpy

B.  Grinch-like

C.  Melancholy

D.  Suffering from empty nest syndrome

E.  All of the above

If you chose “E,” you get the gold star!  Last year at this time, I struggled to drum up some Christmas spirit.  The crates full of holiday decorations lay idle strewn through the house, but I didn’t possess the motivation or desire to bedeck the surroundings.  My mind, kidnapped and trapped by melancholy, continually persuaded me to ignore the approaching season of joy just as surely as my heart, harbored in sadness, agreed.

Empty nest syndrome and grief over my father’s passing reigned.  My husband erected the artificial Christmas tree and strung it with twinkling lights, but it sat forlorn in the living room with no ornaments sprucing up its bare branches.   Garland did not festoon anything nor were candles blazing in the windows.   If it weren’t for hubby accomplishing the outside light decorating, our house would have sat as dark and dreary as I felt.

I was able-bodied, but always seemed tired, cold, sleepy or lethargic.  With no kids in the house anymore or elderly father to check up on, I sure had the time, but I just couldn’t muster up the inclination.  This lackadaisical attitude towards the Christmas season was as foreign to me as meeting up with an alien from outer space on my front lawn….it just doesn’t happen.

I’m one of those people who loves Christmas.  I usually have all of my greeting cards addressed, stamped and the annual missive to friends and family printed and tucked inside the envelopes ready to mail by December 1.  Shopping is accomplished early.  Tree and all of the other festive decorations  garnish and embellish our house the weekend after Thanksgiving.  But last year, I literally finally forced myself to do….something… and half-heartedly prepared for the most beloved time of the year.

Thankfully, this year is different.  I’m not so able-bodied (still suffering with some back and hip problems); I don’t have quite as much time; but I’m raring to go.   Our house is ablaze with Christmas lights and finery outside; hubby and I finished that Thanksgiving weekend.

The tree sparkles in the living room with all its treasured ornaments resting on its branches.  Christmas cards are addressed and will fill the mailbox soon (should be working on that Christmas letter instead of this blog post!).   With any luck, we should complete our shopping this weekend.

So what has changed from last year?  My attitude.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” ~ Maya Angelou

I can’t change the fact that my kids have grown up, moved out, and have their own lives.  I can’t change the fact that there are beloved faces missing from my family gathered around the Christmas tree.   But I can change one thing….me.   I can be a Scrooge, a Grinch, a Grumpy Gus, but I don’t have to be.

All it takes is a little Christmas and the knowledge that God loved us so much, He sent His only Son as the most perfect gift on that first Christmas so long ago.

Okay, I’m off to haul out some more holly and this year, the Christmas village will once again adorn the kitchen.  So in case you’re a little low on Christmas spirit, I’m sharing my all-time favorite Christmas decorating song with you because we need a little Christmas right this very minute.

 ©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tradition!

blogThanksgiving 065Tradition rules in this household.  At least that is what my grown-up children believe.

I think I may have created Christmas Tradition Monsters.  Yes, it is true that my adult children have their homes decorated for Christmas long before their parents.   And this seems to have messed with their minds.

See, tradition calls for Mom and Dad to work themselves into a frenzy to have the entire house decorated inside and out by the Monday after Thanksgiving.  We’ve already broken tradition number one.

Sunday evening after my kids all sent me picture messages of their trees – two of them real trees – they all asked if their dad and I had ours up yet.  Here’s where tradition number two comes into play.

In our household, our family would trek to a tree farm on the Friday after Thanksgiving and cut down a real Christmas pine tree.   A couple of years ago, hubby and I did the unthinkable – we bought an artificial tree!  Oh, the horrors of it!  Our kids were appalled and still haven’t let us forget that we broke the beloved tradition of pine needles all over the floor.

After responding back and assuring them that their trees were absolutely beautiful (and they were!), I told them we actually had put ours up that same day.  Their dad (after some grumbling and fussing with lights that wouldn’t work) strung the twinkle lights around the artificial branches, but then we lost motivation for adorning it with the scads of ornaments we’ve collected over the years.

Oh yeah, that’s another tradition.  Every year since oldest daughter was born, we have purchased an ornament for each of our children, many of those they chose themselves.  My thought process was that when they moved out or got married, they would then have a box of their own Christmas adornments to take with them.

We also have ornaments from our vacation travels, so the result is that for 28 years, we’ve had a hodge-podge tree with, shall we say, an eclectic assortment of ornaments.   No beautiful theme trees for us at least not yet.  I’m fairly certain that part of my reason for not trimming the tree now is because I’m a little stymied about how I want to decorate it this year.

But I digress.  After telling the kids that the tree was up, lit, but not adorned, I’ve received a couple “scoldings” from them.  First came this text message from son:  “I didn’t realize that Scrooge and the Grinch were my parents.”

He’s a character, that one.  We can always count on him to crack us up with some joke, or silly enactment, or something just plain witty.  Of course, I had to text him back and ask which one of us was which.  His reply informed me that his dear ol’ dad had to be the Grinch because he is hairier.  (Well, thank you son for that one, at least!) Naturally I answered, “Bah, humbug!”

The next day, middle daughter left us a message on the home phone.   She had a question for me, but then after her usual “I love you, call me” sign off came this afterthought, “You better get busy and get that tree decorated!!”

I’m seriously considering leaving the tree as it is just to see what their reactions would be when they come home for Christmas, but I’m hesitant because I think it would really freak them out!

Yet another tradition we have is decorating the outside of the house a certain way – red lights on all the shrubs, white lights outlining the porch roof and around the garage, white candle lights and wreaths in all the front windows, spotlight on the front door.

Tradition says we should already have this all accomplished and our lighting display should be ramping up our electric bill by now.  But our house is dark and our neighbors probably wonder if we took off for Florida or something!  By now, the snow and extreme cold with wind chill factored in is acting as a huge deterrent to getting that light display arranged.  Oops, another tradition may go down the tube.

Inside the house, the traditions continue.  There are certain holiday decorations that have stood the test of time at our place.  Christmas stockings must be hung on the family room fireplace mantle.  Our collection of nutcrackers must line up in formation somewhere.   Ditto for the snowmen.   The nativity scene also must find a spot to shine.

And then there’s the Christmas village.  What a time-consuming job that is putting up all those little houses, people, trees, etc.  I’ve already relegated the Christmas village boxes to the basement.  This year the village is in hibernation.   I’m also seriously considering a minimal decorating job inside these four walls.

The food we serve at our house for Christmas dinner is yet another tradition that should be preserved, according to my young adults.  Baking cookies together is another.   When the kids were all still at home, we would spend an entire day baking and decorating dozens of cookies and then wrapping up containers of the goodies to be delivered to friends, neighbors and family.

But this year, I’ve been too busy at work and too tired when I get home to even begin thinking about holiday baking.  (Don’t tell anyone, but I bought some of that ready to bake Christmas cookie dough! I know, scandalous!!)

I have been contemplating preparations for Christmas dinner and mentally starting a grocery shopping list.  Dare I change the menu this year?  Not a wise idea.  I don’t want a mutiny on my hands on Christmas Day.  There are some traditions that just shouldn’t be trifled with.  And that reminds me, I better remember to buy that mint chocolate chip ice cream for our traditional Christmas Eve sundaes!

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore

blogDSCN7265‘Twas the night before Monday and all through the house,

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse (the cat keeps them away!).

The children were off in their own homes near and far,

And hubby had just made room in the garage for his car (because it was snowing!).

I was wrapped in my warm blanket in my usual place,

And had just settled down to watch “The Amazing Race.”

When all of a sudden there arose such a clatter,

I jumped from the couch to see what was the matter.

Away to my cell phone I scurried to see

Why that darn thing was singing to me.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear

But a picture message from middle daughter bringing me cheer.

Her roommate and she had been working all day

To decorate a real Christmas tree, what a display!

The tree was so pretty dressed in all of its splendor

And excitement over it made her as dizzy as a blender.

As I settled back down to finish my show

Another cell phone signal started to glow.

I threw off the covers and leaped to my feet

Wondering what other picture message could I possibly meet?

It was oldest daughter’s turn to make me aware

That she and her roommate had a real tree with flair.

Its lights, how they twinkled, its ornaments so sweet,

Its beauty was obviously quite a yuletide treat.

Then back to the couch and TV I flew,

When son decided to send me a picture message too!

On opening this message my eyes did behold

Another bright Christmas tree’s beauties unfold.

It was glittery and shiny, full of garland and light

With a cardboard star on top, oh what a pretty sight!

The messages ended, it became abundantly clear

That my children have more Christmas spirit than I do, I fear.

I went to my living room and what did I see?

No decorations, just lights, sitting lonely on my tree.

But I told myself not to worry, to not be in sorrow

No decorating tonight, well….maybe tomorrow.

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com