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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Making Merry

I would have never guessed that I would be so busy being unemployed! For the first time in a decade, I am really getting to enjoy the holidays. For the past five years I held a very stressful job that seemed to overshadow the season, and for the five years prior to that, I had a retail store. In retail you are all about Christmas, but I found that I never really had time to enjoy it. This year I am going at it full-force: decorating like mad, baking cookies with a friend, going on my annual date with my husband to the Chriskindlmarket (check out the big, scary angel hovering over Daley Plaza in the picture) and to see the department store windows , dropping by another friend's shop with cookies and hot glogg, flying down to Indianapolis to see one of my best friends in a corny-but-fun Christmas show, going to "A Christmas Carol" at the Goodman Theatre, hosting my book group's annual December gathering, yarncrawling with a friend in from Minneapolis, and preparing for a dinner party on Christmas Eve. All the while I have been operating my own personal Christmas ornament, sock, and baby booty sweatshop.

(Two friends had babies last week that were due to arrive in January. I have bigger projects planned for them, but booties will have to do for now.) I haven't been able to enjoy the hustle and bustle to this extent for years.

I can already tell that the post-New Year letdown is going to creep in, but SA is visiting from Alabama from January 2nd to the 9th, so that will help to ease the transition out of the holidays and into the long, grey Chicago winter. I know that I am going to be sweeping up needles and Buffalo Snow for months--and maybe years. (I just found an old, dried sprig from a Christmas tree behind a radiator. We didn't have a live tree last year because we travelled to PA, so it was at least two years old. A fastidious housekeeper I am not.) Even though I am still putting the finishing touches on the decorating, I am already thinking about having to take it all down, from the hundreds of blown-glass ornaments on the tree, to the poinsettias that will begin dropping leaves in no time, to each little house, lead skater, and bottle brush tree in the the winter village scene.
(Here is a link to one explanation of this Pennsylvania Dutch tradition. I grew up calling it a "Christmas Yard." The real term is a "putz," but that has different connotations in certain circles!) My grandparents always put up a table-top tree and the train and Christmas Yard surrounded it. Their yard was a marvel: Independence Hall was just down the block from Noah's Ark; tiny dinosaurs lined up to board with bunny rabbits; and skaters did figure eights in front of a fort. Scale and context were not part of the plan. Because I came home last Christmas, they put the yard up but they skipped the tree. They are getting older and they haven't done it this year, so last year may have been one of the last times for Grandma and Pop Pop's Christmas Yard:
(It's hard to see, but the frame on the wall holds a beautiful handpainted photograph of their old farm. I love that picture.)

I hope all of you are enjoying the holiday season as much as I am. Until next post, happy winter knitting!

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