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Every year, when we take the tree and decorations down, I am startled.

I don’t think I have reached the Griswold level of festive decor, so that can’t account for the Disturbing Disappearance of Decor.

Triple D – that’s a thing, right?

foam cut outs that make a white fridge look like a snowman

Okay fine, I made the fridge into a snowman–that’s proof of nothing.

Yet, take away the seasonal dressing and everything suddenly looks bare and forlorn.

I guess it’s to be expected when you remove a giant conifer and acres of greenery and glittery things from your Not-So-Great Room.

(Our house was built at a time when Great Rooms were not yet a thing, so we only have an ordinary living room or as realtors probably think of it:  a Not-So-Great Room.)

Our Not-So-Great Room looked perfectly fine in November.

In early December, it suddenly got bulge-y with a seriously extraverted Tannenbaum and all its festive friends.

I think we might be kindred spirits, me and the Not-So-Great Room.

I feel quite bulge-y in December myself.

“Deck the Halls with crates of Toblerone“…isn’t that how that song goes?

Anyhoo.

Every year during the time when the Not-So-Great Room is still looking seriously festive, Practical Man and I head out to admire our neighbourhood lights.

First, I admire the heart he stamped in the snow of the front lawn, with our initials in it.

Swoon-y swoon.

Then, we cruise around for a while (we used to walk when we lived in town but we’d have to be Santa to make any time, now that we live rurally), surveying the crop of Griswold-esque specimens.

Deciduous trees lit with blue lights

I’m not really keen on the blow-up thingys, so I haven’t photographed those.

suburban house completely outlined with lights as well as lit trees and Charlie Brown Christmas motif

Nor the keel-over-inducing light shows (even when coordinated with music).

Completely lit house, yard full of lights and a steeple on the garage!

Give me a loaded, over-the-top, plain old, static light show any day.

Country house in Battersea, lit modestly but fully

Or night, as it were.

Once we have oooh’d and aaah’d for a good while, then comes the hard part.

We have to choose.

We each get one thank-you card, that we filled out before we left the house:

Thank you for your beautiful lights.  Your house was our favourite!

We don’t sign our names.  We simply slip the thank-you card into their mailbox.

house and garage completely outlined in multi-coloured LED lights

It’s seriously festive and fun.

Fa-la-Tra-la-la!

Then, we return home to our own festively-adorned, albeit slightly bulge-y Not-So-Great Room and cuddle up.

Even though I don’t think I’m quite at Griswold level of festive decor, I can still love those who are.

I’m just too lazy for that sort of outdoor, holiday hulla-balloo.

Forget the 12 Days of Christmas, I’m all about the 12 Days of Pajamas.

Zzzzzzzzz.

Happy New Year to me!

Except, that after all the Disturbing Disappearance of Decor, our Not-So-Great Room will soon look like the Nearly-Naked Room.

Naked, I say, in January.

Please agree with me that naked in Canada in January is sometimes not such a good look.

‘Tis the Season for down-filled puffy coats, thank goodness.

But, having no such down-filled puffy coats for the Not-So-Great Room, it has to spend the first parts of the new year standing around, naked.

Naked in the season of diet and exercise commercials galore.

Naked in the season of resolutions and recriminations.

After a little while, we get used to our naked, Not-So-Great Room again and can see it for all the beauty that it holds.

Unadorned and lovely, in its year-round state.

Naked.

Perhaps, a lesson for us all.

Copyright Christine Fader, 2016.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet


It’s nearly Christmas so naturally, we are going camping.

Yes, I know we live in Ontario, home of frosty windows and big, fat snowflakes and other wintery stuff (like -40 antifreeze for the car because we need that, yes, we truly do) but, camping in December is not such a stretch.

We’ve got trees in the forest on our property.

We’ve got a fire pit, around which to toast marshmallows and the like.

We’ve got the super-duper, flannel, camping sheet set and three or twelve duvets (and a partridge in a pear tree.)

Okay, fine.

We’re not camping.

That’s just Practical Man, driving around the lawn on your average Tuesday, towing our vintage Boler travel trailer.

I’m pretty sure the neighbours are whispering about me.  They wouldn’t blame it on Practical Man because they all know him.  I’m the mysterious person who drives up the driveway into the garage and disappears inside (away from The Nature).  He is the guy who is always out in the yard on one tractor or another, or on the roof, or in the forest, or building something or growing something.  Plus, he fixes things for the neighbours, regularly.  People who fix things don’t drive around the lawn on your average Tuesday in December in Ontario, towing their travel trailer, unless they are very sweet and have been put up to it by an annoyingly festive ELF.

Like this one:

me, dressed as an elf, standing beside our Christmas tree

Tra-la-la.

Or, as I like to say at Christmas, when I’m wearing an elf get-up that I made out of a green sweater, some felt, and a pair of socks:

Fa-la-Tra-la-la!

Aren’t you glad you don’t live with me?

(The socks are at my wrists, in case you can’t concentrate, after my costume-making teaser.)

It all began when I joined one of those groups on Facebook–or maybe, I can blame the Facebook algorithm.  You know the algorithm:  it thinks I need bifocals and wrinkle cream.

Evil algorithm.

Yes, let’s blame it.

Anyhoo, I kept seeing pictures from some group foisted on me by the evil, mind-reading algorithm.  Disturbing, provocative pictures–you know the kind–pictures of pretty barns and burlap all swirly-dirly and bells and thing-a-ma-bobs that bring out the inner decorator dictator in me.

Mere minutes scrolling through these groups and I get obsessed with teeny, insignificant details…like angels and angles.

Now that sounded a bit confusing.

That is to say, I’m obsessed with whether the angels on our shelves are at a 45 degree angle to…I’m not sure what.

They looked so good on Pinterest.

There are evil algorithms there, too.

Algorithms and angled angels anon.

(That’s called festive alliteration.)

Lest you think I’m reaching, I’ll have you know that “anon” is the festive word for “and other junk that I feel the need to copy, for reasons that must be based in my primitive, lizard brain because it is un-explainable, even to me, why I would care about this kind of fluff”.

To get back to my point, I was on one of those groups and there were other vintage trailer weirdos like me and well, they don’t live in Ontario.  They live in warm climates where there is still green grass visible on the ground, not to mention palm trees (public service announcement:  it’s very un-Christmassy to blatantly display aka gloat about your palm trees at this time of year to a Canadian).  Then, to add insult to palm-tree injury, they post pictures of their vintage trailers all dicky-doo’d up for the holidays.

I do love a little festooning and such.

So says the evil algorithm.

Insert lizard brain here.

But, I live in Ontario, home of frosty windows and big, fat snowflakes and other wintery stuff (like -40 antifreeze for the car because we need that, yes, we truly do).

Year-round festooning.  What luxury is this?

The luxury is living in San Anbambino or some place where they don’t know what long underwear is–that’s what.

Still, all I see is post after post of cute, vintage trailers with Christmas lights and mistletoe and plaid blankets and stuff.

Sometimes with snow (why oh why doesn’t our snow fall when I have a camera in hand?)

Sometimes without snow (and avec the aforementioned gloat-y palm trees.)

‘Tis the season to be jolly.

Or, as I like to say,

‘Tis the season to be jealous.

At any rate, before I knew it, out on the lawn, there arose such a clatter.

The clatter being due to the fact that I had batted my not-insignificant eyelashes (Rimmel’s Extra Super Lash mascara) and asked Practical Man to hitch up the “sleigh” (aka vintage Boler travel trailer) and move it to a more photogenic location so I could get my festive festooning underway.

On the one day we haven’t had snow in the last 2 months, yessirree.

Practical Man is forever granting my Christmas wishes.  Year round.

But, even he can’t summon the snow where the snow won’t be summoned.

Palm trees, either (although with enough notice, I have no doubt he would have grown something from a pineapple nub he got at the grocery store).

The point is, there I was, in the front of the front yard’s brown-ish grass, throw cushions and wreathes in hand, decorator dictatorship rearing its ugly head.

Cue the whispering neighbours.

green and white boler decorated with red chairs, ,pillows and a vintage metal cooler

My lizard brain was desperate to decorate and I love our tiny Boler but, its figurative chair (or vintage, metal lawn chairs, as the case may be) is never at our Christmas table, on account of it’s always put away for the winter at this time of year.

It’s kind of the Tiny Tim of our yard.

Sob.

But now, joy of joys!  Thanks to Practical Man and my lizard brain, here was my very own Tiny Tim, in the front yard.  So, in the repentant manner of Ebenezer Scrooge, I got busy with the festive festooning while also reflecting on the 2016 ghosts of past, present, and future.

  • Practical Man had a near record maple syrup crop in the Spring.
  • I learned more songs on the guitar from musicians too-soon taken.
  • We met new friends who joined us as I twirled my way through our first Bolerama.  And, Practical Man survived!
  • We shared wonderful memories (and mosquitoes) with family and friends in the summer.
  • We worried about people fleeing violence around the world and here.
  • We cried for Practical Man’s Mutti, who died in October.  She will be cried about for some long time to come.
  • I made a snowman, tobogganned and shovelled snow with some English sweeties, before Winter was really due.
  • We are trying to be advocates and people of hope in the wake of an earthquake-y election, even though it wasn’t ours.

I feel so lucky to have a small, safe place like a Boler.

It’s a little nest.  A place to curl up and take a nap or maybe just stare around the inside or pretend you’re Laurie Partridge for a while (because when you’re a Boler geek like I am, that’s a fun afternoon).

Of course, the Boler is not my only blessing or refuge, by a long shot.  I am sheltered and fed and loved and safe.

Occasionally, I have useful eyelashes.

I am so, so lucky.

I hope you all are, too.

Except for the evil algorithm.

Sorry.

That was my lizard brain again.

A Very Merry Christmas and Happy Everything from our house to yours.

Green and white Boler travel trailer decorated for Christmas, with 2 red chairs in front, a vintage, plaid cooler, red wreath, bell wreath and "Santa, I can explain" sign.

 



vintage bulb reflectorsDie Hard is Practical Man’s favourite Christmas movie.

Fa-la-Tra-la-la!

Maybe you didn’t know that Die Hard—the Bruce Willis/Alan Rickman shoot-em-up extravaganza—was even considered to be a Christmas movie.

Oh ye of little festive imagination.

We have a broad definition of “Christmas movies” at our house, partly on account of the fact that one of my favourite things to do during the Christmas holiday break that I’m lucky enough to have, is to lie around all day wearing my PJs.

ALLLLL Day.

Wearing PJs, as I mentioned.

Preferably brand new, cozy PJs that Santa has brought me because I’ve been SO good all year!

Or, maybe, because they were On Sale (Santa is a bit of a coupon clipper) and he knew they would make me happy and cozy for a week of lolly-gagging around.

Yes, that’s it.

When it comes to Christmas—as in many things—I don’t act my age.  Give me some stickers and some gold, coin-shaped chocolates in the toe of my stocking and I’m four years old again.

Many four year olds get new PJs for Christmas, you may have observed.

Fa-la-Tra-la-la!

Ah yes, it’s days and days of PJs and Turtle chocolates for breakfast (and maybe some Toblerone triangles and Christmas movies like:

  • Elf (I love it, even though it has Will Farrell).
  • The Holiday (makes me homesick for England and old movies).
  • Love, Actually (possibly the best Christmas movie of all time, except for Die Hard, of course!)

Oh, I know I should be all Joy to the World and Peace on Earth about the festive season and the prospect of getting together with family and friends.  I do love all the “goodwill towards men” (and women) stuff but if I’m honest, at the twilight of each year, it’s kind of more about the PJs.

Who says we can’t have good will towards men (and women) and PJs?

And, good will toward movies like:

And, I can’t forget that whole extravaganza that is:  Chocolate For Breakfast (totally legal)!

It’s a Christmas thing.

Maybe you haven’t heard about it, but I BELIEVE.

At this time of year, that counts for something.

Haven’t you seen It’s a Wonderful Life?

But, with limited number of days available for such indulgent loafing about, I have a hard time deciding.  Should I watch:

Then again, why choose favourites?  Someone always feels left out, like:

  • A Muppet Christmas Carol (Muppets are awesome but I’m not a Dickens fan).
  • Mickey’s Christmas Carol (Mickey’s voice bugs me and I’m not a Dickens fan).
  • A Christmas Carol (the scratchy, slightly sinister Alistair Sims version that my dad liked to try to make us watch every Christmas eve and I did it sometimes, because I love him, but, really, I’m not a Dickens fan).

Yes, with only The Twelve Days of Sloth at my disposal and the requisite social events sprinkled throughout, it’s sometimes hard to choose which movies will grace this year’s Christmas season.

I feel the same way about Christmas socks.  If I choose the red and white stripe-y ones, the green and red stripe-y ones might feel left out.   Try as I might, I just can’t quite reach the level of equal opportunity movie watcher and tacky Christmas sock wearer.

As they say in that not-Christmas, famous, book/movie (although if I ask Practical Man, he may be able to put a festive spin on it):

May the odds be ever in their favour.”

As you would expect, Practical Man has no difficulties carefully choosing his (restrained) festive touches at this time of year.

He eschews the gregarious socks and opts for the plain grey sports variety, thank-you very much.

Fa-la-Tra-la-la.

And, once Die Hard has been watched, it’s on to his next favourite Christmas movie:

Die Hard II.

Do you not recall the snowstorm outside the plane on the runway?  It’s a Christmas movie, plain and simple.

Yippee Ki-Yuletide, everyone.


Practical Man often says I was born in the wrong time–that I should have been a hippy.  Maybe he’s right.  Case in point:

  • I love Volkswagen anything (as long as it’s pre-1980).
  • I have a tendency to decorate everything that doesn’t move (and even some things that do) with bohemian prints.
  • 95% of the guitar music I play is 60s and 70s folk.

I would have liked being a hippy, I think.  Except for the straight hair and no bangs thing.

Let’s just say that I have forehead issues.

So, I can’t truly be a hippie, now can I?  First of all, I can’t even spell it. And I’m sure that hippies were more about peace, love and all that good stuff and not so much about the forehead vanity.

I know I should be thinking about pilgrims and injustices perpetrated on aboriginal peoples and green bean casseroles, but at this time of year, I can’t help it.  I think about the dump and VW microbuses and a strange and mythical place called the Group W Bench.

Doesn’t everyone?

It all started 32 Thanksgivings ago, when my dad introduced me to Arlo Guthrie’s iconic Vietnam protest song, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree“.

I learned to love it–and now, I’m learning to play it on the gi-tar–with feeling.

So far, I’m pretty terrible but, in my defence, I’m a lot older than Arlo was when he first came up with the concept of an 18 minute and 34 second song.

18 minutes!!

My fingers, not to mention my will, are weak.

What can I say, I’ve been wasting my life, obsessing about my forehead.

But, I can play the chorus:

Alice's Restaurant chorus - musical score

 

I’m pretty sure I can’t sustain it for 5 minutes though, let alone 18 minutes +.

The point is, I’ve also been inflicting Alice’s Restaurant on as many people as possible, since I first fell in love with it as a teenager:

  • In 1996 (after I was old enough to know better), a friend and I attempted to write the lyrics (all 18 minutes and 34 performance seconds of them) in black magic marker on his bathroom walls.
  • I met my friend, Bamboo Guy, partly because we bonded over the fact that he lived in a church, just like Alice and Ray and Potcho The Dog, from the song.
  • My dad and I saw it live in 2005 during the Alice’s Restaurant 40th anniversary tour.

And, I’m not alone in my quasi-obsession.  My uncle Putt reportedly played and sang Alice’s Restaurant to countless Inuit listeners, while he was working in the Canadian North in the early ’70s.   He and my aunt recently gifted me with something I’d never seen before:

The Alice’s Restaurant book!

Alice's Restaurant book - cover

It doesn’t have “27 8×10 color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was, to be used as evidence against us”, but, it does have groovy sketches.

VW Bus

VW Bus with shovels and rakes and implements of destruction

Soooo very groovy.  I wish I could show them all to you!

Yep, as many of our southern neighbours are sitting down this weekend to what we up north call “American Thanksgiving”, I can’t help thinking of Alice and her restaurant and how one young guy took his peaceful protest on the road, way back when.

Protests go so much better with a gi-tar, don’t you think?

Go and sit on the group W bench

Although the Vietnam War and Alice’s Restaurant came about before I was born, I feel as though the past couple of weeks may have felt a little bit similar to what things felt like back then.

Kinda tense.

People feeling strong feelings.

Neighbours worried about neighbours.  Or, angry at neighbours.  Or, bewildered by neighbours.  Or, disappointed by neighbours.

Something about neighbours.

Kinda tense, as I said.

But, that’s not what this blog post is about.

This blog post is about giving thanks.

That’s why I called the post, “And now, for a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat.”

Thanks–to Arlo (may I call you Arlo?), for showing me that we could believe in something and deliver a message to people in a way that made them smile, while also making them think.

Thanks–to my dad, for sharing Arlo with me and Uncle Putt for giving me his long-treasured book. Thanks–to Practical Man for driving all the way to Stockbridge, Massachussets to visit “the scene of the crime” and for listening to me squeal my way around the countryside that led to The Church.  Thanks–to Fairy Godson’s parents, who went to the ACTUAL Alice’s garage sale (accidentally) on Cape Cod and got to talk with ACTUAL Alice and then they brought me back a Christmas ornament from ACTUAL Alice’s garage sale that ACTUAL Alice used to have in her living room on her Christmas tree!

Thanks– to Arlo again, for being a role model in the never-ending sentences and segues that have become his (and, okay, you may have a point here:  MY) trademark style.

And, if you’re celebrating this week, I hope you have a “Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat” and I also hope you walk into the shrink wherever you are,

Just walk in and say, “Shrink,

You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant”

and walk out.

Now it all started two Thanksgivings ago, that's two years ago on Thanksgiving, when my friend and I went up to visit Alice at the Restaurant

If one person, you know just one person does it, they may think she’s really weird and they won’t pay attention.

But if two people do it…in harmony, they may think they’re both Canadians and they won’t pay attention to either of them.

And if three people do it…can you imagine three people walkin’ in, singin’ a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walkin’ out?   They may think it’s an organization!

And, can you imagine fifty people a day? I said FIFTY people a day…walkin’ in, singin’ a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walkin’ out?

Friends, they may think it’s a MOVEMENT.

And, that’s what it is.

The Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacree Movement and all you gotta do to join is to sing it the next time it comes around on the gi-tar.

With feelin’.


I went to Disney World, for the first time, on my 40th birthday.

As you do.

That year, they had a “Come to Disney for Free on your Birthday” promotion.

We were already going to be in Florida and it was the perfect excuse to go.  Disney isn’t cheap and as you may remember, Practical Man loves a good deal, yes indeedy.

He’s just not a huge fan of Disney.

Or crowds.

Or mouse ears.

mickey mouse ears

“You’re not going to wear those when I’m with you, are you?” I could already hear him asking at the prospect of my dreamed-about Mickey ears.

Umm…

SIGH.

I knew this would be the question he would ask because he asked it when I came home with rubber boots that had large, purple and pink flowers all over them.

And when I found the perfect artsy-hippy-dippy-trippy shirt.

He also asked it when I made the first large-ish felt flower for one of my hats.

my eyes showing underneath a blue hat with a large, red, felt flower

But, 20 or 30 large-ish felt flowers later, he’s kind of getting used to me now. I think he’s realized that he can still maintain his preferred position “under the radar”, even when I’m wearing something attention-grabbing, because people are too busy gawking at a 40-something woman wearing items normally associated with 4 year olds, to pay any attention to him.

I don’t mind the gawking.  Adults don’t smile nearly enough so, anything I can do to help in that area is right up my street.

My festooned, childlike street, of course.

(You may recall how much I love a bit of festooning.)

Back to my point, which is that we were going to be in Florida for my birthday, visiting my aunt and uncle.

My first hint that Practical Man didn’t really want to spend a festive 40th birthday day with his dearest at Disney was, well…okay, I married him, so I like to think I know about some of his likes and dislikes.

(I’m always studying, in case we we end up on one of those newlywed games, even now that we are 20 years into our romance.)

Anyhoo, the second clue was that for most of the drive to Florida, Practical Man kept saying to me, “Don’t you think you’d have a better time at Disney with your aunt?”

I tormented him through Pennsylvania and both the Carolinas and Georgia, but knew that, yes, I would have a great time with my aunt Feather at Disney.

She has no problem with Disney, crowds or mouse ears.

And, she encourages things like staying overnight in the Herbie the LoveBug themed Disney hotel (Hurrah!) and eating Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream bars (Yum!) and not minding when her niece wears Mickey Mouse ears all day long over her sunhat, even though she’s 40.

I am 40ish going on 4.  Yep, that’s me.

As if it could get any better, the Magic Kingdom folks gave me a giant button at the gate that said “Happy Birthday Christine!” in two foot letters on it and every time there was a parade or a character going by (which was a lot), they would lean down from their stilts with a giant smile and yell, “Happy Birthday, Christine!” which Practical Man would have hated, but which I love-love-loved.

But, my favourite part was the parade that started, right after the sun went down.  All the floats were lit with thousands of coloured lights and it was warm and beautiful with my Aunt Feather and there were fireworks all for me, I’m sure, on my 40th birthday.

SWOON.

The Magic Kingdom really is just a festooned, childlike street, after all.

Have you noticed how “festoon” rhymes with “swoon”?

Last night took me right back there.  It was the Santa Claus parade in my hometown and I was invited to join Fairy Godson and his family and friends at the big event downtown.

lit up train float

Even though there were shades of Magic Kingdom in this festival of lights, Florida it was not.  I was wearing down-filled everything with an added layer of neoprene on my feet, thank goodness.

Brrrrrr.

My magic kingdom for some down-filled undies.

Even though the weather is finally turning a bit more wintery, just for the record, it’s still a bit too early for Santa.

Practical Man has rules about these kinds of things:  no Christmass-y stuff until December 1st.

Or, maybe that’s the earliest date I have cajoled him into.  We definitely follow the “out of respect for our veterans and their families, absolutely nothing festive until after Remembrance Day” rule.

Even though it was early, it felt like the festive season at the parade.  All the kids lined up to catch their candy canes and stickers and wave at Rudolphs with blinking noses and Elves and that giant marshmallow guy from Ghostbusters.

parade float - giant balloon marshmallow man

Who knew that Ghostbusters were festive?

My friend Grover, that’s who.

Fairy godson was taking it all in, with a line of other kids his age.  They were, like me, wrapped in down-filled everything, from head to toe.

Little boy wearing winter clothes

Sucking on candy canes, naturally.

I was jealous of their ear flaps.

It was 16 degrees Celcius yesterday afternoon, my friends.  The climate changed just in time for the parade and our recent rash of Spring-like-weather-in-November had done nothing to harden us for standing out in the festive wind coming straight up Princess Street, off Lake Ontario.

Did I mention I’d like someone to invent down-filled undies?

But, it was still as lovely as that time at Disney.

elf village, lit up

I had no mickey ears last night but, just look at all the pretty lights!

We waved at baton twirlers and gymnasts (there were a lot) and dancers and pipe bands.  We yelled Merry Christmas at passing elves and tigers and snowmen.  Float riders reminded us that “Santa would be coming soon” and we jiggled to the assorted Christmas tunes emanating from the passing parade.  There was even a ferris wheel float!

I’ve decided I’m a night-time parade kind of a girl.

No matter the season or the location, this kind of joyous, sparkly, celebratory event is right up my street.

santa's float

My festooned, childlike street, of course.

With a side of down-filled underwear.

Copyright Christine Fader, 2016.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet


“Auntie Kiss, it’s the first day of school!”

These words were fairy godson’s greeting to me this morning, when I arrived at his house to help walk with him on his very first day of school ever.

As in, it will never happen again, EVER.

It’s probably a good thing that Practical Man and I don’t have any children.

I don’t think the Kleenex industry could handle it.

Never mind that my heart has a tendency to plummet its beats per minute, without warning, and make me faint.   Yes, my biological heart is a drama queen.  But, my metaphorical heart is also kind of high maintenance.  I’m the person who cries during every Downton Abbey and Little House on the Prairie episode.  I can’t get through a whole verse when I’m singing the song that reminds me of Ugly Orange Sweater Guy’s mom.   I even get weepy at TV commercials (there was one when I lived in England, 30 years ago, that still makes me choke up.)

Suffice it to say, we go through a lot of Kleenex around here.  The extra-strength kind.

Yet, somehow, I manage to forget this fact from one minute to the next.  I run around in life, completely un-prepared, when it comes to mopping up my emotions.  The 3-ply Tempo tissues from Germany that I bring pillow-sized packages of back, every time I visit, are piled neatly in the hall linen cupboard. Practical Man buys the bulk boxes of Kleenex so we’re never, ever out.  I even have some lovely vintage handkerchiefs but, they are not tucked into the wrist of my sweater set, like they should be (in 1952).

5 vintage, embroidered handkerchiefs

Fat lot of good all this preparation and stockpiling does me when my eyelashes runneth over (as they do multiple times daily).

Case in point:  I turned up this morning and there was Fairy Godson, aged 4 years and 32 seconds, looking cute as a button for his first day of school.  Immediately, I realized that I Was In Trouble.

Double decker doo-doo kind of trouble.

If ever there was a day to carry on-board swaths of cloth for the mopping up of my eyelashes, today was it.

Little boy wearing a baseball cap

Sniffle, sniffle.

So, I distracted myself by helping his parents take the requisite First Day of School photos on the front steps and then, Fairy Godson and I headed to the back yard so he could open his “Schultuette”. This is basically a giant cone (the closer the cone is in size to the child, the better) that is a tradition for a child’s first time s/he goes to school, in Germany.  As my former German exchange partner said, “I’m surprised it hasn’t caught on in other countries.  It’s great for kids and also for commerce”.

A red German Schultuette with a ribbon tied around it. (Name has been smudged)

No kidding.

We can’t buy ready-made Schultuette here (but, this could be my million dollar business idea #823, ho ho!) so, Practical Man and I wielded the trusty packing tape gun and with some grunting and contortions, managed to fashion a piece of bristol board that I had cut, into some semblance of a giant cone, in which to put treats and school supplies.

A few M&Ms.  A couple of gumdrops.  Some jelly dinosaurs (a “Stegosaurus – that’s the one with the points on his back, Auntie Kiss”.)  Crayons.  Stamp markers.  Pencil case.  Frog and Ladybug magnets to hang artwork on the fridge.  Mini chocolate bars.

If my stolen idea from Germany catches on here, may I suggest one minor variation to the Canadian version of a Schultuette?   Ours should have treats and school supplies and TISSUES for the Auntie Kisses in the crowd.

Small boy opening his Schultuette cone

This is how you know your Schultuette has been a success: the child loses his arm down in it.

Sniffle, sniffle.

After all the treasures were discovered and Kite Papa gave Fairy Godson permission to taste one M&M and a jelly Stegosaurus from one of the treat bags in the Schultuette, we headed off for school.

I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Fairy Godson wasn’t sure what to expect either, since he was only born three weeks ago, by my count, but he was running at the beginning of the journey, so I’m pretty sure he knew that whatever was coming his way, it would be lots of fun.

Little boy skipping ahead of his mom

In the schoolyard, it appeared to be controlled chaos.  Kids and parents everywhere.  Giant backpacks on impossibly small-ish people and water bottles and teachers wearing name tags.  It was loud and busy and I felt as if I’d stepped inside the pages of a Richard Scarry “Busy Day” book (without the piglet firefighters).

I’m 47 and a half years old, not to mention 5’9″ and not waif-like.  I am pretty much built for handling a crowd.

Fairy Godson, on the other hand, is only 2 months old.

Oh, wait.

Anyway, he is small and sweet and was wearing a ginormous backpack that contained all the things he needed for his very first (never happening again, EVER!) day of school:

Lunch.

His water bottle.

A sweatshirt, in case it gets cool.

His “inside” shoes.  (Apparently, this has not changed since I went to kindergarten some 43 years ago.  Perilous the child without indoor shoes!)

And a partridge in a pear tree.

Why not?  Christmas is already happening in Costco, after all.  It’s only a matter of time before it ends up in kindergarten backpacks on the first day of school.

Small boy wearing a very large backpack

Fairy Godson’s Kite Mama pointed out some of his neighbourhood friends and friends from his daycare, too.  He was quieter now, looking around and holding his parents’ hands and taking things in.  It was very, very busy and hot and loud and all kind of new and strange, if you ask me.

Meanwhile, I was inwardly fuming.  I  couldn’t believe they didn’t let the parents (and Auntie Kisses) stay for the first week or few months.  Y’know, just to get everyone used to things, like how my heart is probably breaking and fainting because for goodness sakes, Fairy Godson is just a baby!

Look how small his shoes are and his little hat.

Sniffle, sniffle.

I was without tissues and I had turned into a helicopter Auntie Kiss.

The time came for Madame to lead Fairy Godson and his classmates into the school.  I took a deep breath and followed along at a distance.  And then, it happened.  This was the moment where Fairy Godson had second thoughts.  He clung to his parents and turned his face away from the red, brick school that he had talked about, with such excitement, all summer long.  He cried all the way into the school with Madame.  I cried right along with him.

We’re kindred spirits, y’know.  That’s how fairy godmother-ing works.

parents leading their son into school

Believe it or not, there was NO volunteer handing out tissues (or therapy) to the parents and Auntie Kisses at the door.

Heartless, heartless, education system.

I can say that, because I’m part of it.  I work at a university.  In fact, it’s my turn for the first day back, tomorrow.

Sniffle, sniffle.

Of course, I won’t have any tissues.

Copyright Christine Fader, 2016.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet

 

 


My mom gave me a box of pictures recently.  She was divesting her house of some of the photo albums that she’s carted around for nearly 50 years.

You know how it is:  there comes a time when you’re overwhelmed with the desire to remove evidence of hairstyles and wallpapers past.

a box of old photos

Not me, because I’m all vintage-loving and collector-ish, but, you get the idea.

Anyhoo.  I was the first child for my parents and I was also the first grandchild for both sets of grandparents.  There are a LOT of pictures of me, The Golden-Haired Child (as my uncles named me, I think euphemistically).  There are a LOT of pictures of my younger sister, too.

That’s her, poking me, in case you were wondering.  I was apparently not adverse to some slight poking.

My sister and me, blond little girls wearing matching hippo dresses

The two of us were kind of rock stars in the family for a while on account of we were the first grandkids and nieces.  Life was good in those black-and-white (or matching hippo dresses) years, let me tell you.  We had ALL THE FUN PEOPLE to ourselves for quite a long time before any competition in the cute-ness arena came along.

Sigh.

In addition to the black and white extravaganza in the box, there are also colour photos, of course.   And, small squares (2×2?) and 4x6s and 5x7s.   There are ones that look like Polaroids  and others that look as if they were taken with Grandma Helen’s brownie camera from the 1950s.

1950s camera

I don’t remember if her camera looked like this, but I found this one in a box at a yard sale for 50 cents a couple of years ago.   Isn’t it adorable?

There are snaps of Grandma Verna in her glamorous hair and ones of my mother with her mini skirts and impossibly-long legs.  My dad, sporting his PhD-length beard and assorted, motley snow creations from those Canadian March Breaks where the grass and mud came up with the snow when you were trying to roll a beautiful, pristine snowy ball to make a snow Bionic Woman.

Then, there are the alarming, giant, 8x10s of me (those came with the package we ordered from the school picture day each year).  Some curling slightly at the edges.  Others bearing the scars of tape that held them down firmly for decades.  The one where I curled my own hair for the first time, in grade 6 (that was a crispy mistake).  Some have dates typed on their edges–something automatically done by the camera or the processing at the time.

Fancy, fancy.

There are even some that I took during my early teenage, artsy-fartsy photography phase and processed myself, in my dad’s darkroom at his work.  Snow on a lamp post.  Roses up close.  Under exposed roses (dimly lit) up close.  Over exposed roses (brightly lit) up close.  The sort of thing that, equipped with developer and fixer and a red light in the darkroom, I could wax artistic with in the shadows, like the geeky adolescent I was.

All of it, evidence today of ancient, ancient photographic history–and wallpaper and hairstyles past.

To be clear, these are actual photos in the box.  Not the kind you scroll through while sipping your frothy drink-du-jour in a high-priced coffee shop.  It’s sort of a big old box of ME.  And, not–let’s face it–a big old box of carefully curated me.

Nope, these are not the kind of photos where you can take 257 pictures and delete the ones where your finger was over the lens or your horrific “perm” looked blurry (thank goodness) or you looked like a cross between Shawn Cassidy and Annie Sullivan, in her dark spectacle years.

(You young’uns might have to look those up.)

It’s a ride down memory lane, I tell ya.

Some of them give me pause.  Like this one:

Me, aged 4 on a swing. Wearing a red cowboy hat and rubber boots.

We lived in Calgary, Alberta. Hence the red cowboy hat and rubber boots. Yee haw!

I’ve had a thing for swings since I was a teenager.  Not the pinch-y bum swings, as my friend Grover calls them.  The real-for-true, comfy on the bottom, board swings.  Oh yes, I’d put on my Sony Walkman (seriously high tech) and stomp to the nearby park to swing out whatever teenage angst happened to be plaguing me that day.  The music was always the same:  it was my anthem.  Every teenager needs a Somebody-Done-Somebody-Wrong-Song.

Or, specifically, Somebody-Done-ME-Wrong-Song.

Probably my mother (I was a teenager, after all.)  Or, Graham McSweetie, who was smart and had melty brown eyes and was, naturally, completely oblivious to my existence.

I’d tell you the name of my Somebody-Done-ME-Wrong-Song, but that’s classified.

Besides, everybody needs their own Somebody-Done-Somebody-Wrong-Song for the swings.  Trust me.  It doesn’t work unless you have your own.

The song needs to be something that makes your heart swell with indignity and injustice and…well, kind of a YESSSSSSSS that spells vindication in your head.  Vindication for all that has been plagued upon you by the oblivious hotty in your French class at the forsaken age of…16.

Anyhoo.

For me, the Somebody-Done-Somebody-Wrong-Song was also a very important coping mechanism so that I could actually swing out my indignity and injustice and stuff.

Swing without vomiting, that is.

Because, more than 30 seconds of swinging makes me vomit, dontcha know.  Sorry for the detail but if you, like me, are plagued with this unfortunate swinging disability, I encourage you to get yourself a Somebody-Done-Somebody-Wrong-Song and try it again.

There’s some kind of magical inner-ear, motion-sickness thingy that the music does for nauseous and dizzy and fainty people like moi.

(I can’t imagine why Graham McSweetie wasn’t falling all over himself to date me.)

Not only that, but I encourage you to forgo the gnashing of teeth and that secret internet Troll behaviour you’ve been exhibiting.  There is nothing like swinging high, high, high when you’re filled with indignity and injustice or you’re incredibly shy and you’ve just agreed to live halfway around the world, in a foreign country, for three whole months and you have to live with a strange family and eat strange stuff and speak a strange language where “I love you” sounds a lot like “Go do the washing up” and you are wondering what kind of crazy thing you’ve gotten yourself into and your heart is filled with a combination of excitement and dread.

Anyhoo.

To get back on point:  THIS is the moment for the swing.

Or, in my case, about 4 moments, because that’s all the time I get, even with my Somebody-Done-Somebody-Wrong-Song, before I start to feel as if I might vomit, again.

Which brings me back to the big box of photos.  Look at me swinging, wildly and with abandon, not a hint of inner-ear, dizzy-fainty-ness apparent, at the ripe old age of 4.  How wonderful is that?

 

Me, aged 4 on the swing again. This time you just see my feet coming towards the camera.

There’s just a Thing About Swings.

And now, you know.

Tra-la-la.

Copyright Christine Fader, 2016.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet