In the days and weeks before December 25 arrives, Christmas is all about anticipation for what may be. But such is not the case for the days and weeks after the holidays are over.
Hope you enjoy this Carding Chronicle, the first of 2017. Please share it far and wide and be on the lookout for the upcoming collection of Stories and Tales of Carding, Vermont.
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Somehow, the number of boxes designated as holders of Edie Wolfe’s treasured collection of Christmas ornaments had increased since she’d set up her tree on the day after Thanksgiving. She was sure of it. Otherwise, why did she have to make so many trips up and down the stairs?
Her tree was one of the smaller ones grown at the Tennyson Tree Farm, a mere four feet so that it would fit on the shelf in her bay window in the front of the house. She sighed again as she looked at the fully decorated tree one last time, touching individual ornaments with the tips of her fingers. They swung gently to her touch until the whole tree seemed alive with silver, gold, and glitter.
In some ways, ornaments were better than scrapbooks for jogging her memory of people and times past. At least the ornaments came out once a year. Scrapbooks…hmmm…nearly never.
Well, there was another New Year’s resolution for her growing list, Edie thought. Take the scrapbooks off the shelf at least once a year and leaf through them. Otherwise, why bother keeping them?
“Well, it’s the longest job that’s never started. Right, Nearly?” Edie’s cocker spaniel cocked his head at her. The noises that his human just made didn’t include anything immediately recognizable such as “walk” or “bonie” so he was reserving judgement until he had further clues as to her meaning.
“This calls for a cup of tea, at least.” Edie crept off to the kitchen, glad to procrastinate just a little bit longer.
In spite of the fact that Edie had no known religious bend in any direction, she considered herself a longtime Christmas lover. All of the lights on the houses helped brighten the darkness of early winter, and it just seemed so gloomy after they were put away.
And she loved the piney smell of the tree and the wreath on the front door, and the spiciness of cookies made just for this time of year. And she loved singing “Silent Night” in the Episcopal church, the oldest still-standing structure in Carding, on Christmas Eve when it was lit only by candles. For some reason, that song made her cry every time. It must be something about the cadence of the tune, she thought, because “Taps,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Greensleeves” had the same impact on her.
Simple tunes with great emotion.
She hummed while removing the garland, a red-green-and-white crocheted strip that she’d made for her twins’ first Christmas in Carding. Then she carefully lifted the strands of lights from the branches, trying but not succeeding in sending a cascade of dead needles to the floor. No matter how thoroughly she vacuumed, she knew she’d find a few of them hidden in the cracks between her floorboards in August.
Now it was time for the big finale, removing the ornaments collected by generations of the Wolfe family. Edie had long ago realized she just couldn’t take the time to linger over the memories attached to each one when the tree went up because there were always other people around, people who wanted to visit with one another, enjoy the season’s first eggnog, and make plans for the days to come.
But now alone in the house where she’d grown up, Edie could and did indulge herself in a warm bath of pure sentiment.
She grinned over a tiny pair of gold spectacles fashioned by her father and reputed to be the very same ones that Santa Claus wore to read his naughty-and-nice list. There was a set of miniature sleighs, each painted in red that could use a little touch up. Those had been on her Aunt Elsa’s tree when she was a little girl.
There was a red felt heart with a tiny spruce cone attached by green thread wielded by someone who obviously couldn’t sew. That had been her granddaughter Faye’s first contribution to the tree, a gift she’d made when she was only four.
Faye’s sewing made Edie look up to find the ornament that she lingered over the longest, the one she called “Small Boy.” It had been embroidered by her grandmother from a kit. It was a little boy with a blue hat pulled over his eyes, holding a wreath in one hand while waving with the other. Her Grandma Wolfe had taught Edie how to sew, a skill she exercised almost every day. Looking at that ornament instantly propelled her back in time to the room that held Grandma’s treasured treadle machine, and the doll clothes and quilts they’d made together.
Edie cradled the small ornament in her hand, gazing at the tiny stitches that outlined the boy’s mittened hands.
“I still think of you, Grandma,” she whispered, “every time I pick up a needle. Thanks, by the way.”
With another, deeper sigh, Edie carefully place “Small Boy” on the top of the box, shutting it away in the darkness until she could visit her memories once again.
Thank you for journeying with me to Carding, Vermont. If you subscribe to my website, you’ll find a short story in your inbox every Thursday morning. And new for 2017, there will be weekly 60-second reads from my upcoming book on writing and publishing called What Would William Shakespeare Do?
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The Carding novels are (in order of appearance):