I look forward to going home for the holidays all year. I spent several years after college not being able to come home for Christmas, so now I plan my entire Paid Time Off use around the holidays. Unfortunately this year my brother and his family couldn't make it, but my dad and I went down to their house on Long Island for a couple days.
My niece is as sweet as can be. She loves books, sing-a-longs, and getting up and down from the couch. It was so fun to see her open presents and then and giggle as she learned what they did. Of course, many of them were books, but two of her grandparents are librarians so what do you expect?
I've been taking my time incorporating different artifacts from my grandparents house into my own home. It's tough because I feel like my home would become a museum if I put out every little thing that I've inherited when I only have so much space. But I've picked and chosen specific items that mean a lot to me and have tried to find little ways to incorporate them with what I already have. I already feel a sense of relief having bits and pieces of their lives together in mine.
An inventory, below:
Stamped glass sun catchers: these used to hang in my grandparents' lanai and would sway back and forth in the breeze.
Wooden stool: Grandpa Andy made this by hand and put a Smokey Bear sticker on either side. He had several of these, and kept his trusty dictionary and current reads on one of them, right next to his armchair. He carved his name on the bottom.
Pink lamp: Grandma Rose bought these with her own money back in the 50s. There were two and they lit their bedroom their entire marriage. The light that it casts feels incredibly nostalgic for me and reminds me of going to bed in a sleeping bag on their carpeted floor during summer nights, while my parents stayed up reading. My cousin now has one and I have the other.
Miniature glass jar: I don't have much information about this jar, but it's very sweet. I filled it with some shells that I collected at the beach near my brother's house. My aunt found a ledger in which Grandma Rose kept detailed records of all of their antique acquisitions, the condition, price, and date.
Seashell coasters: these really say "Grandma and Grandpa's house" to me. When we arrived at my grandparents' house each summer, we would sit on the couch in a row and discuss the journey and catch up after a year apart. In front of the couch was a low coffee table with a ridge going along the edge so that things wouldn't roll off. In the center of the table was always a small crystal bowl filled with Hershey kisses or Dove chocolates, and this stack of coasters. Grandma and Grandpa were very invested in the use of coasters. Interestingly. I have a collection of disposable coasters that I've been working on since middle school. They even contributed to this over the years, including Smokey Bear coasters, coasters with German beers on them, and one from a local rock radio station. I love having these on my night stand now.
Solo Certificate cup: this is a commemorative cup from Grandpa Andy's first solo flight. The other side of the cup is decorated with little planes. I believe there are several of these and they were separated between the grandchildren.
Carnival glass bowls: my grandparents had a vast collection of carnival and depression glass. They were definitely tightwads, but they found the deals to continue their collection. These are holding a collection of pysanky made my various family members. The three on the right were all made by Grandma Rose (my first of hers in my collection), the orange egg by my mom, turquoise egg by my aunt, and the egg with roses by my mom and gifted to Grandma Rose.
Souvenir spoon: the Misura women were very into collecting souvenir spoons in the 90s. Grandma Rose even bought and sold on eBay for a while! This is one spoon from her collection (along with another gifted to me by my mom).
Crystal punch bowl: while I don't do enough entertaining to have much use for this yet, I figured a nice way to have it out and functional would be as a catch-all bowl on our coffee table. If I lived on my own, I might display pysanky in it, but I worry right now about leaving them exposed and vulnerable all in a group.
Snow shoes: these are also very "Grandma and Grandpa's house" type item. They hung, exposed to the elements for decades, in their lanai. The irony of snow shoes hanging in a tropical outdoor space was never something I had thought much about, likely because they were such a fixture and I associated them with their lanai before I even knew what snow shoes were.
Olympic pin collection: the coin collection is something I inherited mostly from a former patron of my mom's library, but the pin collection and type tray were all Grandpa Andy's doing. He worked in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, and, being a social buttrfly, collected and traded different Olympic pins with people visiting from all over the world. Interestingly, he has a ton representing Poland.
Glass fishing float: This was also a fixture in the lanai, and hung out there for as long as I can remember. I loved the way light filtered through it in the summer sun, making it glow with a watery teal light. It's much heavier than I would have imagined!
Shelf: Grandpa Andy built a few of these, One of them hung in the dining room and held a gingerbread clock and two three-legged pigs that I sent them for good luck after I graduated college.
Stickers: there were dozens of these window stickers decorating the sliding doors that led from the dining room out to the lanai. Every year, Grandma Rose would measure our height with a sticker and move it up the window.
Had a few space improvement projects on the docket the last few weeks as a means of procrastination. I stained this natural wood dresser from IKEA that I've had for 6 years so that it would match the walnut woodwork. The ceiling fan in my room also used to have fake wood paneling that made it look like a creepy retro spider. So I painted it white. Why not!
Also, we had an armed break-in recently. What fun! Not in our apartment, but in one of the other units. While they were searching for the culprits, the police had a 24-hour stakeout in our building to see if they would come back. I baked some cookies for them as a thank you.
I recently made the impulsive decision to re-do my desk. Over the last seven years, I've had the same desk surface, which I've loved and continue to love. But it's been propped on a variety of things that haven't optimized storage potential (if you know me, you know how obsessed I am with organization and optimizing space). I've tried propping the wood panel on an old tv stand, and saw horse legs. But then it struck me that it would be nice to have actual *drawers* that I could *label*. So I ordered these two plain filing cabinets (I have another one that I was already using elsewhere) and miraculously it works wonderfully. My favorite part was figuring out what kinds of drawers I need and then using my new label maker to declare them. There's one for "Stationary/Greeting Cards", another for "Active Projects", one for "Unfiled Documents", and others for "Office Supplies", "Pads of Paper", "Coasters and Bookmarks", "Crafts Supplies", "Electronics and Chargers", and "Cosmetics". I think I'm missing a few, but love that now I know exactly where things are and don't need to dig through a bunch of piles or boxes before I remember where the box of acrylics is or the loose leaf paper.
BTW I recently blew through all of the Marie Kondo Netflix show, and it was very inspiring. I won't share the photos of the mess I made in our living room.
I've always wrapped gifts in brown paper, ever since I found a commercial roll of brown paper and metal dispenser in my apartment when we first moved in after college. I finally ran out a couple years ago and have been using Scotch brand rolls, but forgot to restock before preparing to wrap this year. In a pinch, I went with grocery bags and festive stamping and ribbons.
All the presents are wrapped (except for a few that I've ordered that haven't arrived yet), and I have four more days of work. Then I'll load all of the presents into a rental car and head out for home Friday morning!
This weekend, Chris and I went out and got our first full-sized tree. This has been a dream of mine since I first moved in, though there was at least one year where I settled for decorated a floppy houseplant, and several with a four-foot tabletop tree.
Since moving out on my own, setting up holiday decorations has always made me feel closer to home. My mom always had an extravagant collection of humble-looking wooden Santa figures on the mantlepiece. Every year my brother helped my dad with the Christmas lights, and I sat and untangled the gold beads as my mom hung them in loops around the tree. On an afternoon that was free of precipitation and preferably above 40 degrees, my dad wrestled with white Christmas lights on our rhododendron and burning bushes, and a petit pine tree out front.
Decorating the tree was a family affair, usually done in front of Peanuts Christmas and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, both recorded on a VHS tape from an airing on cable in the very early 90s. Closer to the holiday, we would watch The Snowman and drink hot cocoa.
Our tree never had a theme, but rather it was made up of heirloom type ornaments that hinted at our various interests. We had three mini carousel ornaments; one could even be hooked up to a Christmas light socket, causing it to slowly rotate with a quiet "bzzzzz". The carousels all connected to our upbringing in Broome County, NY, the carousel capital of the world.
There were plenty of book-related ornaments, some made of glass, others of wood or metal, representing my parents' careers as librarians. I was always partial to a brown-haired angel in a light pink dress, mostly because it was pink and sparkly. It was one of those delicate frosted glass ornaments that need to be packed in wads of tissue paper, and I usually hung it on a lower branch along with about 15 other ornaments that my parents covertly redistributed over the course of the evening.
There are little Victorian house ornaments whose windows are illuminated by a planted light, reflecting my parents' interest in history and architecture. Here and there are golden ornaments from the annual White House collection, which my cousin Jackie sent periodically while she was working in the FBI. For a while, there was a light-up Starship Enterprise because of my mom's obsession with Star Trek, and later we added a Zeppelin, referencing Randy from A Christmas Story shouting "It's a Zeppelin!" on Christmas morning.
As a kid, we added an assortment of Harry Potter and American Girl Doll ornaments to celebrate the younger generation, and a significant collection of basset hound ornaments to celebrate our family dog. Most of the former have been passed back to me to hang on my own tree, partially so I have things to hang, but also because my parents have more ornaments than they can fit on the two trees that they usually install. There have also been some recent additions of Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower to celebrate trips to Europe.
Over the last few years, my mom has started making ornaments out of her pysanky, and she creates a new design for each year. The first one that I received broke after a tragic hammer related incident, and I keep the other two very safe when not displayed.
Chris and I have also started growing our own collection, including a large blown glass orb from his mom, a ceramic BB-8, and a Tom Brady. While I don't have any Santa figures, I do have some glass snowmen and little trees and pine cones that I decorate with twinkle lights. My parents also gave me a small wintery vignette made of wood with built in lights, which they found in Rothenburg, Germany (a walled town tracing back to medieval times).
They say that nostalgia does not mean living in the past, but bringing the past forward. I like to think that by continuing to decorate my tree with old and new ornaments, I'm bringing forward a lifelong tradition into other parts of my life, while also creating slightly varied traditions in my own household.
After finishing decorating the tree, my family would sit together and play a round of "I spy with my little eye...." while calling out specific characteristics of an ornament on the tree. The only light would be from the colored lights of the tree, which reflected in our eyes as we admired our work. I'm looking forward to having a rich enough selection of ornaments to keep the "I spy" game going in the years to come.
It's finally fall, which means Halloween themed paper chains have been hung (by toy company eeBoo), mums have replaced our pansies, and pumpkins have joined the ranks. Hasn't scared this bumblebee away though.
In a couple weeks, Chris and I are planning to spend the weekend in Northampton, MA. When Sam and Deidre got married in September, some friends stayed at a nearby Airbnb; Chris stopped by to visit and thought it would be a great place for a weekend trip, so he booked the soonest dates. Work has been really stressful lately, so I can't wait to take a long weekend and get away from errands and housework and responsibilities. Counting down the days!
Hannah Dunscombe is a painter and portrait artist based out of Brookline, MA.