A Tale of Two Stockings

Eyeball the stockings: which is your favorite?

This single picture telegraphs the difference between my mother and my mother-in-law.

On the left hangs what Glenna Lea sewed for her youngest daughter 60-plus years ago. Done sewing, she hand scribbled my name across the green top.

To the right is Beverly’s creation for her oldest son. His name lies at a sweet angle, stitched among 100+ sequins atop white felt.

DH and I, for years, have quibbled about who has the better holiday stocking. In the fun spirit of the season, I ask for your vote.

Consider these up-close images of the top of each stocking:

And the bottom:

On my stocking, I adore the bell dangles plus there’s a little “M” on the child’s Christmas box. Melanie or Mother?

On DH’s stocking, fancy gold thread edges his entire piece. His mother’s secret way of reiterating her first born’s special place in her heart?

My eyes stumble across a third big difference:

The seams radiate the personalities of these two women, offering perfect metaphor.

On the left, my mother’s independent spirit marries a lifestyle-driven need for efficiency. Four children and a disabled husband will dictate such a choice. 

To the right, DH’s mother reveals a preference for tradition merged with propriety. A lawyer’s wife, she birthed three boys, daughtered four parents. 

Two women, seven children offer different ways of being in the world.

I chose a third way. My best holiday work involved not homemade stockings — yikes! - but rather cookies, cards, and clever gifting. Only one of those do I still practice, and only rarely. 

But something changed in me this year. Dare I blame, or credit, the times? 

These stockings now serve as Totems, no more need for heated discussion. Each reflects the woman who made them, not the names they bear. Names are only a sorting device.

My mother fire-breathed I‑am-my-own-person-thank-you-very-much.

My mother-in-law committed to I‑must-do-what-a-woman-must-do.

Both echoing change and doing good in their own ways, leaving powerful offerings in their wake.

Never would diversity have been my word for these women. But here it is, shining in the Christmas stockings they made so many years ago. 

2020 Santa comes to your town.

Speaking of diversity and change, notice the masked Santa hanging up above, in the top picture — between the stockings?

The art comes from Fred Carter, a Texas-based, nationally-known woodcarver. He designed this cedarwood piece as his special 2020 offering.

FYI: Mr. Carter is 86 years old, proving again you’re never too old to change, expand, or grow.

(Interested in seeing Mr. Carter’s work? His daughter is my friend; we can connect you!)

Pandemic Road: Witch Holiday or Which Holiday?

Seriously? Really? I tried to warn everyone. I both begged and cajoled. I specifically said Do Not Do It! Did anyone listen? I don’t think that I am the only one who cares, but yet here we are. This picture was taken last week when I was out running errands. A big old red Christmas bow on the top of a building. Two or three weeks before Halloween! Before Halloween!!!

In the immortal words of Gomez Addams (Addams Family Values, 1993), “Has the world gone mad? I seek justice.….Denied!”

Also, you can see the tree limbs in this picture. Many of the leaves are still green. Some have just begun to turn brown. Here in Houston, we have barely begun with fall weather. Today, as I write this, it is a brisk and chilly 79 degrees outside. A cold front (or what passes here for a cold front) is due towards the end of the week. The temperature might drop into the low 50’s.…..maybe once. Check out this weather map:

Please note that this “cold front” brought snow to my friends in Colorado. Here in Houston we still don’t have any plans for putting the snow tires on our cars.

Also, please turn you attention to that big red thing in the lower right part of the picture. There is yet again a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Let me repeat that. There is another hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Zeta. Hurricane Zeta. For the umpteenth time this year, everyone in Houston is blowing real hard to make the storm go into Louisiana. It’s nothing personal to any of the nice folks in Louisiana. But it’s been a busy and disturbing year and we just don’t have time for the nonsense this year.

Well, because 2020 is such an unusual year, I conferred with my friend and we have come to a decision. If you really must start your Christmas shopping early.……Before Halloween.….we will allow it on one condition. You are allowed to shop either in person or online if you frequent locally owned businesses. No box stores and for sure no national department stores. Period. That is our last and final offer. I don’t want to say anything bad will happen to you if you purchase all of your holiday gifts from some corporate giant of the retail industry. But if you look closely at my friend, you might be able to figure out that this is one critter you don’t want to upset.

If that doesn’t do the trick for you, please note that my friend has many other friends in the neighborhood. I don’t know the humans who live with these skeletons, but I believe they are members of my soul tribe. Don’t you agree? Before this year, I had never seen a mermaid skeleton. I can only imagine the sea voyage where these two met. I can’t get either one of them to tell me their tales.….not even the “fishy tales”! Get it? Fish tales! Yes, I amuse myself. How else am I supposed to survive a global pandemic, murder hornets and Christmas shoppers in the middle of October?

I remember back when I was a young child (why yes, that was a long time ago. I am old. I believe we used feather quills for pens if I remember correctly). We weren’t allowed to even think about Christmas or any other winter holidays until Thanksgiving was over. That meant that after we drew ghosts and pumpkins in school art classes, then we had to draw those ridiculous turkey pictures by outlining our hands. Egad! Childhood was so weird back then. It took a lot of patience to be young that long ago.

Until next week.….

Stuck? Try Constraints

For the first time in our 30-year history, DH and I low-balled our gift exchange.

$30 apiece on each other.

Why the limit?

Boredom? Familiarity? Fixed income? Seasonal stress?

A numbers thing: $30 for 30 years?

But that anniversary isn’t until next December. And we’re not early partiers.

What answered was this: time for something different.

And so, DH gained Sherlock socks plus a World Travel Book for Kids.

Nirvana for a retired kid with a travel-hungry Holmes heart.

He gifted Springsteen’s Broadway concert CD plus colored pencils and word puzzles.

Music for a writer’s ears while filling in word clues with 48 different hues.

The deliberate, inexpensive gift exchange has, in less than two weeks, ascended to status as Most Memorable Holiday Ever.

Why?

We forced ourselves to think outside the box. Which, unwittingly, drop-kicked us into another one. Whoever hears ‘think inside the box’? 

With four hard walls around our gift-giving, we surrendered dollars and expectation to creativity and consideration.

Overwrought, over-priced shopping expeditions sit in the ash-heap of our coupled past. Thank god!

Now, it’s simplicity, fun, and creativity—in all presents. And presence.

Constraints: they’re as clever as you make them.

Like a < 200-word blog post.

First ever.

Tis the Season for…Orange!

In these days of red and green, I cringe. Orange is My Color.

Orange orbs over Sugar Land.

Imagine my delight when this little orb danced into my line of sight. 

Its mutant reflection calmed concerns about aging handwriting.

Triple bonus came upon realizing this is my first-observed orange Christmas decoration.

If this is the wave of future noels, I’m all in.

The exploding consumerism of the holiday season sickens me. I avoid malls and stores. I toss every catalog as it arrives.

Our house decorations are deliberate and minimal. Fireplace nutcracker. Santa moose. Seven-inch white ceramic tree. German music box.

Red and green candles atop the dining table remind us this is the season to slow down, offer light, pay attention, and breathe deep. Ignore what does not enhance Life.

I call it a season for the senses: see; listen; smell; touch, taste. No cash required. No purchases needed. Only savory observation.

Like an unexpected orange Christmas decoration.

Selfie of “Selfie” — why, of course!

I’d gone to Sugar Land’s Town Center to observe our infamous “Selfie” sculpture.

The bronze piece outraged many people at its unveiling. Even Good Morning America featured the art. Why the fuss?

Selfie” is fun, engaging, and contemporary.

If we want to engage more people in appreciating artwork, we must experiment, modernize some creations.

Is that not partly why Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” still shines?

The same answer applies to painting, writing, dancing, etc.–name your art form.

One of the models for “Selfie” is Morgan, the niece of fellow RoadBroad Kay Cox. After my traffic box post last week, Kay enlightened me about the prevalence of public art in Sugar Land.

My cosmopolitan pride needed the education and the reminder: it’s never too late to learn. And so, I returned to the road.

Since, I’ve wandered across Sugar Land’s parks, streets, sidewalks, plazas and bridges. A wealth of public art surfaced. Color-filled traffic light boxes at 13 intersections. Another 18 installations of bronze, iron, granite, and glass in sculpture, mobile, monument, and tiled form, all encircling an old Brazos River sugar town. 

What about where you live? Is there public art? Please tell us more!

In seeing how other communities create their art spaces, we each learn. As we share with each other, we enrich both our communities and our own lives. Thus, change gains wings.

It’s not just stories we need. We need art. In all its forms.

P.S. Notice the orange shirt in the “Selfie” picture?

Unplanned for this blog post. 

Like that orange orb, floating katey-cornered from where I stood.

Ah, another synchronicity of the season…