Archived Post December 2007

Brown Paper Packages 

 Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things . . .

Oscar Hammerstein II


One of our most beloved Christmas traditions is to watch The Sound of Music.  It is one of Kate’s favorite movies, and we do sing along.

There is something quite marvelous about brown paper packages, tied up with string.   I remember, at least twenty five years ago, that Melody, a friend from high school, gave me an old print, which she had purchased, at a little shop, in down town Los Angeles.  She made a point of giving me the print, “Our Arrival at Masaya,” still wrapped in the brown paper and string, which the shop keeper had used to secure her purchase – Melody knew that I would appreciate his touch.  The print has hung in all of my homes, for low these many years, and the paper is housed in a plastic bin, where I keep objects, which I once place in scrap books – before scrap booking became an art form.

I am certain that my love, of another era, most likely leads to my romantic notion of brown paper packages, but the pleasure stands.  One of the things, which I most enjoyed, about shopping in Argentina, was the way the packages were wrapped.  Last year, when I was passing out Argentine gifts, to my family, I went on endlessly about the packaging, more so I think than the gifts – how nice to be loved, with all of our idiosyncrasies. 

I love Christmas.  I know all of the complaints, about the commercialization of Christmas, and it is all true.  Yes, I too resent Christmas decorations and carols, showing up in September, before we have had a chance to enjoy the glories of autumn.  I also respect and understand how people, who do not share, in the adoration of Christ, can feel stifled and overwhelmed, in our Christmas culture and clutter.  Nevertheless, I still love Christmas. 

There are countless things which I love about Christmas; first and foremost, for me it is the celebration of the birth of Christ, my savior.  I was always quite impressed, even as a Child, when Linus answers Charlie Browns’ desperate plea, for an explanation as to what Christmas is all about, by saying:  And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:8-14 (KJV) Whether you believe the story or not, you have to admit to the poetry of the words. 

I love that our lives stop at Christmas, and not just for the day, but in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  Our routines change and for a short while, we become consumed with others, as opposed to ourselves.  People are kinder, to each other, during the holidays, stopping to smile or wave, to a stranger, instead of honking the horn or yelling at them, for taking too long to cross the street.  Christmas allows even the most cynical to hope and be of good cheer.

There really is magic in all of the sparkle and glitter. I love decorating for Christmas, even though it means spring cleaning, in late fall.  There is something quite enchanting, about opening boxes, of Christmas ornaments and decorations, which have been safely tucked away, mostly under my bed, for the last year.  As we decorate our tree, I repeatedly have to remind Kate where each ornament came from, including the ones she made, as a child, and every year she declares that she has to write the information down. 

Twenty years ago, with six little house shaped, votive holders, I began our Christmas village, which I love setting up, every year.  The village has steadily grown to include a farm, a mountain retreat, fishing pound, rail road, park, old town, down town, skating rink, cobble stoned streets, and covered bridges.  My sister, Joy, has made the most contributions, to the expanding world, which I actually put up before Thanksgiving, just because I can. 

This year, my village has been enhanced, thanks to Phil.  Last year, when examining my efforts, at city planning, he commented that something was missing.  He said every town has a Jewish quarter, but not to fret, he had a solution.  A few months later, Phil gifted me with a menorah of houses – providing me with a Jewish neighborhood, which perfectly fits my village.

I love the Christmas lights, which Kate painstaking puts up every year – including Santa, on the roof, our lit nativity, where baby Jesus sleeps on a bed of coconut burlap, and a little angel who keeps watch over us all.  My favorite lights, are still the large, oval shaped lights, from a by gone era – of course.

I also love Christmas baking, which so much reminds me of my childhood, when my Mother baked from Thanksgiving to New Years, filling our house with warm sweet smells, that welcomed the invited and unexpected visitor, alike.  Tonight, I am looking forward to Kate making her pizzels, and wishing I had several of the warm, crispy, slightly sweet cookies, to snack on, as I write.

There is something quite lovely, in the shared tradition of mincemeat cookies, my Mother’s specialty, and pizzels, which both Kate’s Mother, Charlotte and Grandmother, Tessie, made, as well as the gingerbread men and Russian teacakes, which Kate and I first began making with Melody.  We have Charlotte, to thank for our pizzel maker, a gift, from Christmas past, along with those childhood ornaments, which Kate can not recall – thank you Charlotte.

Of course, the best part of baking dozens and dozens of cookies is walking around the stacks, of inviting treats, and carefully selecting which cookie should go in which tin.  Christmas cookies must be shared, whether near or far, it is not a Christmas cookie unless it journeys from your kitchen, with cheer.

At Christmas, traditions are born and renewed, none more wonderful than brown paper packages tied up with strings.  Christmas is a time of great anticipation.  Children wait for Santa Clause, and adults wait to hear from families and friends. 

I do love Christmas shopping, especially if I have shopped early and avoided the madness, which comes during those last days, before Christmas.  Kate, of course, says that her Christmas tradition, includes shopping before the stores close, on December 24 – I suppose there may be something to that, as it is also quite a popular tradition with so many others. 

There is great satisfaction in finding the perfect gift.  I bring home my gifts, lay them out, look at them, yes, pat myself on the back, just a bit, and proceed to wrap my presents – anticipating their reception.  Likewise, I too enjoy receiving presents, I shall not pretend otherwise.  But, it is not the gift, as much as the gesture, which so stirs my soul. 

I love going to the mailbox, which in our case is a slot through the garage door, which drops the mail, onto the floor; and looking through the stacks, of what we so affectionately call junk mail, for that hand addressed envelope.  I bring the cards in, place them on the counter, and call Kate, to come open the cards.  I usually announce who the cards are from, and she always lets me rip open the envelopes, packages go unopened, under the tree to wait for Christmas morning.

Christmas cards are displayed, until after New Years, when I put them away, with the holiday decorations.  Next Christmas, thanks to Tessie’s sister, Aunt Gen, I will spend a few moments, going through the cards, from previous years, remembering all of the people we love. 

Aunt Gen mailed Kate and me our first Christmas card, and until we lost her, a few years ago, hers’ was always our first Christmas card.  She once told me, that she saved all of the cards, her husband gave her and that at Christmas, she would string them around her house – I thought it was a lovely gesture toward love.

 Christmas cards, cookie tins, and brown paper packages, remind us that someone loves us and wants to wish us well, we should not need a holiday, to say I love you and am thinking of you, but how nice that we have chosen the commemoration, of the birth of Christ, that for Christians symbolizes hope and good cheer, to say I love you to those near and far – Merry Christmas – that is all for now.

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