23 December 2010

2 Days Before Christmas

Best-laid plans: I had intended to get up early this morning and go to Trader Joe's, and maybe stop at Harry's for some last-minute Christmas cheer. Unfortunately, I was still suffering from yesterday's burger and was still ambivalent about how I was feeling until late morning.

So I went to Kroger right before noon instead, wandering around their bakery and holiday decor area. Found something easy for supper, some treats for Christmas, and even a cute little poinsettia to place on James' dad's grave. I'm not usually charmed by plants, but this guy was cute. I have to stop it from persuading me to keep it; my nose is already stuffy.

I felt marginally good enough to stop at Love Street, the little gift shop, and its clothing annex, Heart and Soul, next door. Saw an adorable bottle brush tree and some nice vintage Santas, but was just window shopping.

It was a bright (really bright) blue day, just nippy enough to feel Christmasy, with a nice little breeze, making for a comfortable trudge between stores.

Came home and settled in with my Christmas magazines and had a light lunch along with Santa Claus is Comin' to Town. Fun as always, but would still like to know why they changed the name of the penguin from "Waddles" to "Topper," though! Followed that with The Little Drummer Boy and then Perry Como's Christmas Around the World, which is a compilation of six of the television specials he did for years in the late 1960s and 1970s. It starts in Williamsburg, where Perry sings special lyrics to "The 12 Days of Christmas," then performs "Little Drummer Boy" with colonial drummer boy, visits the Wythe house and all around the town (with more special verses to "Home for the Holidays" and a sing-along in the Raleigh Tavern), and trades quips with John Wayne, then sings "I Saw Three Ships"/"We Wish You a Merry Christmas," and takes part in a candlelight procession to carols and ends with "Ave Maria." Then to Paris, where he sings "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Forever," we see Paris scenery and "Can-Can" number, float up the Seine to "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" and other songs, and finally end with carols at Sacre Coeur.

In French-Canada, Perry sings "Do You See What I See" from the heights of Quebec overlooking the St. Lawrence, there is an exhibition of skating, and he concludes with "O Holy Night." Next to Mexico, where kids join Perry in "Happy Holiday"/"Sing," we see a Los Posadas ceremony, Perry sings "Silent Night" with Vikki Carr and the Captain and Tennille followed by the pinata and a flamenco routine, and finally "Ave Maria" in an elaborately-decorated, beautiful church.

The final two segments feature Austria, both countryside and stately buildings where a waltz ball is taking place, and we take a carriage ride as Perry sings "O Tannenbaum," then later joins the Vienna Boys Choir, and finally visits Oberndorf, the home of "Silent Night," and then the Holy Land, Perry visiting the Holy Sepulchre, Gethsemane and other Biblical locations, and singing "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Our Father," ending with a re-inactment of the Nativity.

We always looked forward to these specials. They were low-key but fun and went to the best places. I really loved the scene of Perry singing from the Citadel in Quebec, overlooking the St. Lawrence, because we had been there once. Mom loved Perry Como and we always had his records at our house. One of my earliest Christmas gifts was a 45RPM record of Perry singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."

By this time it was time to walk Willow and get the mail, and next thing I knew James was home. We had some Hormel pot roast for supper with rice and watched the news. I particularly enjoyed a story about a USO volunteer who hugs all the service men and women who come through the Atlanta airport, because of Jen's stories about the nice USO services.

Now I am watching "Christmas television"; just finished The Waltons "The Best Christmas," and have put on the British special Christmas Past, which features a great deal of newsreel footage, Victorian film, and reminisces from older people recalling Christmas in the early 1900s, including the 6th Marquess of Bath. (I wish I could find an uncut version of this; apparently what A&E showed was missing at least five minutes; you can see at least two strong cuts at commercial breaks, including during a sequence about the 1914 Christmas Truce.) Not sure if I will follow this up with "Merry Christmas, Bogg" (Voyagers!) or "Santa Claustrophobia" (Hill Street Blues). [Later: We watched "Santa Claustrophobia," otherwise noted for the "It's Christmas Eve and I'm gonna be shot dead in a moose suit" comment from Officer Renko.]

The Cottage Holiday, Jo Mendel
This has been a favorite since I was in grade school, part of the "Tuckers" series published by Whitman. "Jo Mendel" was a house name for several people; most notes on this series say that Gladys Baker Bond was the person behind "Jo" in this outing. This is different from the rest of the series as it has a serious side: seven-year-old Penny's effort to find her place in the scheme of things in her lively family of two older sisters and one older and one younger brother—a somewhat sickly child, she wants to be more than someone who "sits still and takes pills." She conceives an idea to spend the Christmas holiday at the family's summer cottage, where the kids play in the snow with some nearby farm friends and even get involved in the mystery of a missing woman.

This is just such a warm, wonderful story, with family love (and occasional conflict) mixed with Christmas rituals, outdoor fun, and even a suspenseful subplot involving a cougar stalking local farmers' stock. Penny's search for self is something everyone, adult or child, can identify with, and Christmas just adds irresistible icing to the cake.

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