25 December 2012

Christmas After All

We had a very nice and quiet Christmas morning and early afternoon.

Since we'd been up late last night, we had a nice sleep-in, and then we had presents. I had given James some DVDs, a Jane and Michael Stern book, another book by Travis Taylor, and a cover for his Galaxy Tab. I had the CD "Colonial Christmas," three books (Farmer Boy Goes West, Hit by a Farm, and The Making of Call the Midwife), and the set of new Rick Steves episodes. Then James made biscuits and bacon for breakfast. I had mine with clotted cream, which is a British treat: like butter on steroids. We didn't have to be anywhere until after three, so we sat and relaxed, gave Schuyler some orange and Willow a giant dog biscuit, read a bit, and watched my other favorite Christmas movie The House Without a Christmas Tree, the story of young Addie Mills' effort to get her embittered father to buy her a tree. I love spunky Addie, who is the child of my heart: smart and proud, if a little bossy and opinionated. We also watched Rankin-Bass' classic The Little Drummer Boy, and the Cary Grant/Loretta Young/David Niven vehicle The Bishop's Wife, a neglected classic. I understand Grant hated the role, but he was perfect as an uncanny angel who teaches several people, including the titular bishop, about the important things in life.

It was clammy and raining all day, with damp that crept into your bones; while James made the final prep of the corn casserole and the green beans we were taking to the Christmas gathering at the Butlers, I retreated into the spare room to beat off a headache.

Then we went to dinner. Maybe it was sopping wet outside, but it was warm within, and full of light and laughter. We exchanged gifts, had a dandy dinner, and talked about divers things.

It was a good thing we had such a nice morning because when we got home it was raining so hard it knocked out the satellite signal. It hasn't done that in ages. This means we completely missed the Doctor Who Christmas special. Phooey.

Sleigh Bells for Windy Foot, Frances Frost
Series books about resourceful kids were a staple of libraries in the 1940s through the 1970s. This book was part of a limited series of four novels about Toby Clark, a 12-year-old boy growing up on a dairy farm in Vermont, and his dapple-grey pony Windy Foot. The books were written in the late 1940s and 1950s, and children and adults today might be startled at the independence and energy of rural children then: Toby shovels snow, helps with farm chores, rebuilds a sleigh, snowshoes and skis, gathers greens for Christmas with his little sister, and still has time—and energy!—left for artwork, supplying wood, sleighing with a special friend, Christmas shopping, and popping corn and cracking nuts, with little assistance from "helicopter parents." Indeed, it is Toby's courage that saves the farm animals from a threat on Christmas Eve.

While the pony is an integral part of the story, he's no wonder equine, just a beloved pet involved in the farm family's homely preparations for Christmas: decorating the house with greens and a hand-cut tree, baking treats, caroling and buying gifts in town. The farm chores continue even during the celebration and an unexpected birth provides a surprise. Yet Frost makes the workaday experiences and the small celebrations so joyful you will wish your work was as fulfilling and you could join the Clarks and friends at their annual Christmas night party.

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