Our family has always valued tradition. Our Virginia roots stretch down deep in the clay loam of Tidewater back farther than the Whiskey Rebellion. For me, anyway, I’ve never felt as tied to my home as I do at Christmas. We chopped down our own Christmas tree every year (including the year where Daddy had suspect access to an old tree farm out in Charles City County that had been on the market for a few years and he and I went in the old pick-up truck with the Flatt and Scruggs cassette stuck in the tape player and cut a spindly ole tree down with dubious permission and had to skedaddle out of there with a banjo soundtrack when some overseers came out of the trailer on the edge of the property like enraged overalled hornets). We had fires in our fireplace that I would keep going til the last minute until it was time to put it out for the safety of potential Christmas Eve visitors. We had embroidered stockings with our initials on them that, for me, always contained a can of olives (my greatest desire) and a new toothbrush (a two-pronged attack on hygiene maintained by both Santa and the Easter Bunny). Then, when we were older, we had long Christmas day brunches, just us, for hours at the dining room table, totally content, entirely self contained. Our traditions built us up and kept us together.Though the past made us many things, I have learned that this is not what makes us family. So, this Christmas we tried a few new things, new to us but still rooted deep somewhere. Instead of the pink poinsettias that have been on our kitchen table at home every December for my birthday, this year Mama brought up the pink camellias above- cut from our Virginia garden. My grandfather brought her the plant, started from cuttings from the original- growing at my Great Grandmother’s house- he called them Sophie Davis Camellias after her. Instead of a long boozy brunch of hash browns and hominy, we went to Pell Street in Chinatown with Sweetheart’s family- in from Rockaway- for the long standing New York Jewish tradition of chinese food (in this case, vegetarian dim sum) on Christmas Day. Instead of the boxwood roping, magnolia leaves, and fresh cut trees of our old roots, we had the entire New York City skyline glittering and bejeweled, new to us but rooting us here just the same.
I’d love to have a deep red living room with dark built in bookshelves and a big open wall to hang this huge, awesome Alan McDonald portrait on, but, alas, I don’t. Though “dream apartment” is always on my wishlist, here are a few things that *someone* might consider getting instead to help maintain the lifestyle of the honky tonk woman. After all, we’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers. I won’t call it a gift guide if you don’t call it a comeback. Show me the way to the next whisky bar.
Need Gillian Welch’s wonderful newish album, The Harrow and the Harvest, which is just as good on the indian summer open road as it is nesting in the winterdark.
Covet His/Hers/Ours Decanter set from Brooklyn’s own Love and Victory. You can also get His/His or Hers/Hers, or, if you’re like me and my “Three’s Company”, whiskey-loving roommates ca. 2006: Hers/Hers/His.
Crave raw forged steel trinkets that are as brutishly lovely as they are useful from CXXVI. Image from the divine goldust woodsmaiden.Want to live inside the cover of this record (get us a copy? good luck finding it- listen here, a gift from the fabulous Berlin Beatet Bestes). Or if you’re feeling really generous- perhaps a new accordion. Here are a few that look promising from Accordion Heaven.
We put our little city Christmas tree up late last week, and it’s been a source of constant joy to me since. The night we put it up, I had the girls over for Christmas Crafts (more on that later), and after a long boozy vegetarian dinner (for Smills the yogi) followed by the cracking open of the bottle of grappa I brought back from Italy, we sat in the glow of the tree through the wee hours and talked of the future and the past and of our little and not so little dreams. It was all so very wonderful. My absolute favorite part of the tree are all of the little birds, coming from all over my history to nest in the tree, feather by feather.
Thanks to Meags for the first picture of my tree, lovingly taken during her visit this weekend (we hugged each other with six of our friendship-octopus legs to make sure that we had two legs each free for champagne, of course).