Here I am around five years old.
It was cookie day at Nonnie’s. Every year, the week of Christmas, all of the grandchildren gathered at our grandparents’ house to bake cookies…or I should say, Christmas cookies. 🙂 We had fun rolling out the dough and tossing red and green sprinkles over the tops of sugar cookies. I don’t know about everyone else, but this was one of my very favorite parts of the holidays.
I mean, look at that face. I’m ready to completely plow you over if you come near my sprinkles or Christmas tree cookies. Not to mention, those red and green overalls and pigtails with matching ponytail holders (notice the white one has a gold star attached to it). I couldn’t get any more serious about baking if I tried.
I always say that my love for (read: obsession with) Christmas came from my Nonnie’s festiveness.
If you don’t know Nonnie, she’s a very small woman who has a big personality and an even bigger heart. She always manages to look fabulous – even if she’s wearing pajamas and a robe, shuffling around in her slippers. I think she even wore her slippers to my engagement party. Any less fabulous? I think not. Hats are her thing – if you sit behind her at church, you might need to scoot over because her hats are straight out of fashion magazines. Her wit is sharper than anyone else’s I know, so if you think she’s being serious, you’re probably wrong. She makes the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had and can make ice cream sandwiches into a sneaky whipped cream covered dessert casserole and no one will ever know it. She wears long sleeves in the summer because she’s always cold, and needless to say, she rocks that look. She eats ice cream or oatmeal almost every day, and you’ll never leave her house empty-handed.
And Nonnie loves Christmas.
Usually, by the beginning of December, holiday cheer is starting to envelop her house. She fills almost every room with Christmas trees, wreaths, candles, reindeer, little Christmas villages, bows, and Santas. When I say filled, I mean exactly that. Her table is decked out with Christmas china and German blown-glass trees. You know “Deck the Halls”? I think it was written about her house.
When I lived at home, my brother and I used to help her decorate her tree. By decorate, I mean “hang the ornaments evenly on every branch so that they dangle perfectly, reflect each tiny lightbulb with all of their might, and fill the inner depths of the tree with all the joy you have. And then place the Santa on top.” There’s never a naked branch to be found or a bare spot under the tree. It looks like a Hallmark Christmas card that pictures don’t do justice. Let me give you a visual from an old phone camera:
Now, she doesn’t stop with extraordinary tree decorating. Oh, no. It doesn’t stop there. Nonnie probably has 100 collectible Santas lined across tabletops all over the house. If you visit her at Christmas-time and comment on her Santas, she will, without a doubt, show you the first Santa she ever had. This is the one that’s fading to orange and looks more loved than all the others. She’ll press a button and make battery-powered Santas sing and dance to Christmas songs, and she’ll sing and dance right along with him – probably one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen, continuing right on to Christmas day, when she never fails to wear a giant, glittery gift bow on her head, looking like a flapper in the 20’s. Remember what I said about her fabulous style?
And all of this comes in a whirlwhind the day after Thanksgiving. She turns on 96.9, the local radio station back home, and she gets excited. She knows the words to all of the songs and isn’t ashamed to sing or make us sing too (especially “The 12 Days of Christmas,” which used to be a terrifying, put-you-on-the-spot Christmas day tradition for the family). Since last Christmas, Nonnie has had a little dog. This year I don’t doubt sweaters will be involved – quite possibly even bells.
Most importantly, Nonnie loves to give and she loves her family. Her generous, hospitable spirit is probably what makes Christmas so wonderful for her. Even to this day, she makes Christmas goodies and takes them to her neighbors. Not a Christmas goes by (or a regular day for that matter) that she doesn’t think about someone else.
So, yeah, it’s November 6th. “It’s not even Thanksgiving yet,” says everyone. But I’m gonna listen to the Michael Buble Christmas album, watch those Christmas movies, and I’m gonna get excited.
It’s probably because of Nonnie.