Christmas in August

I don’t normally spend my summer afternoons surrounded by Santas, snowmen, and angels.   Last Wednesday was a happy exception.

Here’s the backstory: when my grandpa passed away seventeen years ago, the house he and my grandma had lived in was put up for sale.  It took a long time for my dad, my aunt, and all the rest of us to box up the china, knicknacks, and housewares.  We planned to take a day to sort through the boxes and decide who would like to keep what.

And then time passed.  We all got busy.  We forgot about the boxes.

But last week, finally, we cracked them open.  And you know what?  I’m glad we waited so long.  Because it was like opening a treasure chest from the past.   My grandparents felt so close again, as if they’d never left.  I don’t think the impact would have been as strong if we’d gone through the boxes right away.

And I came away with a few sentimental treasures.  One is this lovely Franciscanware vase, from the 1940s (I think).  I love all things retro, so I’m thrilled to have it:


My grandma had a small statue of the Blessed Mother on her dresser, along with this framed picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  Given my reputation as a Big Mary Fan, everyone was unanimous that I should take them.  No argument here!


The statue is now in my son Matthew’s room.  The picture is on my writing desk (frankly, most of us writers are perpetually in need of help — financial, emotional, spiritual — so it seems fitting).

I think the most moving part of the day was opening the boxes of Christmas decorations.   My grandma, who was Polish, always had these little Polish dolls on her tree.  I’m really honored to have one for my own tree:


Basically, it was a veritable bonanza of retro holiday decorations.  I decided that those boxes would have been an absolute gift to a Hollywood set dresser hoping to re-create a typical American living room, circa 1960.  Take, for example, this vintage styrofoam Santa.


I saw it and instantly, instantly, I was in Grandma and Grandpa’s house again, wearing my red plaid Christmas skirt, listening to carols on their record player, smelling the pot roast slowly cooking in the kitchen.

It has a very old tag on the back:  29 cents.  But you know what?  To me, it’s pretty near priceless.

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