My Uncle Kenny died just before Thanksgiving. He and Aunt Betty, my Mom’s sister, lived in Colorado since before I was born; I have always been an East Coast girl. (Betty died a number of years ago.) So we rarely saw each other over the years. Most communication happened via the annual Christmas card.
Nevertheless, since I learned of Uncle Kenny’s passing, I have been reminded of them several times. Take yesterday….
When my sister and I were youngsters we received a package from Aunt Betty and Uncle Kenny. It was an Advent Christmas Calendar. Made entirely of felt, it was a large red rectangle with a green tree on it, on which had been sewn 24 hooks. Across the bottom were 24 pockets, each identified by a white numeral and containing a small ornament to be hung on the appropriate day. I imagine Aunt Betty was responsible for that part of the project.
Accompanying all that was a full-scale diagram of the tree and its hooks. By each hook were words to show which ornament belonged there and the day when it was to be hung. In my mind, I imagine Uncle Kenny handling this. (What sort of deep-seated sexist attitude am I revealing here? That he does the project planning and engineering analysis while she does the hard labor!?! I blame society for this!)
Being the eternal rule follower that I am, I consulted the diagram every year, and followed it as if my life depended on it. Ornaments went on the correct hooks, and when the season was over, they had to be packed back into the right pockets.
Felt being what it is, the tree eventually fell into disrepair. But when I was away at college I rejoiced when my Mom made and sent me Advent Christmas Tree, Version 2, basically a duplicate of Version 1. While finishing classes, studying for exams, taking the darn tests, and engaging in Christmas festivities, my roommate and I filled the tree as we counted down the days.
Having become a free spirit at this point, I managed to operate this wall hanging with no placement instructions. Ornaments went into pockets and on the tree willy-nilly. I felt so liberated!
As this one was also made of felt, eventually it began to look very ragged. But my kids were of an age when they—should I say we? —needed our annual December countdown fix. In the interest of longevity, I used “real” fabric for Version 3. For the numbers, I used fabric paint, my first experience with the product. (Yes, there’s a bit of a learning curve, evident in the numbers that march across the bottom.) I even trimmed the wall hanging with red/green/gold braid.
I soon discovered the value of that original labeled set of instructions. My boys alternated hanging days, odd or even. There was much bickering about where to put which ornaments so each got the “best” ones. They would secretly rearrange them when the other one wasn’t looking. Kids can fight about anything.
Eventually they grew up and got busy with life, and I found myself reminding them to put up their ornaments. And now, here I am doing it all by myself this year, till they come home on the eighteenth. I’m saving their favorite ornaments till then.
There is a single ornament for this tree that survives from the original tree Aunt Betty and Uncle Kenny sent so many years ago. It’s a small drum, and it still has the gold rick rack she attached for hanging. When I peeked in the pocket and found it yesterday morning, it took me back….