Sunday, December 20, 2009

Scenes from Silver Creek: Christmas

When I was growing up, Christmas in Silver Creek was about as predictable and exciting as the Andy Williams Special.

The Silver Creek Lions Club had the best tree lot in town. The city would put up the same tacky decorations on the weekend after Thanksgiving. (Red and silver tinsel tree-like things hanging from all the street lamps.) There was always a tree lighting ceremony with the big tree in Grover Park that featured a combined church choir sing-along and the Friends of the Silver Creek Library selling hot cocoa with mini-marshmallows.

McFielding’s Men’s Clothier’s would do a window display that was Silver Creek’s answer to 5th Avenue. Mrs. McFielding had majored in art at Vasser and her sole use of her degree was the annual window. They were usually completely inappropriate for anything except the display of McFielding’s stock but so odd that the unveiling usually drew a bigger crowd than the tree lighting ceremony. One year, for instance, there was a Christmas Carol theme with an Ebenezer Scrooge mannequin (in a gray checked suit, red bow tie and matching pocket square) sitting in an armchair. Marley’s ghost was half in and half out of a “window” and was the most nattily attired ghost ever in a full tuxedo. When you were in the store, you got to see Marley’s butt and legs. The ghost of Christmas Past was represented by a male mannequin in drag with a blond wig and long white nightgown. “She” carried a half unwrapped box from which erupted a rainbow selection of men’s socks. I do not recall that part of the book.

Another year she did Santa’s workshop. Apparently it was Santa in a relaxed moment in green plaid pajamas, a blue plush robe, and leather bedroom slippers. He was, most unexpectedly, reading Jane Eyre. We never did figure that one out. Why bother with a naughty-or-nice list when you can read Bronte? He was surrounded by toys (a tie-in with Hopgood’s Toys), and little boy mannequins standing in for elves. You could tell they were supposed to be elves because they all had pointed green elf hats. The hats did not, however, match well with the blue jeans, corduroy jackets, or black dress shoes.

By far my favorite of all the windows was the “Christmas of the Future” window that was a cross between The Jetsons and Dante’s Inferno. It featured a silver suit made out of aluminum foil. Sort of what the Tin Man would wear to a job interview. Nuclear “snowflakes” hung suspended on strips of black electrical tape. They were shaped like kidneys or livers for the most part and were made from some weird reflective material in a sort of Three Mile Island greenish-blue shade. Surrounding the Tin Man were other mannequins wearing normal McFielding’s stock, only with freakish accessories such as a kitchen colander as a hat, a tie made out of yellow plastic, or glow-in-the-dark shoes. There was also a pile of discarded machine parts and tools – apparently the Tin Man’s spaceship had crashed, so in the corner of the window, behind a pyramid of brown and black wingtips, was an odd collection made up of an old car bumper, some nuts and bolts, a faucet, and windshield wipers.

Closer to home, Christmas was typically tacky. Every year dad would hang blue and red (why blue and red?) lights around the house and my mom would make a new wreath. Being mom she couldn’t be all normal and have a nice round, festive decoration with pine boughs and ribbon. She would, instead, buy a Styrofoam ring and staple to it various “decorations” depending upon her mood or what was in our junk drawer.

Once she scotch taped Christmas images salvaged from the previous year’s cards. A nice idea, but after the first rainstorm it turned into a multi-hued cardboard mush that bled all over the door and left cement-like deposits of paper poop on our welcome mat.

Another year she got the idea of covering it with food. Getting out her old friend, the glue gun, she made a design of carrots, celery and cherry tomatoes. The resulting ant trail left me freaked out for days.

Inside we would have our tree in a stand hand-made by my paternal grandfather. It was a huge white paper mache mountain with a small mirror for a lake, little houses on the side of the snow-capped peak and, of course, a small cave as a manger. As it typically does not snow in Bethlehem, the always confused me. But we would always put it up and my mother would always set up the manger scene. Sadly it was made up of pieces from three different manger scenes so the scale of figures was never right. We had oxen that were about 9-inches high and a Mary that was about the size of my little finger.

My mother would get furious with me when, in a fit of pre-holiday boredom, I would pull out my brother’s little green army men and mount an assault on the Three Wise Men.

1 comment:

Kittie Howard said...

Oh, Decca, this is a fabulous Christmas posting...Mrs. McFielding and her store classic of a Certain Time...and how well you described it...I could visualize everything...I chuckled at the "paper poop...only Moms have ideas like that...and so priceless and endearing...Thank you for a slice of Americana that is soooo very special. Merry Christmas!