Early Hunting and Gathering


It’s black Friday, which for my family means DO NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE, except for long walks in the woods or to gather winterberries from my mother’s garden. But for all my railing against Christmas commercialism, I have to confess: For the last few weeks, I’ve been quietly adding to my holiday stores, like a squirrel hoarding nuts before first frost.

It all started around Halloween, when my friend Rachel sent me photos of the treasures she was unearthing at Cost Plus World Market. “They have real, old-fashioned metal tinsel!” she texted.

Of course, I needed a pair of twelve-foot strands for my tree. Or three.


The tinsel garlands will augment my Etsy-ordered collection of vintage garlands from the 40s and 50s (similar here). The strings of love-worn mercury glass beads walk the thin line between tacky and kitschy-cute, but I don’t care. I like them.

I decided, since I’m feeling kind of Mid-century about the tree lately, I might as well do this thing. So I Amazon-ed two sets of clear bubble lights. I tried to describe them to Luke, but before they finally arrived in the mail he kept saying, “I can’t believe you’re going to put lava lamps on the tree.”


Every year I treat myself (Etsy again) to a few scraps of vintage wrapping paper. The nostalgic prints remind me of boxes I’d get Christmas morning from my grandparents containing a pair of corduroy Bermuda shorts from Gimbels or a fresh bottle of White Linen. With my Etsy finds, I carefully–the paper is thin–adorn a few bundles of my own and set them under the tree. (You know I love you if you receive a present from me wrapped in vintage paper.)


I’m a sucker for an artfully wrapped gift, maybe because my hands refuse to do anything else. I’m woefully inept at crafts. (My mother worked as a college student wrapping copious piles of presents in a department store. She taught me from a young age how to properly wrap. She did not teach me: sewing, needlepoint, or how to use a hot glue gun.) To support my gift-wrapping habit, I have a large Empire chest drawer crammed with an embarrassingly large assemblage of ribbon spools and scraps. Around this time every year I supplement with a few more yards of hand-dyed old silk or crushed velvet in hues of berry or rust, pale mint or deep, emerald green.

Last week, I stumbled upon the perfect Christmas cards. (I may have a bit of an Etsy problem). They have subtle touches of glitter–who can resist a little sparkle? Not I! Which makes no sense because I don’t send out Christmas cards.


Let me explain. For years, I faithfully did Christmas cards, corralling our three kids–one of them autistic, ADHD, and camera-averse–for long enough to pose in their winter finery for a halfway decent photo. Then I did what everyone else does: staying up past midnight two nights in a row penning 180 addresses onto envelopes, risking poisoning myself to lick them sealed, and sending them on their way. Eventually I realized card-sending and the details that come along with it–keeping track of current addresses and making executive decisions about whom to add to and delete from a five-page list–was not my cup of tea. For me, cards were one of those Christmas automatics, something you just do. But a) I’ve vowed to stop doing stuff for the sake of just because, b) I’m miserable at details–at least a dozen or so cards always boomeranged back because of a bad address, and c) I gave card-sending the Christmas litmus test, and it failed. The Christmas litmus test: If something makes my heart beat fast–and not in a good way–it’s Gone. With the Wind. (More on this later.)

Back to my Etsy cards purchase. I still manage to send a few handwritten cards to those we know who are elderly and infirm– folks who may not receive a Santa-sized sack of season’s greetings. So I’ll post a few of these beauties and use the rest as handwritten invitations to tea or brunch or whatever hastily planned small soiree I squeeze last minute into the crowded calendar.

I’ll do this last bit because I want to and because–like wrapping gifts–hosting friends and family makes my heart beat fast in a good way.

Mom in her gift-wrapping glory.

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