Here it is: an account of one raucous night in the company of greedy pirates and unprincipled chess players.
‘Twas two weeks before Christmas, and all through the place.
All the children were scrambling, with wire and with lace . . .
The table was set by this beautiful child
to serve crazy people, a party gone wild -
Okay. Not going any further with that. The first image up there is a grouping of things my father has given me. He made the wooden mosaic pictures, and the lovely hurricane lantern. And the Mandolin was made in Chicago for his aunt, maybe one hundred years ago. It makes a warm tableau, oui? As for the rest, Murphy and Laura truly are scrambling to finish their ornaments at my chaotic studio table. Chaz always sets the table beautifully. And the house is lit up. Easy to see the diff between led and incandescent.
Just a flick of the wrist, and it all becomes ever so much more interesting.
And just a touch more flick, you get flame.
The photographer. I have a disclaimer before we start: A) we were working with a new camera, my new Nikon 7000; we’d never used it before. And we kept messing with the settings. B) It seems that our new room is the worst place for photography on the planet. Add to that the fact that the tree is glowing with extra yellow and orange lights and the windows with very cool blues and purples. And we had the main lights, which are a mix of all temps. So we have some good shots – some that I’ve been radical with, and some that are just so warm, I want to throw water on them to cool them down. But at least you can see the treasure.
Some of these friends, we only see once a year. Like Phil and Rosemary – who used to live down the street – he was Bishop of the ward, too. We saw them all the time. The first experience the kids had with horses was watching Phil trim his beautiful horse’s hooves in his carport one day.
The feast is always huge and festive – wonderful things of all kinds, sweet and savory.
This is actually what all the shots should look like. It was this kind of lighting – enough to see by, but set so that the Christmas lights were still bright.
Laura brought this cheeseball – shaped like an ornament with a hook. Clever!
The lovely Chaz and Melissa, the costumer.
Dick. He looks so dignified and quiet, doesn’t he? Biggest pirate of all.
Okay – here – well, I asked them how many people had brought something for the game, and then I tried to count them. Tried. They got testy after five minutes – but the pictures of them waving their hands are the best we got of them that evening.
Here’s how it works: I count how many are playing (which is mostly everybody), and I’ve made up these little numbered squares -
Then I walk around with a little reed basket and you reach in and snag your number.
Then you may grit your teeth or rejoice, depending on our strategy.
Or you can stick it in your eye.
Then down come the presents. The designated butlers (Chelsea and Brady this year), have taken the wrapped ornaments from the guests as they came through the door – taken them and hidden them upstairs where Dick cannot find them and sabotage the game. Later, trusted friends and butlers help me bring them down. We pile them on the big ottoman.
Then I explain the rules. Every year. This is important because it gives everyone a chance to make fun of me. Which they enjoy very much. There are no pictures this year meant to make me look like a pedantic tyrant, which – of course – I am not.
Just this one of Marvin kibitzing.
Then it’s just a question of number one, choosing the first gift – in front of all of us. A grueling moment that is, not the least for the maker of the first ornament to be opened.
This one is not for playing. This is the gift my beautiful Jenni sent me from Australia. Maybe she wanted me to play it. Too bad. I didn’t.
This one has a story. It’s a perfect replica of the ornament that started this thirty three year old tradition. My parents had started a little party like this when he was in the bishopric, and one of the people had brought the real version of this ornament to that party. When I went home for Christmas that year, I saw it on the tree and fell utterly in love. So this year, Chaz and I replicated it and I threw it into the mix.
Guy’s tree. Deer hair.
My fat silky bird, with beads.
My fancy donkey – ready to rest near the manger.
Debbie’s owl mobile. I should have adjusted the temp, darn it. Looks yellow. But look at the detail. Chelsea had a heart attack.
Tracy’s dragon. Ever so fitting, considering he writes books about these things in dungeons.
Jeannie and Dave’s red morovian glass star.
And their beautiful yellow star.
Ginger’s beaded fir twig. The beads came from Venice – in her suitcase.
Tricia’s little gnome. There were two of these. Ummm. Yeah. Mark must have made one.
Gordon and Lynn’s sparkling joy! Two of these also. Ummm. Gordon must have made one. (Am I not good at giving the benefit of a doubt?)
Johanne’s bright star.
And this was Dick’s offering this year. It’s actually pretty cool, this vintage looking giant world of an ornament. ‘Course, you’d need a fifty foot tree for it. But this is benign next to some of the years’ Dick-surprises.
Marvin liked it.
Steve’s rosewood angel fish. Except I think it’s a dove.
Cam brought a toy robot and -
a robot ornament. This is Essential Cammon and I loved it. But I don’t have one.
Marilyn’s VERY FIRST ornament ever (for the party) and she made it up as she went along. A penguin with a penguin egg – that turns into -
a penguin with a BABY penguin. Nothing tame ever comes out of THIS house.
Rosemary’s teeny embroidered star.
Dick, opening something. The rapscallion.
Now wait a flipping minute here. This is supposed to be Phil’s. This is NOT made by Phil. There’s no leather involved. No braiding and no bell. He got Rosemary to do his ornament for him. What ever happened to “cowboy up?”
Chelsea’s hand painted cardinal.
Melanie’s felt bird feast. Yeah, I wanted this one. Teeny-weeny birds.
Marvin did a duct tape Celtic star. But he didn’t leave it at that -
He threw in the traditional Marvin’s little blue whale. Somewhere in the world there are about thirty three of these guys – and thirty three families of children who think that whales are a natural part of the festivities.
Laura’s pretty little antebellum Christmas lady – or Mrs. Santa?
Rachel. She will tell you that this is another frantic Santa, and she’ll laugh with this little edge of hysteria. I love these things.
Bob’s peppermint lighthouse whistle. And yes, it makes a great sound when you blow it. We know because everybody had to have a go.
Steve P’s snowman. He says his own children were scared of it. The eyes were too scary.
Melissa’s hand beaded star.
Lind, who is a whimsical carver, has done so many great Santas. I don’t remember who got this one. Or how many people they had to beat up.
Brian made this guy. But I never did get to see what was inside. It’s hollow, and I know there’s a little room in there with a person and a decorated tree. If I weren’t sitting there shooting each of these things, I’d get to hold them myself.
Oh. So I keep forgetting to go down and make Meridee teach me to do this. This owl is SO COOL. I saw it in Mollie Makes. But I haven’t tried it yet. I’m scared. Chelsea had another heart attack over this one.
So Sam’s first time, too. He and Marilyn. Yeah. Should have made them come decades ago. But then, they’d have been babies instead of having them. Sam got a woodburner just before Christmas. And picked it up pretty fast, I’d say.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s a brilliant artist, either.
Okay. Now the Brands did these two folded stars. I don’t know if they each did one, or if one did two. But I’m looking at all these angles and layers, and these things frighten me – I mean, how could a person ever make something like this? Origami on steroids.
Murphy and Laura went with a “light” theme this year. M made this snake. If you look close, you’ll see he made it out of small Christmas lights – and the head has eyes and a tongue.
And Laura made this bouquet of bulbs, ribbon and wire – which would actually be super cool for a December wedding.
I’m guessing this was you, Gaye – right? Because you didn’t write it down, did you? Uh-huh. I love these little birds. You could make some more, couldn’t you? I mean, just a couple?
And finally – this is Terri’s traditional impossibly tiny petite-point. I can’t even see it without my reading glasses. In thirty three years, I’ve only won one of these. But not this one.
Now – is this all? Am I missing anything? Somebody tell me if I’ve missed anything.
One fine passel of long-time beloved friends. This is our true Christmas card – only missing Ginna, the Beuhners and a few others. Our idea of a wild party. And don’t we love it!