During a few strangely mild days in early December, I visited Alaska as Downtown Abbey transformed for Christmas – holly and lights, a fragrant wreath for the front door, and a Christmas tree!
The season began one weekend morning when we entered the favorite Christmas tree warehouse in Anchorage – with evergreen scents and happy bustle within. A wide-eyed Lady Baby watched while her parents chose their tree.
At home Mr. Carson quickly put the tree in its stand and gave it water, Lady Baby leaned down, curious to see the tree “drinking.” We draped some colored lights for cheer, then got cushions and sat beside the tree, with Baby Girl and Boy, cups of tea (a little pottery cup with a tiny bit of water is tea), and books.
The day before the mother of my young friend brought Robert Barry’s “Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree” – do you know it? Mr. Willowby gets a huge Christmas tree, by special delivery, BUT the tree is too tall, even in Mr. Willowby’s palatial living room. His butler climbs a ladder, chops off the very top with a small ax, and takes it to the housemaid, who is delighted. But in her room in the eaves of the house the treetop bends, so she must snip it off with her scissors.
And so it goes, as increasingly (or decreasingly), tiny tops of Christmas trees find homes with bear and fox and hare and finally a mouse family. (I tended to forget the animal recipients but not Lady Baby.) By the third reading, she could tell me which animals got treetops, and she particularly loved the final page spread – Mr. Willowby’s living room, the mouse hole in its wall warmly lit by tiny tree.
So we were primed for the real magic when Mrs. Hughes opened boxes of ornaments, some new and beautiful, felted treasures she made for this season and many made by her mother for their family tree in years past – a glittery owl, stars and straw hearts, a silver angel, birds of paper and wood, and kitcats of all shapes, familiar things like rocking horses, stockings, and a space man. And the central figure – “See-ta” – the guy in the red suit who is suddenly everywhere!
One day we had a lovely afternoon with my young friend and her mother, drinking tea, eating tangerines, and admiring their mantelpiece crowded with nutcrackers and candles. My young friend – now 14 – first decorated our Christmas tree when she was three – so to see her holding Lady Baby now and introducing her to Jane the cat – shared moments from Christmas past and Christmas present.
It’s the small moments that make the season – I hope you can enjoy them all!