Best Gift EVER!

A few short years ago, I started a sibling Christmas gift exchange.  The reason was a simple one.  After the death of our oldest and youngest brothers, I just wanted the remaining four siblings to connect.  The idea was to be nothing fancy but should be handmade or recycled or at least had some kind of personal aspect.  We all were living in different places so far away from one another.  Lori in Grand Junction, Mark in Colorado Springs, Robin in Austin and me in Tucson.

blog map The first year I had Mark’s name and made him a calendar with footprints of his grand kids and family photos. The second year, I made Robin an ornament using some of Gram’s old costume jewelry. I cannot say what I did this year for Lori, because it would ruin her surprise!

I loved the gifts that Robin and Lori bestowed on me the previous two Christmases. This year, Mark had my name. Imagine my surprise to see a huge package all wrapped in cardboard and taped together by our front gate yesterday. As soon as I began cutting the tape, I realized just what my gift from the heart was.

Some years back, with the blessing of Gram,  I signed over the deed to her house to her niece, whom I affectionately called Sissy.  This house shared a split deed with Sissy’s home since the day they were built.  Gram’s home was built in the late 1800’s and Sissy’s house built in the early 1900’s.  Gram’s house at 4500 Perry Street in Denver, was the original family home of my great grandparents and was built by my great-grandfather and other friends and relatives.  Years later, in 1906,  my grandma was born in the front bedroom of that little 2 bedroom home, as was my mother in 1927.  To say that this home had sentimental family history that always touched my heart, is an understatement at the very least.

After Sissy passed away, my cousin had both homes demolished.  Gram’s home was nowhere near modern building code and would have been cost prohibitive to bring it to building and safety code.  After the demolition, Mark made the trek from Colorado Springs to Denver and managed to salvage a little 24 inch door for me.  It must have been a difficult thing to see the house gone, but still, he did it because I asked.  I had to hold back tears as I removed the layers of cardboard and packing and tape to discover the door that Mark took the time to grab and then store at his home for several years.

I have so many ideas for this door. Shall I make it into a kitchen table? Maybe a wall hanging? In the meantime, my first instinct was to dress her for the holidays. And here she stands in her glory showing off a new wreath. Thanks, Mark. You made my day. No, not day. You made my Christmas oh so special, and I love you so much for your thoughtfulness. 12 19 2013 3

not my cup of tea

I suppose that anyone who has known me for over ten minutes, most likely is knowledgeable of the fact that Halloween is not my “thing”.  Even as a little girl, I did not like costumes.  I did not like having my face made up and calling attention to myself.  Luckily, I began dance lessons at the tender age of two, so I always had a tutu around to dress up like a ballerina.  And my little black cowgirl outfit with the white fringe from “Ragtime Cowboy Joe“.  Or, my blue costume from “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue”, so I could dress up in my big blue bonnet and be a Dresden Doll for the holiday.  I was a small child and it seemed like I always got swallowed up in a sea of huge witches capes and black hats and yards of billowy white ghosts.  I did not like to look funny or scary.  I had zero confidence for that type of shenanigans!  I enjoyed seeing everyone else’s costumes and admired their guts to have dark paint smeared on their faces or teeth blacked out.  Not for me.  Imagine how mortified I was each year when my Mom dressed up for her bowling team party.  She would smear honey – gooey sticky honey, on her cheeks and chin and then rub COFFEE GROUNDS into the honey so it looked like a scraggly beard.  To make matters worse, she would find an old stained shirt of Daddy’s that she had used with furniture polish and wear that ugly, dirty looking, wrinkled thing over some torn pants.  And then, much to my horror, she would mess up her thick black hair and then Aqua Net it to hold the entire mess in place.  She would get in the car, windows rolled down, and wave to anyone who looked her way.  She always came home with some sort of prize for her winning look.  Apparently I was the only one who did not appreciate her “costume”.

So, when I had children of my own, I was always in a panic.  I didn’t want them to be a plain Jane and not be up to par with their classmates and friends.  I experimented with different looks, but always came back to a clown.  I just had zero talent for any other look.   We always had something around the house to make their shoes look like clown shoes or an over-sized tie and shirt.  Red lipstick on the cheeks and mouth and some eyeliner tear drops and eyebrows completed the transformation.  Clowns.  I tried something new every year, but I admit it – they always looked like a clown.

I never decorated the house save for the pumpkins that the boys and their Dad carved – front on center on the porch of wherever we lived.  Mom and Dad would turn most of their house into a haunted house with dark lighting and cold spaghetti “brains” and jello “guts” and peeled grape “eyeballs”.  They took great delight in scaring the living hell out of me while working on the house for several days.  They had stuff in every one of the five bedrooms and, needless to say, I had many sleepless nights until Halloween was over.  I did not like scaring people and I did not like being scared.  I had enough of that on a daily basis while little brothers, Mark and Larry, would hide in my closet or in the bathroom, waiting for me so they could jump out or yell and watch me have a panic attack.  Yeah, those were sure fun days.  My brother-in-law had great fun digging out some dirt in the front yard of his Tucson home and, laying as flat as he could, and would raise up in the dark of the night and scare the bejesus out of the neighbors.  How sad it was one Halloween evening, watching little kids walk a huge arc around the front of Dan’s and Robin’s house out of fear of the crazy guy in the dark.  Robin always had lots of good candy left over!

So, here it is, October, and I will be damned if Halloween is once again upon me.  Now I have grandkids and have enjoyed entertaining them on Halloween from Tristan and Chase to Mateo and Marluce and now Max and Abby.  I have never had the chance to spend a Halloween with Quinn, but perhaps one day.  So, Max comes to spend the day last week and flatly states, Nana, you need to decorate for Halloween”.  Well, I did decorate (or at least I thought I had) by displaying a cute little pumpkin from Safeway where someone had artfully drawn a cute face with red lips and long eyelashes.  And, if that was not enough, voila, look at my cute Halloween owl in the front garden!

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Max gave me a patronizing smile and a soft “oh”, but I could tell he was not very impressed.  Then he said, “you should see our house Nana!  We have skeletons and pumpkins and decorations inside the house and outside of the house.”  I assumed from that statement, that the kids house had more than an “indoor” pumpkin and a tin owl stuck in the dirt.  “Come on, Nana!  We need to decorate!”  Looking into those clear blue eyes, I had no choice but to get in the car and high-tail it to the store before Max came back the next day.

I was NOT going to spend a ton of money on a holiday that I do not even really consider a holiday.  Afterall, November 1 begins “my” holiday season of Thanksgiving-Christmas-Epiphany.  THAT is my kind of holiday and I have always said that Halloween is just in the way.  But, little kids and big kid enjoy the dark holiday, so who am I to quibble?  I decided to make some melting witches.  Some black pointy hats, black gauze, black and green and purple ribbons and hang them from the courtyard lights and presto! we have melted witches.  A couple long pairs of Halloween socks filled with some squished up plastic bags made for the stylish footwear left from the melting witches.  Max and Poppa found some orange and green lights in our Christmas light stash and I replaced some clear ones with the colorful ones to add a little flair!  I got 5 little battery lit pumpkins which max has had a great time arranging them and rearranging them!  Add two Sassy Witches to the front door, and we have  the final product.  Not going to win any prize, but seeing my grandson’s eyes light up and the smile on his face is my blue ribbon.

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Happy Halloween, everyone.   I am going to start getting my Thanksgiving-Christmas-Epiphany decorations ready.  November 1 will be here before you know it!

Recipe 2 from the Grandma Tabor files

Fish Balls

O.K. (Fish Balls,) cod, boiled potatoes, cayenne pepper, egg, butter. mashed together and formed into balls and fried. Kind of bland but yet addicting, next time will use citrus and or cocktail sauce, onions garlic and pepper.       Jane and Mark

Okay, Jane.  I could do without the cayenne pepper and citrus.  But add all of the rest of that stuff and send over!  – C

cod balls