The Christmas season at our house was filled with it’s share of unique rituals. During the fifties, Christmas waited until Thanksgiving was over and then after that, the local Five & Dime store began to stock up on brightly colored sequins, glass tubes of glitter, styrofoam balls, velvet ribbons, Christmas tins and candies. Our dining room would then magically transform into a satellite of Santa’s workshop and a hub of creativity. Ornaments, Christmas cards, gingerbread house plans and platters of sugar cookies waiting to be decorated would consume every inch of the large oval table and for several days force our family to eat on tray tables in front of the TV, a real bonus for us five kid’s.
Mom’s rituals included purchasing a new Christmas apron, like my favorite, the see-through one with the reindeer pockets and dangly red pom- pom’s hanging from it’s zigzagged lower edge. It was a time when Mom began to increase her time spent behind closed doors to finish the Christmas sweaters she was making for me and my siblings, to wrap the stocking stuffers she had been collecting throughout the year, and to hide her carefully chosen Christmas presents in her closet. Mom’s rituals reached a frenzied peak when she would address us all while armed with a brand new ping pong paddle, (a plentiful item at the Five & Dime during the Christmas season) …minus the attached little red rubber ball, and give us all a stern warning to not go anywhere near her bedroom closet. In those days, visions of a paddling on a bare bum usually outweighed any of those storied visions of sugar plum fairies.
Dad worked in the basement and put the finishing touches on the wooden dollhouse, toy train or revitalized sled, got out the movie camera and its bar of seven gigantic lights to make sure they were in working order (the same lights that would make us all squint, tear up and make funny faces), and made the repeated dusty journey to the attic for the stored cardboard boxes containing our collection of Christmas decorations. We could easily tell when Dad’s rituals had reached their frenzied peak when his covert trips to the refrigerator to take sips of his “tainted” egg nog became much more frequent.
For us kid’s, the highlight of the Christmas rituals was picking out the tree and decorating it. The Christmas tree’s we purchased were never perfect and there was always that “hole” that needed to be directed toward the wall, like some disobedient child. After positioning the tree to everyone’s liking, my father would then begin to hum, the signal that he was ready to untangle the many strings of red, blue, green, yellow and white ‘large’ Christmas bulbs and clip them to the tree. Next, ruffles of red foil garland were swagged and then the Christmas angel took her prominent position at the very top. It was now our turn to dig into the boxes of ornaments and remember to hang the “unbreakable’s” on the bottom branches to make them black Labrador Retriever “tail proof.” Years worth of memories were hung and on display for all to enjoy; prompting grins, laughter and nostalgic sighs. Then with great aplomb and fanfare, my father dealt us each a box of tinsel, the treasured tinsel, the tinsel we were instructed to not just “throw on.” Slowly and deliberately, each long silvery strand was carefully draped so that every bough was covered in glistening, gaudy delight. It was a sight to behold, a radiant reflection of colors that sparkled and swayed with every movement we made. It was a bedecked, icy tree, a snow queen, that showered a supernatural-like glow over the nativity scene that had been placed on the snow blanket below.
Growing up with lead tinsel was special. During the fifties, tinsel, which emanates from the French word ‘estincele’ meaning “sparkle” was made from lead foil, a substance that had the perfect weight and shininess to allow the tinsel to dramatically drape and shine. However, in the sixties, our Grinch-like government stepped in and declared lead tinsel a possible health risk to children. Although never proven, convinced manufacturers and importers voluntarily stopped producing the product. Bah Humbug. Now, our children are subjected to tinsel made from polyvinyl chloride coated with a metallic finish that neither hangs well nor reflects a clear light. Pure junk.
I never ate the lead tinsel because the superb public schools in the fifties taught us to think for ourselves and not be stupid. Let’s bring back lead- based tinsel and get rid of our socialist, nanny government instead. The possibility of Capitol Hill poisoning us with their Grinch-like legislation poses a far greater risk to Americans than the potential poisoning from lead tinsel. Just ask Poisoner-In Chief, Barack Hussein Obama.
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