November 27, 2010

The village people...

Every year on the day after Thanksgiving we begin getting ready for Christmas, just like many of you.  For us that doesn’t mean shopping, which I prefer to do online as much as possible.  Instead I spend the day at home with my own little crowd, and get the help of the next in line to bring a little Christmas cheer to our place.
From the Christmas just before I was married to the last one she spent here before going to be with the Lord, my grandmother bought me a new Dickens Village building each year, along with lots of little accessories.  When our kids were younger I would carve out a few hours on the day after Thanksgiving, get them occupied elsewhere in the house, and spend that time carefully arranging the miniature village in hard-to-reach low-traffic locations in the house.  I’d set up ye olde houses and stores in little clusters with bustling crowds of old-fashioned people and lots of fake snow.  I loved changing it from year to year, adding the newest from the previous Christmas and plotting out new places in our home to display my lit-up charming collection where they wouldn’t get broken.  After a few hours of work (and play) at this task, I’d light it up, show the kids, tell them not to touch anything, tell them again, remind them once more, and quickly shoo them away.
A few years ago that all changed.  Our son Scott was eleven at the time, and offered to give me a hand.  In the previous few years I had used him to entertain our younger kids while I worked on it, but our twin boys were now five and our daughter three, and they were capable of entertaining themselves far from the action.  After seeing the different perspective Scott brought to the process I realized we had a new tradition in the making.  I watched as he carefully placed things in unique ways I’d never thought of, and marveled at how fresh and new it all looked when he was finished.  The other kids loved what he had done with the village and wondered when they would get to try it too.  It was decided then and there that the kids would take turns each year being my special helper, from oldest to youngest.
Zach’s turn came the next Christmas, being the older twin, and he too had a completely different approach.  At just six years old he was much younger than Scott had been, so I handled the buildings while he placed the little people, trees, and other accessories in his logical and careful way, creating a very serene and gentle setting.  Last year it was Daniel’s turn, age seven at that time, and he brought his quirky sense of humor to it, placing bagpipers all around Scrooge’s accounting firm where Scrooge can be seen inside working away at his desk.  Daniel said, “No matter how hard he tries, he can’t get his work done with them there.”  Daniel also enjoyed burying people up to their necks in fake snow.
And now onto Christmas Present.  After great patience on her part, yesterday was finally little Audra’s turn.  I watched as she brought her sweet feminine touch to it.  Though she is only six years old, she was so gentle with everything as we unpacked them from boxes that I allowed her free reign, with my only responsibility being the plugging in of each item.  She turned our living room and dining room into a nineteenth century winter wonderland in no time at all.  With the collection of buildings now and forever numbering sixteen, she meticulously arranged them in small groups on end tables, chests, and our piano.  She did so well at all of this that I then unpacked my snowman collection and our other few Christmas decorations and let her at them.  A natural decorator, she arranged everything with her whimsical and artistic approach, and skipped and smiled her way through our special time together.
As she finished off the last of her feminine wintry touches to the temporary new look of our home, I pointed out to her that next year would have been Scott’s turn, if he weren’t going to be fifteen at that time and wholly disinterested in such things.  So instead it will be Zach, who will be nine then.  The next year Daniel will be ten and may still be interested in helping.  The year after, when she is nine, it will be her turn again, and with the boys aging and losing interest, she would likely never have to relinquish control again, and would be my helper from that point on.  We smiled at each other as we saw all the girly fun waiting for us in Christmas Future.
Spending this special time one-on-one with my kids each year has turned a tedious but worthwhile task into a precious and more meaningful one.  I get to see the unique qualities of each child shine as we quietly create together, and they get to enjoy doing something besides math and phonics with their mom.  The kids haven’t broken any of these fragile gifts from my grandmother yet, though obviously there is that risk their help brings.  I know she would agree that what we’re building together is worth the risk.

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