HOLLENBECK: Special memories warm the heart at Christmas time

The Christmas season can be counted on to stir up memories.
I’m not alone in this. I think it’s probably a pretty universal situation.
When I watch favorite old holiday movies, I do with more than a few lumps in the throat.
But as I think back to days gone by, I always remember a lot of funny things that happened through the years. Thankfully, they tend to offset my weepy recollections, so I can keep on doing the things I must do.
I’ll never forget the year one of our cats became a Christmas ornament. Literally.
The kids came running to me, yelling “come see Leo. He’s in the Christmas tree.”
What I saw was not what I expected, which had been to see a feline climbing the branches and generally wrecking the scene.
The big orange and white tabby cat had indeed climbed up the tree, but apparently very carefully, then had selected a solid branch where he stretched out and became as still as a statue.
To have removed him from his perch would have caused much more damage than just letting him be, so that’s what we did. He stayed that way for hours and, when he was ready to move on to new territory,he removed himself from the setting.
Somewhere in my house is a picture of the live feline ornament.
Then there was the year that my spouse decided to put bells on the four cocker spaniels.
When he mentioned it to me, I thought he meant tiny bells like you might put on a Christmas package. Granted, I knew in advance the ringing would produce quadruple sound, but I still didn’t think of a horribly disrupting commotion.
I was wrong. When Ed got one of his bright ideas, someone — probably me — should have locked him in the closet. I wasn’t vigilant in this.
He set off for the hardware store to make his purchase. What he came back with were four goat bells big enough — and loud enough — to alert shepherds to straying animals in the Alps.
The ringing nearly drove us crazy. Anytime a dog would scratch, it would send me into a frenzy. And just ordinary running through the house sounded as if we were in the midst of a bell choir rehearsal.
The bells disappeared that year and were never to be he heard from again.
Some other happy memories come from the years I was part of MacDowell Music Club. Our Christmas parties were the stuff that memories are made of because some of the gag gifts that were shared at those events could have been the basis for short stories.
We played a form of Dirty Santa, although we didn’t call it that. Each person would bring a nice gift and a gag gift, all of which were numbered and passed out — usually to several people before they stayed with any individual. For years, a worn-out, practically-in-pieces candle was traditionally included. Whoever ended up with the candle one year would be sure to bring it back as her gag gift the next year and no one ever remembered who had had it last. It made for lots of funny moments.
Finally, the old candle disappeared — I don’t remember why — and I started a new candle trend. My spouse found a nude woman candle statue in a local thrift shop when I was looking for my club present. When he showed it to me, I was thrilled.
“This is my music club gift for the year!” I told him, more than a little bit excited about the grotesque sculpture.
For several years it circulated, then it, too, went by the way of someone who apparently didn’t come to the party the following year. I have no idea where its final home was.
Jean Adams holds the club record for bringing the most creative gift. We were flabbergasted when a club member opened the gift she had brought and discovered Jean (sweetly unidentified at that juncture) had simply cleaned out the contents of the vegetable crisper in her refrigerator. She had brought withered carrots, brown lettuce, rotting radishes, and what once had been red cabbage but had turned to a strange blue shade. It was a sight no one expected and one we talked about till the club folded.
Another memorable gift was the funeral wreath I brought one year. It had been a door prize my spouse had won at a meeting. Not only did it light up the whole room (with batteries or via an electrical outlet), it also was scented. Make that STRONGLY scented, as in knock-you-out scented if you didn’t hold your breath.
The smell of roses was absolutely overpowering. They didn’t conjure up the atmosphere of an English garden, but were some you might have been found in the boudoir of one of the “girls” working in a Wild West saloon.
I had seen my husband’s face when he received the prize and that in itself was hilarious. First off, he hates artificial flowers, which to him are any kind other than the ones you pick out of the yard or buy at a florist’s shop. These weren’t even silk, but were hard plastic in a shade of pink best described as “Pepto Bismol.”
Secondly, this floral tribute wasn’t something you wanted to tear apart to make an arrangement for the coffee table. If memory serves me correctly, it was Barbara Campbell who turned out to be the “lucky” person who took my gift home with her.
She told me she put the wreath out with her trash for her garbage collector the very next morning.
I told her I was shocked that she could part with such a treasure.
“Twenty-four hours was as long as I could stand it,” Barbara said. “My garbage man was more than welcome to that treasure.”
Some folks are just hard to please.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.