Traditions…so many of my favorites center around Christmas. Every year, for as long as I can remember, we’ve strung popcorn for the Christmas tree. We go to the tree farm, cut our tree, bring it home, get it straightened in the base and Don puts on the lights while the kids and I string popcorn. Only then, is the tree ready for ornaments. When the kids were both young enough to do my bidding, it went pretty fast. We’d sit on the living room floor, clustered around the roaster pan overflowing with day-old popcorn (it strings easier if it isn’t fresh) and watch television while we created foot after foot of the stuff.
Then Stephen had the nerve to graduate high school, go to college, and proceed to get a life. That left me with Liz. Having a 9-year gap between the kids finally served me well. She had plenty of popcorn-stringing years left in her! Alas, I grew comfortable in the routine, ignoring the signs that a popcorn-stringing apocalypse was barreling down on me, one tree at a time. It finally hit in ’13, when Liz left for college.
Stringing popcorn isn’t as much fun when you do it all by your lonesome (I love him, but Don isn’t popcorn-stringing material). But I did it…once.
This year, faced with a lifetime of lonely stringing, I looked for a way out.The tree stood, naked in its base, for over a week, while I considered my options. It wasn’t as easy as you might think, because in our house, the only thing not handmade on the tree are the lights (and if I could figure out some way to make my own so they actually worked for more than a year or two, trust me, I would spend whatever time it took to wire those babies!). So, the garland had to be handmade, or else I had to break tradition.
I have two part-time jobs and each of them requires me to wear an ID badge. Months ago, I rolled paper beads using magazine pages and some leftover scrapbook paper, and strung them to make two lanyards to hold the badges. I keep the lanyards hanging on my rear-view mirror, so that the proper lanyard is always available. I was playing with the dangling bead-strings at a red light when it hit me…I could make a paper-bead garland! I had a small stash of leftover beads to get me started, and how much time could it really take to roll 30-40 feet of beads, seal them, antique them, apply two more coats of sealer, and string, after all?
You’d think that after 57 years of living with myself, I’d know better than to listen to me.
The answer to the question is days…it took me days to create my one-of-a-kind garland. I’m happy that I invested the time, though. Was there other stuff I could/should have been doing? Probably. Actually, definitely. But the rhythm of rolling bead-after-bead was a bit cathartic. Cutting the papers and being surprised at how pretty a bead turned out was fun, too. Watching corny Christmas movies on Netflix while I rolled them was an added bonus. When was the last time you took time to binge-watch corny Christmas movies? I hope you did it recently because that would mean you are awesome, not over-stressed by a holiday to-do list, and you love Christmas, love in general, and happy endings (like me).
For a few days, I was a bead-making machine. Then, I became a bead-stringing machine…paper bead, two little glass beads, paper bead, two little glass beads, and a red paper bead every 6th bead, to give the garland some continuity. I left a nearly finished, 6-foot piece of garland on the ottoman a couple nights ago. The next morning, beads were scattered everywhere, and the string lay like a wet noodle on the carpet. One of our cats (I suspect Bam-Bam) enjoyed the new cat toy. I persevered. Persevered and watched more corny Christmas movies. (Have you ever noticed that Dean Cain is in a ton of holiday movies? Check out his IMDb…it’s a little freaky. I’m not complaining, though; he’s quite handsome.)
As glad as I was to be finished making and stringing nearly 500 beads (and I was pretty glad), I’m 10 times happier that I took the time to make it. The garland is a beautiful compliment to the ornaments. Every moment spent making it was a moment that centered me in what’s important about this time of year; celebrating the birth of Jesus, and spending time with the people who are important to me (okay, some of that might have come from the corny movies, but, whatever!). I felt slowed-down. Once or twice, a little voice inside me screamed “just get in the car and go buy a string of something, throw it on the tree and get on with it!”. In a world filled with opportunities for instant gratification, and where stressing out over Christmas is practically a religion unto itself, I beat back the urge.
I love the simple things.
Peace and merry Christmas!