Friday, November 7, 2008

The Garland

I spotted the prototype for the garland in one of those eminently tasteful decorating magazines. Lovingly situated between two candles in its sedate Connecticut home, the felt and ribbon creation called out to me as a do-it-yourself project.

It looked simple enough—a yard-long white fabric streamer with red checked ribbons attached, the whole thing gathered and scrunched to swag across a mantle. Simple and elegant cherry clusters clung every few inches. This looked easy. A mother/daughter Christmas project for Molly and me.

As with all such visions, the execution turned out to be much more involved than the initial assessment indicated. From one craft store to another we went, wheezing our way through the walls of scent from the holiday potpourri displays. Then to the fabric store for the snowy felt. Along the way we accumulated an assortment of irresistible ornaments, buttons, tiny porcelain roses, and snowmen for the decorations–, each discovery punctuated with Molly’s exclamations of delight. One ribbon down the center looked lonely, so we picked two to layer, one deep red satin, followed by a narrower red checked. It was already beginning to seem a lot more crowded on this garland than the picture.

First we cut the felt with pinking shears. Then, an ironing lesson with fusible web to get the ribbon to stick on down the middle. Another day to make the sturdy gathering stitches, and we were ready to add the goodies. But here we ran into a challenge. Somehow along the way our garland had lengthened to three yards. With this extended goal, our few red, black, and white trinkets began to look sparse and lonely.

I remembered a vintage pin I never wore, and Molly found some Scottie-dog buttons. Suddenly a lot of other jewelry box items were in the mix. There were shoe clips made of cherry-red Bakelite, orphaned glittery earrings, and keepsake red cloth buttons from Molly’s favorite coat, now outgrown. Things kept stored in drawers and boxes came out into the light. Here were the flashy buttons from a dress I gussied up to wear to the company Christmas party. There we found childhood charms, my old girl scout pins, a playing piece from my first Monopoly. We sewed them on in a joyous parade. My mother’s favorite angel pin took its place alongside a scrimshaw charm and a souvenir Alpine bell from my girlhood vacations. My father’s Navy identification disk and a dollhouse basket of eggs marched toward a gaudy red plastic summer earring.

When we finally came up for air and agreed that we had no more to add, the garland shone and jingled. Rich and heavy with memories, it has taken its rightful place with greenery on the stairway, where it will play the holiday lead for many years to come. After a time it will be Molly’s, to give to her daughter.

Molly and I like to sit and admire what we made. Our garland doesn’t look a thing like the magazine picture. It isn’t tasteful at all–it’s excessive and exuberant. We are content.

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