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 that reflect those earlier times, I do so with more than a few lumps in the throat. But the melancholy reminiscing is tempered by recalling lots of funny things that happened through the years.
I'll never forget the year one of our cats became a Christmas ornament. Literally.
The kids came running to me, yelling "Mom, quick! Come see Leo! He's in the Christmas tree!"
I had expected to see a feline climbing the branches and generally wrecking the scene. Cats are good at this.
What I encountered instead was a big orange and white tabby stretched out on a branch, still as a statue. He stayed that way for hours. When he was ready to move on to other pursuits, he removed himself from the setting. What can you say except that he was a cat and he could.
Somewhere in my house is a picture of the live feline ornament.
Then there was the year my late spouse decided to put bells on the four cocker spaniels. When Ed mentioned getting bells for the dogs, 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.
Ed set out for Noel Butler's hardware store to make his purchase. And what he came back with were four goat bells big enough — and loud enough — to alert shepherds to straying animals all over the Alps.
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.
There was the year we had the Leaning Tree, created by Amos, our first cocker. After one of his jaunts, he toppled the tree completely. Ornaments went flying all over the living room. A redecorating project was required.
All of the stuff went back in place, but the tree itself never was stable again. Askew was the best it got, with the worst being horizontal on the floor. It wasn't a tree that could have graced the cover of Southern Living.
Other humorous recollections come from the Dirty Santa games associated with MacDowell Music Club Christmas parties. Some accounts have been shared before, but they're fun to recall again. 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.
Finally, the old candle disappeared 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.
Jean Adams holds the club record for bringing the most creative gift — a vegetable bouquet created by cleaning out the contents of her refrigerator's vegetable crisper. She brought withered carrots, brown lettuce, rotting radishes, and what once had been red cabbage but had turned to a strange blue shade.
Another memorable gift was the funeral wreath Ed won as a door prize at a Housing Authority 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 overpowering and these didn't conjure up the atmosphere of an English garden. They were more akin to what might have been found in the boudoir of one of the "girls" working in a Wild West saloon.
These weren't even silk, but were hard plastic in a shade of pink best described as "Pepto Bismol." And they weren't something you wanted to tear apart to form an arrangement for the coffee table. Barbara Campbell turned out to be the "lucky" person who took this gift home with her.
She told me she put the wreath out with her trash for her garbage collector the very next morning. Some folks are just hard to please.
Merry Christmas to one and all.
Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.