Julie Lyles Carr: Monday Musings...Cheap Red Velvet Memories

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday Musings...Cheap Red Velvet Memories

Christmas! The very word brings joy to our hearts. No matter how we may dread the rush, the long Christmas lists for gifts and cards to be bought and given - -when Christmas Day comes there is still the same warm feeling we had as children, the same warmth that enfolds our hearts and our homes. 
- Joan Winmill Brown

I'm not entirely sure where he come from, really.  Or when.  I just know that when he was brought out of the rickety confines of the same cardboard box each year, it seemed that Christmas had truly arrived.

He was made of a cheap flocked red velvet, gawky in his design, resplendent in his crimson faux hide.  His eyes were large plastic stickers with exaggerated catch-lights, fringed with lases at the corners.  He sported a large rack of white antlers and a lightly furred white locket.

He was a mass-produced, cheaply rendered, shabbily stitched red reindeer.

And I loved him.

He smelled slightly musty from his sawdust innards; it seemed the very perfume of Noel.  One of his antlers pulled loose and each year when we removed him from the dark Christmas carton, he had inevitably leaked a few more wisps of his organic stuffing.  We would shove the antler back into place, secure it with a band aid, and place him once again in what we perceived to be a prestigious decor spot.

He often enjoyed the company of a stuffed elf.  They shared similar genetic makeup in terms of cheap red velvet and sawdust stuffing.  They seemed an appropriate pair, and I felt I had theological backup on this as they were reminiscent of Rudolph and Hermie the elf-wanna-be-a-dentist duo from my favorite Christmas movie.

But, as childhood marched on into teenage-hood,  some of our traditions changed.  The annual search for a live tree was replaced with a hypoallergenic fake one.  The large colored lights were exchanged for white, sparkling ones.  The faded and chipped glass ball ornaments experienced such a drop in their population that new decor was procured.

And then it was our turn to set tradition for us as my husband and I began our family and started to create a platform of memories for our children.

But memory is a funny thing.  Certain things can sleep, remain quiet.  The waves of the now, the current of the future, make the murky depths difficult to see.  But every now and then, a little something will bob to the surface.  And it can open up a flood waters from the deep.

My in-laws were going through many decorations one year, weeding out things they no longer used or had never used or no longer needed in their Christmas accessorizing.  As retired school principals, they had received over the years a bounty of all things yuletide decoration from their many students.  As we sifted through box after box, a bit of fabric caught my eye.

It was cherry red, a glimpse of fabric amongst a mosaic of shiny plastic candy canes and glitter-encrusted snowmen.  I pushed back the tide of tinseled trivia and caught my breath:  there he was.  The cheap red velvet reindeer.

Well, okay.  It wasn't the cheap red velvet reindeer of my childhood.  But it was his mass-produced cousin, made at the same time in the same factory with the same sticker eyes and white antlers.  He even had a saw-dust bleeding split in his hide, just a bit to the left of his cheap white velvet tail.

My in-laws graciously allowed me to claim my treasure.

I patched his wound with Disney Pocahontas band aids.

I rubbed his cheap red velvet on my cheek.  I breathed in the musty aroma of his sawdust stuffing.  And I was rewarded with a little memory bobbing to the top of my conscience.

And then another.

And then another.

Childhood Christmases.  Laying under the tree.  Looking at the spectacularly garish and gorgeous primary color lights.  The scent of the pine needles, the scratchy reach of the branches.  The hiss of the LPs of our small collection of Christmas records playing holiday music.  The pure sugar hard crunch of the candy my mother bought every year and kept in the amber glass bowl.  The length of the shag carpet fibers.  The white bricks that made up the fireplace in the living room.  The gold fringe on the curtains.  The tinge taste of iron on my tongue when the tinsel I ran over my lips gave me slight paper cuts at the corners of my mouth.  My own reflection in the mirror tiles on the wall adjacent  to the fireplace, my visage lighted by the sparking tree behind me.


Packaged in a cheap red velvet reindeer.
A treasure of memories, cushioned in the sawdust stuffing.

He adorns the top of my tree now, a beloved archival piece, a dilapidated friend from other places and other times.  To the uninformed, he looks like a kitschy piece of Christmas tackiness.  But in the eyes of this child, the one that still keeps a room in my heart, he looks like home.

I'm not the only one.  I know you have something, too, something that triggers the memory and stirs the depths and carries up with it a long-forgotten pearl.  What item from your childhood awakens your holiday memory?  Was it a toy, an ornament, a taste, a sight?  Write your post on this topic and put your name and the url of that post in the Mister Linky's box below, or tell me in a comment.  I want to know what the cheap red velvet reindeer in your life is!

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