My paternal grandparents lived next door to us from the time I was five until my early teens. They hailed from Yorkshire, in the North of England, and their practical, straightforward approach to life extended to the Christmas season. Having lived through two World Wars and the intervening Great Depression, they lived their lives simply, conducted themselves with tremendous dignity, and favoured very little fuss, They took extremely good care of everything they owned and didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about what they didn’t have; less was more, As a child, I was somewhat shocked that their entire decorative acknowledgement of the Yuletide season was a tabletop-sized artificial Christmas tree. That was enough. No more was needed.
Being the youngest grandchild conferred some special privileges, among them the assigned task of assembling and decorating their tree each year. Sometime in early December, Grandad would get the box up from the basement along with a couple of strings of lights and some boxes of small ornaments. In retrospect, the tree was a rather ghastly affair consisting of a plain green pole into which singularly straight branches covered with some fuzzy, grass-like substance were fastened. Even accepting it was the 1960s, and artificial trees were not at their artistic zenith, shall we say, it was a fairly pathetic specimen. No matter. They liked it, I delighted in decorating it, and it was part of the Christmas preparation tradition.
I was reminded of that tradition when I came across these appetizer plates from Pier 1 last year and decided to make my own tabletop tree with tiny lights and small wooden ornaments, similar to those I had hung from Grandma & Grandad’s tree.
There is a Santa, of course.
And a Nutcracker.
A perky Cardinal.
And best of all, a golden retriever, covered in a string of lights (which ours would be, too, if we let them have their way with the Christmas tree).
I made the “tree” with branches of real spruce and holly, then strung some battery-powered tiny lights before adding the diminutive wooden ornaments.
A pair of cardinals adorned a votive lantern, also from Pier 1.
The plates start with a Gold Lustre charger from Pier 1. Next is the red-rimmed dinner plate from the Kenna Red set by Pfaltzgraff that I used for Canada Day earlier this year. Then we have a green Aerin Scalloped Edge salad plate. Finally, the stack is topped with the Garland Appetizer Plates from Pier 1 from last year.
The flatware is rose-gold Twig from World Market.
The red blanket-stitch edged napkin is from Homegoods, and the napkin ring is from Pier 1 a couple of years ago.
I used Graham clear wine goblets and water glasses from Juliska.
Mercury glass votives from Pottery Barn and a Godinger silver-plated Christmas tree salt & pepper set from eBay finished the table.
As we enter the final week to Christmas, with the New Year and all its loaded resolutions beyond, it’s both thrilling and sobering to contemplate how many impressions we are leaving with our children and grandchildren. In setting this table, I was reminded of how often it’s the smallest things that glue themselves into our memories. I remember the ritual of my grandparent’s little tree with enormous affection. I am so very grateful for the hours they spent with me, not so much in the “child-centred” way of today, but with a brisk, no-nonsense, “get on with it” attitude that conveyed confidence in my ability to manage and respect for my competence. They were truly a remarkable pair. Rarely a day goes by without me thinking of them, missing them, wishing I could fill them in on something or ask their opinion. They made an indelible impression.
I’m sharing this post with Between Naps on the Porch.
I love this table! Those appetizer plates are darling and the tartan tablecloth just sings “Christmas” to me. But the most special thing about the table is the memory it represents. Enjoy it and cherish the memories!
Thanks, Joy. Tartan is timeless, I always think. Here’s wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas.
Such a beautiful story Helen – I think our grandparents would have liked each other! 🙂 Your entire table is gorgeous, and I love your tree and the tiny ornaments. You’re right – that’s what we remember! Happy Holidays to you and yours!
And to you, Barb! I hope you have a marvellous Christmas. 🙂
Your Tree is definitely a fuller version of our Grandparent’s tree. Good job; excellent decorations. New Year was always more important for them than Christmas. I remember making chocolate mint bars- Grandpa’s favourite cookie and Battenburg Cake for Grandma for New Years.
And Grandma’s Orange cake at New Year, too! 🙂
Loved this about your memories with your grandparents and how simple life was then. I’m sure you are passing on wonderful memories to your grand girls. Also loved your dishes. Tartan is timeless! Happy Christmas to all of you.
Happy Christmas to you and Bill, too, Maura!
I know life wasn’t easier back then, but it did seem less complicated. 🙂
This is such a pretty table, and I agree with Joy that the appetizer plates are adorable. The scalloped salad plates are lovely too, as is the whole table setting. The memory from your grandparent’s Christmas tree is a treasure to keep to be sure. I have some wooden toy ornaments from Christmas trees past that I haven’t used in years, but have kept for the boys in the hope that they will carry on the tradition with their children (no grandchildren yet). Merry Christmas to you and your family!
We have some wooden ornaments scattered in among all the teddy bears on the basement tree. The grandgirls are intrigued by them, and I expect your grandkids will be equally enthralled by the ones you’ve kept to one side.
Thanks so much for your kind words about the table.
Enjoy your Christmas! All the best of the season to you and yours.
You must have snatched up those plates so fast when you saw that dog! How incredibly sweet. Tartan seems to be everywhere this year, more than usual. Perhaps I should get some Fraser hunting plaid…
My mother decorated 60s table-top bottle-brush trees, first by stretching brass Chore Boys over them, then adding hundreds of sequins and beads in a myriad of colours, sizes, and shapes. They were intricate and beautiful; surviving many a face-plant from the weight of their decor; my sis still has one. It is a wonder what little things can imprint themselves on your young mind…something to think about when dealing with the little ones. We (finally!) expect a snowy Christmas after these days of warm Chinook breezes! Hope you and yours are cozy and snug.
There does indeed seem to be a ton of tartan this year, from the Duchess of Cambridge’s outfits on down. And yes, the Golden Retriever was the clincher, of course!
Your mother sounds like a woman of industry and imagination. It could be fun to set a table with some of those trees, perhaps adding in some modern bottle brush trees in neutral colours. Hmmm…
Enjoy your snowy weather. We are getting dire predictions from the Weather App, with no sign of snow on the radar. Odd, to say the least.
P.S.: Hope you’ve cried your way through The Art of Racing in the Rain…
Not yet, but it’s on my husband’s Christmas list, so we hope to see it over the holidays. He’s read the book and loved it. I’ve seen the trailers and am dying to see it.
Everything and every season is richer if it is laced with memories. I loved your story …and all the little touches…Have a very Happy Holiday Season!
Thanks, Sandi! All the best to you and yours for a lovely holiday season.
Helen, you made me cry. Touching story. I too was the youngest Grandchild. The down- side of that is my son was an infant and never knew them. As you very clearly pointed out though, they live on in us and we can be living examples. Beautiful table, bitter sweet beautiful memories. Wonderful.