Wedding Past, Present, Future

My dear friend ’Becca (I’ve mentioned her before) brought her plus-one to our dinner party in Dublin. She’d emailed me about him. “I’m bringing Mike. He’s great—you’ll love him. Everybody does.”

She was right. He’s fun to talk to—and a good sport (he flew in that morning!) too.

And he’s an even better sport than I knew: While they were in Dublin, Mike and ’Becca went shopping at Powerscourt Centre, where they looked at antiques. Mike bought ’Becca an old, beautiful ring. A special one for a special reason.

It was a process.

It was a process.

This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment thing; they’d been talking about it. They’d been looking around for the right thing. But as ’Becca told me later, “It’s all because of you and Gerry! Ireland has the best selection of antique rings!”

But this was the one.

But this was the one.

Oh yeah. It’s gorgeous.

The ring is a pretty basketweave design.

The ring is a pretty basketweave design.

What a great travel story! I am delighted by the synchronicity: they were in Dublin to celebrate my wedding to Gerry, and now we’ll have an excuse to travel to Texas, later, to celebrate theirs.

’Becca wore the ring home on the plane (for safekeeping, of course!), but when they got to Texas, Mike took it back; he wanted to talk to to her father. First things first. So life went on, everybody got back to work after a fabulous vacation in Ireland. The holidays arrived. And the day after Christmas, Mike—having spoken with ’Becca’s dad—asked my friend to marry him.

The day after that, ’Becca emailed me with the news. I don’t mind admitting I shed a little tear. Or three.

Perfect timing. Congratulations, you two. I’m so happy for you!

Mike and ’Becca. Taken outside the Portmarnock Hotel on 3 October 2015.

Mike and ’Becca. Taken outside the Portmarnock Hotel on 3 October 2015.


An Early Christmas Present from Uncle Sam

It’s been an interesting season, this one, starting with Gerry’s arrival in the US on an emigrant’s visa toward the end of October.

Usually he arrives and we have a whole list of things that need to get done (by him) and we have to rush rush rush to do them. He even said a few days after his arrival, “I almost said to you, ‘I need to do X, Y, and Z before I go back.’” We had a good laugh about that.

But it’s been busy, what with Thanksgiving and Christmas, and emigration issues weren’t formost on our minds. Then they were: when the mail arrived on Christmas Eve, Gerry had an early Christmas present—his green card!

Wow! There it is!

Wow! There it is!

The culmination of a year’s worth of fret and worry, in one little first-class envelope.

It’s not over yet. This card is good for two years, and then he’ll have to file for a permanent one. But this’ll do for now. 🙂

• • •

If you want to read about our immigration story, here are eight posts: Immigration Woes (Part 1); Our Attorney Laughed at Us; Getting Back to Normal; Immigration Woes (Part 2); Like the La Brea Tar Pit; Slogging to Dublin; It’s a Great Day for a Celebration; and A Long Day at the Airport.


The Christmas Ornament (Part 3 of 3)

I’ve always been a collector. One knick-knack is just a pretty thing, but two or three of them—related in some way—is a collection.

And so it is with Christmas ornaments. I’m not the only one who has pulled together collections of them. Heavens, no! My friend Christy recently posted this comment on Facebook:

Since 1993 I’ve collected ornaments, either that people give me or that I buy to commemorate something in my life (or just that I like a lot, like a dinosaur gourd I bought last year). I started keeping a record of them, which I store with the ornaments, explaining where each one came from and/or what it means. I don’t put up a tree every year so without this record I would definitely have lost track of a lot of them. It brings me so much pleasure to unpack them all and put them on the tree while reading through this journal. It’s my very favorite tradition I ever started. This year I didn’t even need the “filler” ornaments I have, and every ornament on the tree is a sweet memory.

This is a tree I’d love.

When I was growing up in the ’60s, aluminum trees were very popular—all hung with one color of round bulb. They looked cool, they did. And then I’d go home to the hodge-podge of a tree at my house, with ornaments made by my parents, others purchased in a store, and things we kids made at school.

The hodge-podge tree.

The hodge-podge tree.

I still have a hodge-podge tree, and I treasure it for the very reason Christy treasures hers. When my son was an infant, we lived in south Louisiana, and I bought a small—it’s perhaps three inches—ceramic Mardi Gras mask. It’s just a souvenir—inside it reads “New Orleans 1983”—but I attached a ribbon and hung it on the tree that year. It makes me remember my little December baby.

Now it’s in the “places” collection, and gets hung with ornaments from Charleston, South Carolina, and Paris, France. None of them are actual Christmas ornaments; I just picked them up in souvenir shops, added a hook, and wrote the year on the back with a Sharpie. One of the French ornaments is just a handpainted chicken (blue); on the back I wrote “Paris 2006.” In the case of a trip to Tybee Island, I collected some sand dollars and glitter-glued the year and place on them. You might also look for lightweight fridge magnets that you can turn into ornaments. As a last resort, use a photo! These days they make lots of varieties of tiny—tree-sized—picture frames, complete with hooks, into which you can put a photograph of a special moment.

Or a special person. When my son was in preschool, they had some kind of craft project every Christmas that resulted in a photo ornament: Milk jug cap? Yep. Construction-paper frame? Yep. Popsicle-stick sled? Got one of those too. This continued through grammar school, and after that I used a school photo and made one for myself. When he became a school teacher, I added those. It’s a collection, y’all. 🙂

When Christy posted about the pleasure her ornament collection brings her, I could definitely relate. Christmas is a nostalgic, sentimental season, perfect for a once-a-year memory. Her friends added comments with lots of stories about their ornament collections too. One started collections for her daughters.

In fact, several years ago I also started a collection for my son, a musician. Musical instruments, bells, musical notation … Music is a beloved Christmas theme, so there’s lots of cheap, ugly stuff to be had. So it’s fun to search out the unique and beautiful instead. I’ve been working on it for years. Some years I might find a half dozen to add, some years none. (This is one of those years.)

The secrets to building an ornament collection are patience, vigilance, and creativity. Have fun with it!

The Christmas Ornament (Part 2 of 3)

As noted, I’ve always had a thing about Christmas ornaments. I’d had a good example from my parents, and then I got married (the first time) over Thanksgiving weekend, on the twenty-sixth of November. Christmas was a month away, and one of the sweetest gifts we received was a dozen ornaments with hand-crocheted covers. (This started me on many happy years of creating my own; I still have the craft box that evolved from those projects, and still occasionally make a new ornament.)

I still have the crocheted ornaments, too, though I no longer have that husband. 🙂

A couple years later, my grandmother—my father’s mother, my last surviving grandparent—died, and when my father and I went through her things, I saw that she also had her first Christmas ornaments. Which is to say … from the 1920s. I hand-carried them home, those fragile glass antiques. They are beautiful. (No photographs, dear reader, simply because they are packed, and this is a busy time of year.)

Since that time, I have followed my interests and tastes, and have ended up with a lot of ornaments. And every year I’d load the tree up with everything, or mostly everything. I had a lot of round glass balls, because I love color, but I also had a lot of “things.”

About five years ago, I decided it would be more fun to appreciate them as themed collections, so I bought new storage boxes, and after Christmas I separated them into categories that made themselves evident:

  • flowers
  • fruits
  • nuts and acorns
  • animals
  • elephants
  • birds
  • suns and moons
  • leaves
  • natural items like sand dollars

I called these the natural world ornaments. I had a zillion elephant ornaments because, well, I’d been collecting elephant figurines since middle school. They can fill a tree by themselves.

I also had a collection of the “unnatural” world (I know, it doesn’t really makes sense, but work with me here), which included:

  • Santas
  • snowmen
  • angels
  • shoes, clothing, and hats
  • fairies and brownies
  • other inanimate objects

Two other collections were large enough to warrant their own boxes:

  • hearts, and
  • “place” ornaments, which represented my travels to other locales

And then I met Gerry, who is Irish. As time went on, I started filtering out the place ornaments that had to do with Ireland—and buying more of them (in Ireland, whose retailers are perfectly happy to indulge Americans’ love of the Christmas ornament). I occasionally buy things in March, during the St. Patrick’s Day retail extravaganza, and make them into ornaments. I added all the green glass balls and green hearts too. And plaid ornaments found their way here.

Ireland has become an ornament classification all its own at my house. 🙂

This year is Gerry’s first Christmas in Tennessee, and we have put up “the Ireland tree.”

This embroidered fabric harp—Ireland’s national symbol—is one of several harps in the box, including one carved from bog oak.

This embroidered fabric harp—Ireland’s national symbol—is one of several harps in the box, including one carved from bog oak.

I purchased the glass ornament on the right during my first trip to Ireland in 2003. It is hand painted.

I purchased the glass ornament on the right during my first trip to Ireland in 2003. It is hand painted.

This is a representation of the Carndonagh Cross. We saw it first in 2003 on the Inishowen Peninsula, and again just this year.

This is a representation of the Carndonagh Cross. We saw it first in 2003 on the Inishowen Peninsula, and again just this year.

On the left, one of Belleek’s “Doors of Dublin” series of ornaments.

On the left, one of Belleek’s “Doors of Dublin” series of ornaments.

A teapot, also by Belleek.

A teapot, also by Belleek.

There are quite a few shamrocks, both fabric and glass.

There are quite a few shamrocks, both fabric and glass.

Below, a claddagh. Above, an embroidered fabric ornament copied from an image from the Book of Kells, representing St. Luke.

Below, a claddagh. Above, an embroidered fabric ornament copied from an image from the Book of Kells, representing St. Luke.

A glass Celtic cross.

A glass Celtic cross.

There are many more than this, of course. Santa dressed in green, with mugs of beer, for example. Tacky, I know. 🙂 The Irish tricolor. A glass St. Patrick. I could go on, but you get the picture. Is your tree up?

The Christmas Ornament (Part 1 of 3)

I’ve always had a thing for Christmas ornaments. (And decorations, but that’s another story entirely. Nothing that moves, sings, or must be blown up or otherwise requires a generator, thankyouverymuch.) Over the years I’ve collected all manner of ornaments (and things I’ve turned into ornaments), but I know my delight in special ornaments and the traditions related to them was … well, born with me.

That is, my parents had an ornament tradition before I came along. They were DIY people, and for their very first Christmas (1951)—my father was a college student at the time, and money was tight—my father made three ornaments with names on them.


(Beau was the dog.)

To do this, Daddy dipped a quarter-inch paintbrush in glue, hand-lettered each name in block letters (he’d studied as a draftsman; his printing was beautiful) on a large gold glass ornament, then sprinkled silver glitter over it. When I was born, he made another: JAMIE.

It doesn’t look like much now, I know. But I do treasure it.

It doesn’t look like much now, I know. But I do treasure it.

Sister Jill and brother Jon each got an ornament in due time. My father enlisted with the United States Air Force not long after his and Mom’s first Christmas; he was sent to Officers’ Candidate School (OCS), learned to fly both fixed-wing and rotary-operated aircraft, and was subsequently moved all over the country (and into Canada).

Things get broken in moves like these. One by one, all the other name ornaments were broken—but not mine. When I left the house at eighteen, I took it with me.

I still have it. I no longer hang it on a tree, but I do display it. Carefully. 🙂



The List: Husbands, Wives, and Christmas

My parents always asked us kids for a list of things we wanted for Christmas … when we were still kids, and when we’d grown up. It’s a habit I continued with my son, especially now that he’s grown, because I don’t see him every day—I don’t know what he wants. Why spend money on something that will never be used?

My husband thinks that’s too mercenary, but then he’s the guy who only gives cash. “They can get what they want,” that’s his motto. It works, though I sometimes find it a little boring. I enjoy the hunt for the perfect gift.

But I think that’s a gal thing. What’s a doting husband to do?

Sometimes, gentlemen, you draw a complete blank, yes? Sometimes … You Just Need a List. If you ask your wife for a list, though, you spoil the surprise.

The list that follows was making the rounds among my Facebook friends. I don’t know whom to credit; the version I read actually included the words: “I just read this somewhere.” So I offer it here, cleaned up and with a few edits.

The Doting Husband’s Gift Idea List: Gifts To Surprise Your Wife

• Gift certificate for a mani/pedi. Supersize it and give her four of them.

• Gift certificate for a professional massage.

• An empty house for 24–72 hours. No less, but longer would be cool.

• A planned weekend with her friends: fancy hotel, all plans pre-made, kids arranged, concert/play/movie/event tickets bought.

• A cleaning company to come and do even just one deep clean of the house. Those dust bunnies are not going anywhere without hired help.

• An upgrade to her engagement/wedding ring: a new wrap, added stones, whatever suits her.

• Concert tickets with backstage passes. Sitter booked. Hotel overnight a bonus.

• Get her car detailed.

• Facials/massages/hair appointments pre-booked and pre-paid for as many months as you can afford. Arrange the babysitter too.

• Gift cards for a girls’ night out. (Besties notified and booked!)

• A weekend, with you, in the big city. Plans made. Sitters booked.

• A local hotel room booked for her for a whole night (or two!)—alone. Preferably one with a spa.

• Don’t forget tradition. I have a friend whose husband, every year without fail, gets her the latest hardback edition of her favorite prolific author.

• Jewelry. Duh.

• Hack her Pinterest. Ideas galore.

• Ask her girlfriends.

• Don’t forget the deluxe wrapping.

There’s your list. A surprise is still the best thing, so don’t ask her for a list. Just do it.