Refurnished Thoughts

Discover Vintage America - DECEMBER 2019

Holding on to the holidays

by Leigh Elmore

And just like that, the holidays have come roaring back. It seems like we just got the living room swept up from last year's Christmas tree and here it comes again.

Collectible German Christmas ornaments. (photo by Leigh Elmore)

I'm not complaining – just observing the quickening passage of time from the point of view of a newly minted and official senior citizen. The little secret they don't tell children is that time seems to go by more quickly the older you get, so all this anticipation of Christmas Day that one goes through as a child serves to remind we seniors in retrospect that time is relative and that one day you'll want to put the brakes on time's passage.

But even though the "holiday season" now spans a two-month period between Halloween, sweeping up Thanksgiving and culminating with Chanukah, Christmas and New Year's, (Hal-Thank-Mas), not forgetting Kwanza, there should be a moment or two in that span to slow down and reflect on the meaning of the season and enjoy the little rituals that families observe.

It seems like most families have their own ways of experiencing the holidays. Those might include attending midnight Mass, or the tradition of allowing one present to be opened on Christmas Eve or all of them, that country ham be served along with turkey for holiday meals (my personal contribution to family gatherings), or just the simple act of unpacking the Christmas ornaments and decorations and recounting the family history in the process.

For example, when my brothers and I reached adulthood, my father finally confessed that the Christmas of 1956 was almost a disaster, because after driving to Washington D.C. from our home in Richmond, VA to "get a good deal" on a Lionel electric train, and visiting an old college chum in a bar for a few hours, he had to drive back to Richmond in the snow with a bad transmission and then couldn't open the car trunk to retrieve it. He finally went in through the back seat and got the train set up about an hour before my brother and I woke up and began playing with it.

Recounting that story for his grandchildren was a ritual that my late father enjoyed very much, as well as his sons. And that Lionel train still operates to this day under the Christmas tree and is the reason that I still haunt the model train shows when they come around.

So, I hope that readers will find reasons to haunt the antique shops and malls in their communities searching for unique gift items for their loved ones. The gift of an antique or collectible vintage object shows a thoughtfulness from the giver that something off a commercial rack just cannot. Some shops and malls are hosting open houses in the next few weeks, where you can shop and nosh on holiday goodies at the same time. The air might be aromatic with cinnamon and cloves too.

To all, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and Happy New Year!

Leigh Elmore can be contacted at
Leigh Elmore's Refurbished Thoughts Archive — past columns