O Little Christmas Ghetto



My brother, Jeff, is on Facebook now and I’m biweekly entertained by his posts on his hunting trips, walks through the woods near his cabin, interesting non-fiction books he’s reading, cooking sauerkraut for the church, and other details about the life of a happy, retired Renaissance Man.

Occasionally he posts about his wife, Mary, and their various dogs, cats and chickens. (Mary at one time wanted a goat, but that never materialized, or I’m sure I’d be LOLing about what the goat was up to.) This week, Jeff posted a picture of their Christmas village, a collection of lighted, ceramic buildings that Mary sets up in a miniature quaint shoppe-ing district. Mary’s Christmas village has snowmen, brick streets, streetlights, a grain silo, what looks like a haberdashery, two churches, a candy shoppe, and lots of other retail stores that end in ‘ery.’ Mary’s Christmas village is a mixed-use development where the tiny people seem happy to have retail establishments in their neighborhood. At least I think those are smiles on their plastic faces.

I started my half-assed attempt at a Christmas village some years ago. It was at the height of my Tradition Establishment Phase, where I felt an urgency in setting up certain things we would do every year, so our kids could say to their kids, “When I was growing up, my mom set up a little Christmas village every year and I got to turn on the schoolhouse light on the first day of Advent.” In addition to the Christmas village, I also set up a train around the base of the tree every year, made a gingerbread house every year, made a home-made ornament every year, made cut-out cookies which we decorated every year, and read a Washington Post article about the origin of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve every year. I was a veritable memory-making machine around the holidays.

I bought three buildings for my Christmas village, not the collectible classy ones from Hallmark, but cheap ones from Walmart. I got a cafe, a schoolhouse and a church. 

“We’ve got ourselves a new Christmas tradition!” I screamed at the kids. Their deadpan looks made me wonder if they appreciated my attempts at giving them an ABC Family-worthy childhood at all.

The next year I bought a general store - at least that’s what I think it was; there were shovels and fruit in the window. I toyed with the idea of putting the Christmas village buildings around the train tracks, but the scale was all wrong. Plus, at this point, my buildings were slightly classier than what you might see around an actual train track.

My Christmas village became part of the holiday decorations we put out every year. Then they started to break. The chimney fell off the cafe, the steeple broke off the church. Later, sharp corners broke off both the general store and the church. Super Glue didn’t work, so I hot-glue-gunned the pieces back on, covering the glue globs with fake snow.

I tried to jazz up the neighborhood by adding an ice skating rink, with boy and girl skaters, who majestically and magnetically spun and swirled around the ice. I added three pine trees and put the whole village on a bed of white polyester puffiness.

It took only two Christmases for the boy skater to fall off his magnet. The pine tree tops got bent in a hasty storage and it looked like the village was being pummeled by a Cat 4 hurricane. That would explain the fallen skater and the disrepair of all the buildings. 

The general store broke so badly it was beyond a hot-glue-gun fix. I had to toss it. There wasn’t much I could do with the vacant lot where it had been razed. The wrong-side-of-the-toy-train--tracks location was starting to look like a more realistic option.

This year when I was unwrapping my decorations, I decided to do something entirely different. That’s right: Instead of setting up the village on the dining room buffet, like I do every year, I threw caution to the wind and put the whole thing on top of the piano. I’m spunky and spontaneous like that.

Yeah, so that didn’t make it look any better. In fact, the value of our piano went down. My Christmas village is a dump. I’m thinking of starting a new tradition and boarding up a window on one of the buildings every year, painting some graffiti on the schoolhouse every year, and adding a tat and a piercing to a skater every year. 

It’s all about tradition.

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