100 years ago my mother, then just barely a year old, was likely in my grandmother’s arms watching her father decorate the tree. Her sister, older by three years, hung the red bell commemorating her own first Christmas. But the Ornament was left to Grandma to hang until. . .
“Here it is, now you hang it right where we can see it.” So were the words of my Grandmother as she carefully unwrapped the gold ball. As I hung the ornament on the tree she continued to relate the story of this simple piece. “That’s the only ornament I have from the first Christmas your Grandpa and I spent together after we were married in 1909. This other one, the little bell was from your Aunt Vivian’s first Christmas in 1910. Hang it right near the gold one.” Every year I went through the same routine with Grandma and I never tired of her telling me the stories. I felt duty-bound to follow set traditions, and putting up my grandparents’ Christmas tree was the most sacred duty I had as a young boy.
For my family, as I grew up in the 1950s, the holiday season did not—could not—begin before the Friday after Thanksgiving. On that day we children rushed to the nearby Sears in Chicago and anxiously waited for Toyland to open. Usually during that weekend my father, mother, grandparents and I would climb into the Chevy and go out to Amling’s Flowerland to see the displays. On the way home we stopped to buy our trees, a process that often tested my father’s patience to the extreme. You see Grandma was a choosy shopper, and the tree had to exactly right. Once the purchase was made the trees were tied to the top of the car and we headed home. Dad later cut a bit off the bottom of each and placed each tree in a bucket of water. The next weekend we decorated for the holidays.
I found the traditions my parents established to be like beacons in my life as they guided me toward the right understanding of family and the over-arching meaning of the December madness that prevailed. Our tree stood proudly in the front room bay window. As my father grew a bit older and I a bit taller, the task of hanging the lights was turned over to me. Holiday music played from the stereo and the multicolored lights cast a warm glow in the room as we hung ornaments. Every so often Mom would relate a bit about some of the older ornaments as we hung them on the tree. I still have a few of them from their first Christmas in 1935.
Finished with our tree on Friday, I usually went upstairs to Grandma’s on Saturday. You see I had the wonderful luxury of having my grandparents live in the flat above—an intention of my parents when they bought their only house in 1955. Up at Grandma’s I was in charge, and it felt great. Grandma unwrapped all the ornaments and I hung them wherever I pleased—all but the two originals that Grandma made sure hung in a prominent spot. Little did I realize how much more was going on as we decorated the tree. The small bits of conversation, the reassuring “Oh, that looks nice there!” and the twinkling glances from Grandma, all were a part of my sense of belonging.
Now, as another holiday season approaches, I am once more filled with warmth as I prepare once more to enact the traditions of more than a century. The season must not be about buying and spending and camping out for great deals; rather, it must always be about the personal relationships we have with each other. Just as many of us do in our gardens as we “talk” to our plants, plant trees to honor grandchildren, or any number of other plant-like relational ideas, we must also foster the human relationships. This season, as you hang ornaments with children or grandchildren, tell the stories of holidays past and pass on to others the warmth and love you’ve known.
Bad Weather and Driving
There are various road conditions where to be safe you must slow down, such as rain, fog, ice and snow. You must remember that the only contact your vehicle has with the road is its tires. How good a grip they have with the road depends on the condition of your tires and the condition of the road surface.
When it rains the distance we can clearly see is cut, so having good wipers is very important. Water and oil do not mix, so when it begins raining a slick film is formed where oil is present on the roadway. This can cause your vehicle to “ski”. You should then be most careful starting or stopping during the first ½ of rain. High speeds make driving in rain even more dangerous. As you go faster, your tires will start to ride up on the surface of water on the roadway. This is referred to as “hydroplaning” and chances of hydroplaning become more dangerous between 35 and 55 mph. The results are reduced traction and limited braking and steering ability.
Fog is another weather condition and one of the most dangerous. If you do not HAVE to drive then don’t. If you need to drive, keep your headlights on low beam to reduce glare, drive slowly and be ready to stop if you see any red or white lights in front of you. Approach any light with a great deal of caution.
Iowa winters always bring ice and snow. A few precautions are snow tires and chains. Studded tires are allowed November 1 to April 1. Be aware though that on dry pavement studded snow tires increase stopping distance. If you have rear wheel drive, extra weight in your trunk may give you added traction.
Starting and stopping on snow or ice can be very tricky. Use your brake and accelerator gently. If you do end up skidding remember to take your foot off of the accelerator and turn your steering wheel into the direction of the skid.
Weather conditions play a big part in safe, responsible driving. Be cautious and alert always, and remember A GOOD DRIVER WILL ALWAYS EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED.
Q: I recently moved into a house in Shreveport, Louisiana, and the former owner left behind an early television set. Although I understand most TV sets aren’t all that valuable, this one might be an exception. According to the sticker on the back of the set, it is a GE Model 800 tabletop. -- Rob, Shreveport, Louisiana
A: Your set with Bakelite case was made in 1949. According to the “Antique Trader Radio & Television Price Guide” edited by Kyle Husfloen and published by Krause Books, it is worth about $300. It could be worth a little more, since early televisions have suddenly caught the attention of a growing number of collectors.
Q: My mother and grandmother were doll collectors for most of their lives. I have inherited their collections of about 275 dolls, some rare, some not so rare. I would like to sell them, but don’t want to do it on eBay. What do you recommend? -- Sally, Alamo Heights, Texas
A: One of the best solutions might be Theriault’s. For more than 40 years, this auction house has helped find homes for new and collector dolls. Its consignments service might be helpful. Contact is P.O. Box 151, Annapolis, MD 21404; and 410-224-3655. Check out Theriault’s current auction catalog at www.theriaults.com.
Q: My grandfather was born in 1905 and one of his prize possessions as a child was a teddy bear. Although I am not certain I want to sell it, can you recommend an expert so I can determine its value and collectability? -- Deborah, Peterburg, Pennsylvania
A: Sara Bernstein Antique Dolls and Bears is highly recommended and might help you establish a value for your bear. The telephone number and website are 732-536-4101; and www.sarabernsteindolls.com.
Q: I have a glass bowl that has been identified as Flambo Ware. What is Flambo Ware? -- Connie, Pueblo, Colo.
A: Flambo Ware is an opaque glass, usually tomato red in color. This particular glass was manufactured by the Pairpoint Glass Works prior to the mid-1920s. Most Flambo Ware was made for the Christmas trade, and it was difficult to produce and maintain a uniform color.
Write to Larry Cox in care of KFWS, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the large volume of mail he receives, Mr. Cox cannot personally answer all reader questions, nor do appraisals. Do not send any materials requiring return mail.
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