27 November, 2014

Christmas in the City: A tribute

The City at its peak, Christmas 2008
About a year and a half ago, my dad wrote a piece recounting a conversation about being a Collector.

As a child I was also a Collector - of books, stuffed animals, Swarovski crystal, Storybook Collection dolls, porcelain figures holding a number for each birthday, and, most quirkily, decorative pill boxes from our travels. As an adult, I rarely lived in one place for more than a year, and frequently less. Three years at the same address in Denver (and five on the same street!) was my longest stretch. In a record year (2007), I received mail at six different addresses; when I was required to provide a seven-year residential history, it was three pages long and included eight U.S. states and six countries.

All of that - and my not-so-secret yearning to be a Minimalist - wears on one's ability to Collect.

This piece is a tribute to my favorite of my father's Collections. Christmas in the City is a line of illuminated, hand-painted porcelain buildings, for lack of a better word, by Department 56. Circa 1990, my father bought my mother a Department 56 Snow Village piece around Christmastime, a simple house with a wide front porch that first sat in our hallway and then found a home under our Christmas tree. Over the next few years, a small country village developed along the railroad track that always ran around the tree, but eventually, my dad transferred his affections to the Christmas in the City (they are slightly smaller and matte rather than shiny), and a serious Collection was born.

Some of the City can be seen behind
us in this picture from Christmas 2004
At first, the City lived in the breakfast room windowsill...quietly pretty, unobtrusive, unnoticed by most, probably. But it grew...and grew...and grew...until it required its own custom made tables, taking up one-third of the family room and then almost half the living room at its peak. In addition to the houses and buildings, there were people, including carolers and moving ice skaters, cars, horse-drawn wagons, a variety of trees, and other little details, like a trash can filled with wrapping paper and a mailbox.

My dad cut special foam boards for the base and covered them in green felt. He laid out vinyl city streets and sprinkled them with fake "snow" - all using just his one good arm, although my sister helped extensively, particularly at its peak.

My parents and sister often made an effort to make sure the decorations, including the City in all its glory, were up before I came home for the Thanksgiving holidays, so I could have every second at home to enjoy them. Best family ever. I am thankful for every second with each of you.

This would have been Center City, I suppose.

I sometimes wished I could shrink myself (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids or Beetlejuice style?) and walk around the city streets, listening to carolers, eating roasted chestnuts and drinking hot apple cider or mulled wine. Umm umm umm, Finn would say.

The ice skaters really moved! (with the help of magnets)

The cathedral was really lovely. 

This three-story Italian trattoria decorated with Christmas wreaths and bright red bows was always one of my favorite pieces.

I suspect the City will make an appearance in some form this year, or maybe next, but on a much smaller scale. All good things, right?  

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!