Bells Are Ringing and Clowns Are … Laughing?

My grandma was no Clark Griswold in the outdoor Christmas Decorations Department.  Inside, though, she used to really go all out.  Well, at least she did before she moved to her condo.

She had a large mantle along the fireplace that she decorated every year.  She had Christmas trees, reindeer, a Santa sleigh, angels, and more.  On both sides of the fireplace, there were cement “pads” (really the only way I can think to describe them).  She usually placed a small Christmas tree on each side and surrounded them with more trinkets.  I know I had pictures of just the mantle somewhere, but can’t seem to find it. However, you get the basic idea from this cheesy photo of my brother and me.

One of the trinkets was a plastic mouse that had hair on the head.  The hair made it look like one of those toy trolls.  It never made sense to me as to why she always had that in there.  I asked her one year and she explained that she had been sick or in the hospital one time and my folks sent her some flowers or a plant or something … from me.  The mouse was part of the bouquet and she kept it.  Sadly, it is one of the things that have disappeared and no one knows where it went.

As years went by, many of the same decorations were there. Note the Mrs. Santa Clause to the right of the Millennium Falcon box below. It always seemed to be out. This particular year, there was a set of shelves next to the TV. On top of it was her manger scene (behind my brother on the left). The silver star lit up above the baby Jesus. This may have been the manger set my mom made in ceramics, I can’t be sure.

For as long as grandma was in her house on Huntington, every Christmas she would hang these melted plastic decorations up on the wall. These were very popular in the 1970’s I guess.  She had Santa in a sleigh being pulled by 9 reindeer….all Rudolph because that was all they made.

Those plastic decorations were something we had at our house, too.  I remember the snowman, the Christmas tree, waving Santa, and the wreath.  I did a search online and found that there were quite a bit of them. There were even some made for Thanksgiving and Easter.

In her front room, there was usually her big tree (eventually it was the ceramic one my mom made for her) right in the center of the front window and some garland around pictures.  There might have been a wreath on the door, too.  We didn’t go in this room much.  It was the “fancy” room.  Most of the breakable stuff was in there. Here are my grandparents in there around 1967-1968.

Bells and Clowns

I’m not sure what made me remember this particular decoration, but it was one of two very annoying things that grandma brought out every year. It was a simple, clear, red plastic bell that played music. It didn’t look anything like the bell in the video below.

I tried to search for it online and I found something similar to the one grandma had, but it isn’t THE one. Grandma’s was just a bell with a Christmas light inside of it that lit up in synch with the electronic music that was playing. I found this clip on YouTube which is almost the exact same music.

The missing holiday favorite from the clip is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Grandma’s bell played it and when it did the Christmas light inside blinked like it was a strobe light. It always made my grandma laugh. It made us laugh, too, the first couple times we heard it. After that it got annoying. She would turn it on and you’d have to listen to the first 7 or 8 carols before Rudolph played. When it did, she’d crack up. It was obnoxiously annoying.

The second annoying “decoration” she had was this scary looking clown doll. Now, what this clown had to do with Christmas I will never know. It wasn’t even dressed in Christmas colors.

This ugly thing would sit somewhere near the fire place among the rest of the decorations. Throughout each of our visits, grandma would walk over, pick it up and press the belly. Inside the clown was a “laugh box.” It would laugh for 20-30 seconds and it would crack my grandma up.

You can see the pure joy on her face in the above picture. To a degree, the laugh kind of reminded me of how my grandpa laughed, so maybe that is why she loved it so much. Every video I found on YouTube of the clown laughing, it sounds speeded up. I did, however find a video of just the laugh box and it plays at the speed my grandma’s clown laughed.

Imagine hearing that 4-5 times during an hour visit! I was always glad when that clown finally got put away!

As annoying as they were, I’d give anything to be able to go back to the days of that clown and that bell! So many Christmas memories involved my grandparents. Whether it was my mom’s folks …

… or my dad’s folks ….

I’d put up with those annoying sounds for however long I had to – just to have a few more minutes with them again!

Mom Memory – Ceramics

My brother was decorating for Christmas today and sent me a picture. That picture is the inspiration for this blog. I don’t recall blogging about this specific topic, but if I have, please forgive me.

My mom had many hobbies. I know I have mentioned them in the past. I can always remember her crocheting things as a kid. She made blankets, vests, and yes, even Christmas ornaments. She also was on a fabric paint kick for a while. She made sweatshirts for everyone in our family and friends, too.

Aside from quilting, I believe the longest hobby she did was ceramics. The work she did was amazing. I recall she had a table set up in the basement where she worked. She had one of those desk lamps with the swing arm on them to help her see. I remember it was a bright yellow lamp.

I remember two pieces she did for my grandma. One was a ceramic “praying hands” and another was a bust of Jesus. She did both of these in a “Mother of Pearl” paint and they came out white and shiny. I have no idea what became of them, but its a good bet that one of my aunts have them.

Somewhere I still have a few of the pieces she made for me. I have a snail and frog that sat on a shelf in my room for years. She made mugs, statues, busts, an Easter village, Halloween village and trick or treat bowl for candy, and Christmas ornaments. One year, our tree was loaded with so many of her ceramic ornaments, we had to tie the tree to the wall so it wouldn’t fall over!! My brother and I joked that it was because of the “angel band” ornaments. She must have had 40 ornaments with angels all playing a different instrument (they were hideous!).

She made ornaments for every family. Each one had their last name on it. My brother still has the one that was on our tree. I’m not sure if I lost when I moved in with Sam, but my mom made an ornament with a dog sleeping by the chimney. She painted it to look like our beagle, Daisy. I didn’t see it when I unpacked the ornaments this year, so I am not sure if still have it. I hope so.

One of the things my mom made (and I wish I still had) were ceramic Christmas trees. From what everyone tells me now, these are very popular and the older ones are worth some money. They had a light in the bottom that lit up the lights that were glued into the tree.

My grandma loved these little trees so much, she had my mom make her a large one. It was two pieces. My mom did the tree in the “Mother of Pearl” paint that she used for the pieces she made for my other grandma, and I remember it was just beautiful. My grandma used to put it up in her front window.

If you look closely, you can see where the base and top come together on the tree above. It probably was 3-4 feet tall.

I write all of the above to get to the picture my brother sent me today. I had all but forgotten about these pieces, which came to be symbolic of our Christmas decorations. I don’t recall them having a specific spot among the decorations. As a matter of fact, I believe they moved around from year to year. Sometimes they were on the table in the front room, other times they were on the mantle. Sometimes they were among the buildings of the Christmas village, other times they were in the front window. Mr. & Mrs. Claus were always there.

I don’t know if they were my mom’s favorite pieces, but she always made sure they were displayed prominently somewhere each Christmas. My mom told me that Santa was kissing Mrs. Claus goodbye before heading out to deliver all of his toys.

To be honest, I probably knew my brother had these, but I forgot. Every Christmas, I miss my mom a bit more than the rest of the year. Maybe it is because of the ornaments. Maybe I miss her singing along with Johnny Mathis. Maybe I just miss her smile and laughter. I’m grateful that a bit of mom still shows up at Christmas.