An Advent Calendar House at Last

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There were these unfinished Advent houses on sale at the craft store a couple of years ago. They were so cute that it was love at first sight. At fifty percent off, how could I resist? They were brimming with possibility.

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At first, I thought I would finish one for my daughter Jillian. Whenever I craft – be it knitting, crocheting, sewing, painting, or whatever – I think of Jillian and how much she would like whatever I’m creating. It’s hard not to think this way, even though she is grown and living a life of her own. I’m just not enamored of creating beautiful things and then setting them down somewhere in my house or putting them in a drawer – only to be admired and appreciated by me. It’s more fun to share them, especially with Jillian. So I bought two – one for her, and one for someone else. (I think I know who that someone else is, but I’m not going to divulge that here lest I spoil the surprise.)

Then I did what I often do: I put the project in a drawer where it has gathered dust for two years. Other projects took precedence. And then I wondered how I would actually create the house that I wanted. My idea was to paint scenes on the drawers that reminded me of our favorite holiday traditions that we shared when Norm and I were raising Jillian in a small Louisiana city. We did everything together, if it was something fun. I always finished Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving so that I wouldn’t be stressed out during Christmastime. We had time to enjoy the season.

Following are my favorite things we did, or some of them, at least.

  • Writing and sending Christmas cards
  • Baking and decorating Christmas cookies
  • Caroling
  • Christmas Eve services with our closest friends
  • Visiting Santa, Mrs. Claus, and Mr. Bingle at Griffith Park (If you don’t know who Mr. Bingle is, then you’re not from South Louisiana.)
  • Constructing a gingerbread house
  • Wrapping presents
  • Chopping down and decorating our Christmas tree
  • Watching Rudolph and drinking hot chocolate
  • Having a gathering with friends to watch the Boat Parade of Lights
  • Participating in Santa on the Bayou at the fire station
  • Waiting by a bonfire at a friends’ house in anticipation of a visit from Papa Noël
  • Riding through City Park with cousins to see Christmas Under the Stars
  • Going to Norm’s office for the annual children’s Christmas party
  • Building a fire in the fireplace and snuggling on the couch

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My dilemma: I’m no artist. I can’t draw, so how am I ever going to paint these scenes on those tiny drawers? So I dug through my craft drawer where I had stashed old Christmas cards. Instead of painting very specific activities, I would just cut out pieces of the cards, glue them to the drawers, varnish them – and voilà! – Christmas scenery on the Advent Calendar House. On the backs of the drawers, I wrote the name of the person or family who sent the cards, so that there would be a memory of special people who had shared Christmas with us, even if only from a distance.

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Here’s the rub: I’m not giving the house to Jillian. The one whose presence prodded the house from the craft drawer is not my daughter, but my granddaughter. I want to relive Christmas, and participate in it the way I did when Jillian was a girl. It’s been a long time since I have felt that way. An empty house is not very festive. Family scattered to the four winds renders Christmastime dour.

Not this year. This year I get to do it all over again – properly. Children breathe life into the weary world. Merry Christmas, friends!