|Vintage Christmas ephemera.|
"The trappings of Christmas must be perfectly executed," Ambulancia declared to all within earshot, which included passers-by who looked up, startled, and quickened their steps. "I know perfection when I see it. I just can't say ahead of time what it will look like." This bit of last-minute holiday drama concerned traditional crackers presented to each guest atop their dinner plate at the Christmas table. While her mother suggested the manufacturer's decorations were quite festive and would disappoint no one, Ambulancia, joined in protest by her sister Sireena, insisted on what she referred to as "tarting them up" with trimmings that would render them extravagant works of art. Nothing less would do.
Once again, tulle became a material of choice, along with double-faced satin ribbons, gold German Dresden trims and ornaments, Victorian scrap images, sequins, glitter, cotton batting fruit and birds and additional bits of scissored crepe paper. Fortunately, the girls always created in their room, their atelier as they called it, so the already tidy parlor with its slightly strange but mostly wondrous tree would remain undisturbed.
As had been the case at Thanksgiving, Ellington and Henri's parents found it necessary to be "away" at Christmas, some muttered explanation about a distant, aging and slightly gaga relative or some precarious businss assignation in a wintery, remote locale which, they were sure, would cause the boys hardship. It was no hardship at all to stay over with their best friends for the entire vacation. They rolled up their sleeves and tested the glue guns for readiness.
Though it may have seemed to the untrained eye that the sisters procrastinated, plunging into last-minute flurries of holiday preparations in general, that was not the actual truth. They had made all their gifts weeks ago, wrapped them, helped decorate the house, baked, gone to the movies twice with the brothers and eaten lunch in a downtown coffee shop. They were not idle nor forgetful. it was simply that when Ambulancia opened the box of Christmas crackers, she felt her heart sink just a bit and could not bear to think of that happening to their guests. "Presentation," she exclaimed. "Delight the eye, create anticipation. Much of Christmas is anticipation. We will not disappoint."
To be concluded on Christmas Eve.