A Flow'ret Bright

comments: 19


I love my little mantle village. Several of these sweet little abodes were my Grandma Ieronemo's, my sweet little Italian grandma, who wore house-dresses made of calico trimmed with bias binding, who had a plastic holder for her milk carton, who was so shy she almost couldn't bear to be photographed. At family parties, I remember her sitting shyly off to one side with her coat on, her little legs crossed at the ankles, her hands folded over her purse in her lap, as if one of the relatives might make off with it. She adored my father, her only and very-late-in-life child, and I remember her flustered, waving her hands around, laughing "Mickey, Mickey, put her down!" (my dad's name was Al, but his parents and their friends called him Mickey) as my dad would lift each of us in turn with one hand, straight up over his head. Oh, he provoked her. She could hardly get the words out for fear, so convinced he would drop us, bang on our heads.

My grandparents owned a big old city apartment building on Oak Park Avenue, across the street from St. Edmund's Church and School. I lived here until I was three, and then I moved a couple of miles away to River Forest, but my grandparents continued to live in the buidling for several years after that, and their big living-room window faced the street and the church. I spent a lot of time in my grandma's apartment. At Christmastime, the church set up a life-size nativity scene in the churchyard. I don't know if they still do this, but I hope so. It was illuminated at night, and against the backdrop of that lovely Gothic-y church and rectory, there was nothing prettier, especially when it snowed. Before I was old enough to go to school, I watched the uniformed kids cross the street on their way to St. Edmund School with its wrought-iron-fenced courtyard and enormous doors, and I prayed to age quickly so I could go too. It has been my lifelong dream to wear a school uniform, though I never have. We got married at St. Edmund's in 1997, and the photographer balked when I staged a pic with my grandma and grandpa's building in the background. It is the only picture, out of hundreds taken that day, that I  truly love and where I think I look just like myself. My grandparents died when I was in high school.

My grandma had a white feather tree, and she kept it on a short, square glass table in the living room. On the tree, no disheveled handmade ornies for her; I remember only royal blue balls evenly spaced, and not the glass kind, the kind that are wrapped in some kind of fiber, like angel hair. Is that right? It's how I remember it, at least. The ornaments are long gone. The village sat under the tree on a snow blanket, and there were a dozen houses and lots of little trees, and a tiny mirror-pond with two metal skaters, frozen in permanent glide. I think this tree would be so fashionable now, though my grandma was homey and practical and seemed to eschew fanciness. As with so much else, her mysteries reveal themselves to me in time.

I have several things of my grandma's. Four paper houses from her original village -- the others in my scene are antiques I picked up or new reproductions -- and a few green bottle brush trees. A Red Riding Hood cookie jar, which always held those crunchy, ribbed coconut cookies from Dominick's. And a funny little purple calico drawstring bag. It closes with a crackly golden tie, and holds my crochet hooks, just like it held hers. Her name was Archangelina, for the archangel. But they just called her Angie.


Your little village is amazing! And your stories are always a wonderful pleasure to read. Thank you.

The only thing is that your post makes me want a white christmas...in Sydney that may be a bit difficult!

After talking to you today I was hoping you'd post a picture of this. What a breathtaking scene!

Lovely post!

What a lovely story. And village. I love recalling the memories that are evoked by each holiday bauble we pull out of a box.

The village scene is so pretty and your heartfelt story has brought tears to my eyes. It might be hormones, but I really think it's your writing style! :)

your village is just beautiful on it's own, but your story makes it even more lovely.

i am so inspired!

p.s. you write so beautifully.
i saw it all come to life.
thank you.

lovely... the mantle, the memories, all of it.

Beautiful! It looks like a picture from a magazine.

What lovely memories of your grandmother! Thank you for sharing them.

A real Christmas story :) That village is FANTASTIC!!

Yes...they still display the life-size nativity scene each year in front of St. Edmund's church every year.

You probably won't read this, but I just found you, and the 1st place I go are the december archives hoping for good vintage displays. I was not disapointed, and I got a lovely story.

What touching memories about your grandmother. I love that you have her crochet hooks in the same pouch, and think the village is amazing.

So beautiful.....

My grandmother has a set of villages just like those your's had. I too loved them as a child and still do to this day.

I too keep my Grandmother's crochet hooks in the same container she used--one of those little metal tubes with a screw on top made for a single cigar. (I bet my grandfather smoked the cigar.) I think of her teaching me to control my tension when using crochet thread every time I get a hook out. I love using her tools as I look around my house at things she crocheted. A regret is that it has been years since I lost the Reader's Digest magazine she used for her open skeins of embroidery floss--folding them between the pages.

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com