We brought it in on Advent Sunday and the bough is slowly filling up with all those odd little things that have adorned it for years, since I first saw this decorated Christmas bough idea in a friend's house.
The Tinker loved his bough so much last year that he undecorated it on Twelfth Night, but for the lights, and has been enjoying it all year. I have added the Advent idea only recently, quite liking the slow build-up towards Christmas, and so the things sit in a basket and we add them daily, or if visitors come they choose something.
One of the Big Events of 2014 has been Offspringette heading off to a new life in New Zealand and, knowing that she wouldn't be with us at Christmas, perhaps for quite a while, and that she has helped decorate this for years, I thought long and hard about what to do. We are well-used to them being in remote and distant places at Christmas, some years we haven't even had an address to post to if they have been travelling, though they always phone home, but this is a little bit different.
So do I encourage the continuation of this family tradition with her in New Zealand...
Or might that make her homesick...
Or might she think 'Oh God I've come here to do new things...'
It's not easy and I feel sure many of you will know this dilemma, as well as knowing all those feelings about far-flung family
Of course we miss Offspringette...let me count the ways etc, but we have always subscribed to the 'If they are happy and healthy we don't mind where they are,' philosophy, and thankfully she is all of those things and loving her new job as co-ordinator for the Youth Council. So anyway back in August I thought... oh hang it all, I'm going to secretly make twenty four little things, wrap each one up and number it and they can get their own Advent bough in and decorate it if they want, and so I made a start.
Slowly the box filled up...
I would sit at my table listening to the radio and piece little tiny quilts and then raid the button box for embellishments, or stencil something and then quilt it... this one maybe 3" x 2"...
...or stitch some nice plump stars, or knit something. Sometimes what I was making told a story that I knew Offspringette would recognise...
...and occasionally I would see something special and buy it, or someone who knew I was doing it sent me something to include in the box, until eventually I had twenty four 'things...and some unwrapped extras and then I added in a twenty-fifth for Christmas Day. One of the things Offspringette loves (she now tells me) is the smell of home on any parcels we send, so I added some of our lavender to the box as I was making things for the aroma to infuse as I went along.
It was a good thing I started early enough because in the end it took me over two months to finish everything, and by the time I arrived at the post office with the parcel back in November I was feeling quite wobbly and emotional at parting with it. There was so much love and care invested in it, supposing it got lost.
The counter clerk in the Post Office must have seen me biting my lip because she couldn't have been nicer and understood immediately. The joy of a small town is that people know you, and we have done a lot of posting to New Zealand this year, so the counter staff always ask...'How's it going ?' We sorted out tracked and signed for airmail so this priceless parcel wouldn't get lost and we had an interesting conversation about the value...really only a few £s, but much more in the bigger scheme of things. And then eschewing the pre-printed label the counter clerk proceeded to carefully adorn the box with £18.60's worth of Christmas stamps while the queue behind me snaked out of the door. We had a lovely chat, and the whole thing was a work of art by the time she placed the parcel carefully in a sack of its own and promised to look after it. I'll confess I wandered out of the Post Office feeling a bit bereft and had to go for a pot of hot chocolate in the Bedford Hotel to sort myself out (any excuse)
And how exciting it is, through the dark-grey days of mid-winter here, to see all those very same things made through the balmy days of August and September now hanging up in the light, bright sparkling summer days of the Southern Hemisphere..
and perhaps my favourite, the chickens, with their house and a little clutch of eggs and the bees buzzing around the veg garden, hopefully all a good likeness to the real thing.
Happy Advent New Zealand x