How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE

Christmas, Borrowers, and Squirrels

94 Comments


Our traditional Polish celebration called Wigilia has changed since 2010. That year we had a funeral for our Mom on the 24th instead. Since then, we cannot replicate Christmas Eve without her, and I do not want to try. I share a house with my daughter and her family. They live on the main floor and I live in the finished apartment in the basement. We often accommodate large gatherings in my large open space.

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This year, our third Christmas Eve without Mum has been the least traditional: an open house instead of a sit-down dinner. About 30 or so family members attended. My family is small, my son-in-law’s is not. The eight-foot table in my dining-room (area) sagged creaking beneath the weight of various finger foods: meat balls, devilled eggs, pizza bites, veggies and dip, turkey and ham cucumber and cream cheese roll-ups, antojitos, veggies and dip, bruschetta, a pickle / olive platter, cheese and kielbasa tray,  cabbage rolls, and pierogi to name a few. Many items didn’t make it to the table; there was too much food. After eats, the Polish kids (six grandchildren) opened gifts with squeals and mumbled thank yous. The rest of the guests watched, intrigued. My family had travelled and hour and a half to attend and the adults exchanged gifts as well, which is the norml on this night anyway. As happens when you have a large crowd of people in one area, various small groups form. Two of my sisters with their husbands and myself hung around the island in the kitchen. Not uncommon in my house, the subject of books came up. My six-year-old granddaughter had been holding court in another part of the room but wandered over to see why we were so excited. She whispered, “Babcia, did you tell them about The Borrowers (I had given the girls a copy a week previous). “Ah…no. You tell them.” “No, you.” “I believe they’d like to hear it from you. It’s your book,” Lily sprinted away. We adults continued our lively discussion about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (by Rebecca Skloot). Lily returned, flashing the heavy book over her head with both hands. “Have you guys read this book about The Borrowers?” The adults stopped and shook their heads. “It’s about tiny people who live under the floor and steal things because they can’t buy them and believe they are borrowing, not stealing.” She handed the book around. The adults oohed and awed. Then, she grabbed it back and disappeared, eyes aglow, pleased she had enlightened the booklovers in the room.

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“What just happened?” someone asked. No explanation was necessary though. Everyone knew about our dramatic Lily. As the evening wound down, guests collected their paraphernalia and the room emptied. Lily came back downstairs dragging a green garbage bag. “I came to get my stuff.” I watched her, half-curious. “Why isn’t your sister helping you? That bag looks heavy.” She shrugged and threw the bag over her shoulder, staggering beneath the weight of its contents. “Need some help?” “No, I got it.”

* * *

Before I crashed for the night I’d noticed one of my gifts was missing, a red sweater from one of my sisters. Lily must have squirreled it away in her bag because she found my box in the vicinity of her Christmas stash. What’s hers is hers even when it isn’t because she likes to stockpile her belongings in her bedroom away from prying eyes and roving fingers. That’s our Lily. Do you have any squirrels or borrowers in your family? What event(s) colored your Christmas?

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Author: Let's CUT the Crap!

I'm getting a little LONG in the tooth and have things to say about---ouch---AGEing. I believe it's certainly a state of mind but sometimes it's nice to hear that you're NORMAL. I enjoy reading by the truckload. I'm a grandma but I don't feel OLD although I'm not so young anymore. My plan is to stick it out as long as I can on this lovely planet and only will leave it kicking and screaming!

94 thoughts on “Christmas, Borrowers, and Squirrels

  1. I loved reading about your family’s Christmas Eve celebration. And yor apt is wonderful. So much room. And. Books. I believe a hose is not a home without books. I have some in every room. Happy New year. Sue
    womenlivinglifeafter50.com

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  2. A delightful read about your Christmas Day… I can imagine the feelings without your mum being there too (hugs) I did a Service on the morning of the 24th and it was tough, knowing the next day it was Christmas and families would be without their loved ones. Your space is great – I wish I had a basement that my daughter and her boyfriend could live in… 😦
    She is my squirrel – she went away camping yesterday and took my IPad charger… Half my wardrobe is in hers… ahh the joys. My Christmas Day was just eating and more eating and wine and eating… colourful perhaps not – over indulgent definitely! Your food sounded delicious – thanks for the peek into your day Tess. x

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  3. the only event that coloured my Christmas was the sister’s imminent divorce. And since we are not a big family at all, borrowers are soon discovered 😉
    Your event sounds quite lovely Tess…

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  4. wow, that is a very nice house with a lot of books!

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  5. I love your space! All the books……. I think you would see a similarity in our spaces. 😉

    We do have a squirreller awayer or two. 😉 Things have disappeared into a couple of little people’s hands and rooms.

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  6. What a great space you live in Tess. A book lover’s paradise. Delightful post, all except for the sorrowful passing of your mother. It’s never easy. Blessings friend.

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  7. Lovely to have a window into your world. Delightful!

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  8. Thank you for sharing a wonderful family Christmas!!!

    “There is no friend as loyal as a book.”
    ― Ernest Hemingway

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  9. Interesting post. Keep on writing! 🙂

    I hope you have a beautiful day!!! 😀 😀 😀

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  10. I am of Polish descent as well 🙂 I remember when I was a kid getting together every Christmas eve for a great big party with the Polish side of the family (I’m also Irish). One of the big events of the night at these parties was a game called “Dead Reindeer.” Everyone would gather in a room and all of the kids would dance around until one of the adults yelled out “Dead Reindeer!” Then all of the kids would fall to the ground and try to lay as still as possible. Whomever was deemed to look the deadest by the adults won a prize (usually some kind of candy). I won once or twice 🙂
    We don’t have any true borrowers in my family. However, the cats do tend to take things every now and again. I had a cat several years back that would steal my pierogies if I turned my back.

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    • I’ve heard of lots of Polish-Irish and Polish-Scottish connections. The red hair was always fascinating (to me). We used to take heritage classes on weekends and seeing a redheaded girl speak Polish was astonishing.
      I never experience the Dead Reindeer game but will ask another Polish friend if she’s familiar with it.
      Kids / cats have their borrower personalities. It took two days for my granddaughter to return my sweater. 😀

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  11. I too enjoyed the window into your world. Your apt. is amazing…:) I can fit a table and two chairs in mine. One of my granddaughters is a little squirrel but she does ask first…kind of…”Nana, are you bored of that little statue, you have had it such a long time???? If I give her a wink and a nod, it doesn’t disappear straight away but it does disappear…
    Mums are never forgotten as they live forever in our hearts.

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  12. I loved reading about your Christmas celebration and seeing your book-filled apartment. It’s lovely. My now grown daughters have boxes of childhood favorite books they can’t bear to part with (still in our house :). We also have piles and stacks of books everywhere!

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  13. Thanks for sharing your lovely Christmas. My memories of childhood Christmases are great. My parents, who fought a lot, created a four day dmz, starting two days before Christmas. Sounds a litter bitter I know, but they did such a great job I had to wonder later why we couldn’t have that peace all year. Mom was an excellent cook; Dad was a wonderful host to our many visitors. It was a lovely time and I’ll always remember it fondly:)

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  14. I had an ‘open house’ party one year for the holiday season. Although not as many people showed up as I was hoping for, it went well. No one felt they has to stay longer than they wanted to and people didn’t have to apologize for being late. It made everyone feel more at ease. I really should try one of these again.

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    • Yes, an open house is less stress because hopefully, people will come in, visit, grab a bite and go. You get to see everyone and the rest of the holidays are freed up.

      Happy New Year, Glynis and thanks so much for visiting.

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  15. You have a lovely space. . .and all those books! I almost salivate to look at them. We don’t have a borrower or squirrel, but if ever I wondered where my competitive streak came from that passed in sharper editions to my son and granddaughter, I look to my mother who reminded me in board games that it is okay to crush the younger set of people. And a very nice tribute Tess, to your mother with your words.

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  16. I love hearing about people’s Christmas celebrations, and yours didn’t disappoint! Love your apartment too, spacious and booky! 🙂

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    • Love both the spacious and booky.
      After we looked at a number of houses together, I realized we were doing it all wrong. I made a deal with the kids that I would look at the granny quarters FIRST and then they could see the rest of the house. So many places had such s.a.d. arrangements for grannies. Made me want to cry.
      I fell in love with what you see and they fell in love with the upstairs. Win- win. 😀
      Happy New Year, Vanessa, to you, and yours. 😛

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  17. What a wonderful space you live in! To be surrounded by books like that – mmmm, heaven! Thank you for sharing a beautiful, personalized Christmas story.

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  18. I loved that book–The Borrowers. I read the entire series. Like Lilly, the idea of little people taking my stuff and using it was so exciting.

    I’ve always wanted wall-to-wall bookcases, too. Happy holidays, dear efriend.

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  19. This was my first year without my Mom. She moved to florida and when I visited in November, I felt like I was truly saying goodbye when I left. it was different this year – low key, almost….hushed. But I spent more time being meditative instead of scurrying about. We did hamburgers on the grill and killer onion strings. I had the inlaws in and a friend who was by herself. I do like the look of your apt and all your books. I think I know have about 1000 books on my Kindle, plus “real” books about. changes can be hard. It was hard talking to my mom over the phone and not being able to hug her, but I was so grateful I could hear her voice, still. We don’t have borrowers anymore, but I used to have a cat who stole socks and hid them behind the couch. I love the Borrowers books. What a wonderful bit of imagination to share with someone!

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    • Thank you for your wonderful comments. I’m still a hard case for paper books. I do have a dozen or more books on my PC Kindle and have read a few short books but don’t find reading on my laptop all that wonderful.
      I know what you mean about leaving Mom behind. Appreciate her as long as you have her. I’m not so young anymore, but since mine’s been gone, I feel like an orphan.
      Happy New Year 2014, Toni.

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      • I can truly identify with the orphan thing. I don’t have my books on pc or laptop but a true Kindle – it holds like a book – about the size of a larger sized paper back, I can adjust the font size and turning the pages is a simple little push on a side button. I can read in bed!!! 🙂 Getting older, these two things are important. I carry it everywhere and have it synced to my smartphone and tablet. This enabled my husband and I to be able to read Dr. Sleep at the same time. I’m downsizing a lot – you’re cutting the crap, I’m tossing it…LOL. to have over a thousand books in my hand is incredible to me. Because of my tablet, I’ve been able to download Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts for my bible study – the regular Kindle I have and carry around doesn’t translate it to their system, but on the tablet and phone, it does. I teach Sunday School class of older teens and college age kids. I’m “cool” because I match them in technology and can play Red Dead Redemption with the best of them on Xbox. I don’t have the ultra expensive but the basic Kindle. I don’t care for Nook. I have a cheap tablet that works as well as an expensive one. I’ve gotten rid of a bunch of dust catchers, which include a ton of books – except for antique cookbooks and rare out of print books. I have my mom a Kindle to help with her dim eyes and Parkinsons hands and a tablet like mine. We can Skype!!! I can see her sweet face and hear her voice. I am so bless Ms. Tess, truly. I have recorded some of our talks. I know she misses her mother, my grandmother. It is hard. But I am grateful for her. I almost lost her due to respiratory failure (COPD) Christmas night, but the EMTs got her to hospital quickly. I am truly grateful. My heart feels for you. I pray 2014 will be good for you and those you love. This year has been hard for me and I think for some others. I hope 2014 will be full of blessings and ease of mind and heart for us all.

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      • Thank you, thank you. You are a sweet and generous soul. I’ve noticed December is a bad time for lots of people leaving us.

        I have kindle on my laptop and today ordered a ipad mini because I don’t like reading on my laptop and have lots of books to download from it too.

        I’m going on a trip in the New Year and want to be prepared for note-taking, videos and pictures. Now I have to learn how. Thank goodness I also have an almost 10-y-o granddaughter who promises to help me. I need to get with the program. 😎

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  20. What fun! Thanks for sharing the pictures of your home. All those books! Always fun to see peoples places.

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  21. Kids are delightful! Sounds like you are giving one of the best gifts you can give a child, the love of reading and the love of books! One of these days, she will be old enough to appreciate your writing too. Sounds like you celebrated the feast with lots of family and delicious food, but with a twing of pain because of missing your mum. Isn’t life like that? Bittersweet sometimes? I hope your new year’s celebration is just as happy. Tressa

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  22. What a delightful read Babcia. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about your family. I gave my oldest granddaughter books for Christmas. They were picture books and she was delighted that one of them was called “Hairy Nose Itchy Butt” (about a Hairy Nosed Wombat).

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    • That so much, suzjones. 😎
      Love the title, “Hairy Nose Itchy Butt” ( It’s enough to send me shopping.)
      I started both grand kids with books when they were about six months old. You know those thick cardboard ones, small for the hands etc. Their bookcases are full too and I am holding back bags (sigh, yes bags) of books for the ten-year-old. 😀

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  23. What a lovely space you have for gatherings, mine is like a sardine can!

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    • After looking at a few houses, I realized if the kids fell in love with the house and I hated the granny quarters, I wouldn’t be a happy camper. So, I made a deal with them that I would get to check out downstairs BEFORE they saw the rest of the house. I fell in love with this space and they fell in love with the rest of the house. 😀

      Happy New Years, Gilly.

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  24. Your Lily is a delight, I wonder where does she get her love of books?

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  25. I tried to leave a comment on your post here last night only to realise that my internet connection went down. Thank you for sharing your Christmas and the photos of your beautiful apartment. I think it looks so cosy and spacious.
    Happy 2014!!! 🙂

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  26. You gotta lotta books there. Keeps you busy during the long winter nights 😉 Happy New Year from Norwich!

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  27. I love your living area, Tess. It’s so spacious and of course, the books. Thank you for sharing about yourself and your family.

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  28. What a great space you have. And how fun to fill it with family, though bittersweet to be sure. I come from a large family (nine kids) but we’re scattered and it’s been several years since we’ve all converged.

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  29. That sounds like you had a beautiful holiday, and certainly Lily is a little firecracker! I loved your many bookshelves, I thought I was bad! 🙂

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  30. I can see a giant library in the back, that’s awesome. It’s even one of my favorite furniture pieces that I’d love to decorate my own house with.

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  31. Pingback: May You Always | Invisible Shadow

  32. Happy New Year’s, Tess…thanks for sharing your little slice of Christmas with us–and, like most everyone else–I LOVE your apartment space. Just a nice size for one person and yet lots of space for entertaining. And I know what you mean about missing your mom–my mother died eight years ago and there are still so many times that I wish I could talk to her or hug her again–she was a very huggable woman and she loved her family above all else…she especially loved my two kids and they adored her. Now with mom gone eight years and my Gary gone four years Christmas doesn’t hold the appeal for me it once did…I muddle my way through it with the help of my adult children and their significants but the joy is not there for me anymore. I know that I am not alone in this situation and I perhaps am even luckier than some because I have kids who love to spend time with me, but that still doesn’t take away the pain. I think if we hold onto our memories of the great times we had with our loved ones who have died they will never be completely gone from us, so that is what I’m trying oh-so-hard to do. All the best to you in 2014 and I hope to run into you often through our blogs this year.

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    • Sylvia, long time gone. NICE to hear from you. Hope all is well.

      Thank you for your kind words. We must all do the best we can. Christmas has been a hit and miss since then as well. It will never be the same again so I do not try to make it so.

      Sorry to hear of your double loss. I knew about your husband but didn’t know about your mom. All we can do is enjoy our families now. 😉

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  33. I missed my mum at Christmas too. She’d always sit quietly somewhere, not really able to hear what was going on, while one or other of us would sit next to her trying to make the time go. It’s certainly not the same without her. Still, the bit I love best about Christmas is the absolute stillness of the morning when I sleep in without kids or work or anything!

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  34. Sounds like a fabulous Christmas!
    And books too! 🙂

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  35. Tess – I’m so glad I didn’t miss this post. It gives me such happiness to see your living arrangements and for whatever reason I feel much better. I didn’t think your 2/3 ownership was a dome house attached to the main house where your daughter and her husband lived – but you know how crazy a mind works some time. I also like the way you were able to carry on and make new traditions for your holidays. Gee-next time I struggle the way I did with Christmas – throw a stupid stick my way and I’ll get with the program.
    You are such an inspiration to me. I honestly admire your moxie as you move through life.

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