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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Suzy

Reposted from December 2009

We are doing without a tree this year, choosing to make a "tree" of the mantelpiece over the bricked-up fireplace by scattering fir twigs, baubles and such from one end to another, with a string of white lights. This actually has been a bit of a hit, and no one seems to think any the less of us for having decorations that can be completely cleared away in less than three minutes.

The baubles have been with us for decades, and chief among them is Suzy Snowflake, loosely based on the hit 1951 song by Rosemary Clooney -- I know I mentioned her a few weeks ago, but I've finally had a moment, between outside chores and some breadmaking, to go take a picture of her.

My mom originally made Suzy during the great railroad strikes of the early 1950s, when no money was coming into the house, and we ate black-eyed peas for supper every night. Suzy's body is a stiff, relatively heavy thread-spool cone left over from the industrial textile industries that were strong in the American South in those days.It's covered with a layer of golden foil. She has several feet of lace wrapped round her for petticoats and a dress, with a bodice formed by a length of narrow golden ribbon tied round her waist and criss-crossing her breast. She has butterfly-style wings of wire, filled in with lace tied on with more ribbon, and her whole outfit is spangled with tiny gold stars.

Suzy's original head was made by stuffing a ball of cotton in bit of cotton cloth from an old hankie or something, with eyes and a mouth stiched on in embroidery thread. I think Suzy 's current head is a bit of a come-down for her, a repair made in the early 70s I think, using a cheap Barbie knockoff from a dollmaking store. A pipe-cleaner halo sits a bit low between her shoulders in back. Suzy holds a wand in her left hand on which there should be two larger gummed gold stars, but I don't have any for her right now. There may have been something in her right hand, but none of us remember what.

So she's a little the worse for wear, but she's totally the household goddess/angel/totemic thingie, reverently laid away in a labeled shoebox in the first week of January every year, then, found and carefully lifted out for holiday service usually about the second week of December. There have been family trees -- first at my childhood home, then here -- and she has topped each one for fifty-eight years. This year she's making do with the mantel, but she doesn't seem to mind.

May all be well with all of you.

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