Slice of Life Tuesday: The popcorn and cranberry garland

The Tuesday Slice of Life Writing Community @ Two Writing Teachers

It’s time for the popcorn and cranberry garlands, now that the Christmas tree is here, and all the lights have been woven through its fragrant boughs.  And so tonight I begin, two kernels of popcorn to one cranberry at a time, putting the finishing touch onto our tree – the traditional “this is the best one we’ve ever had” tree.

This year, it’s a solo activity – by the time everyone comes home, it will have been completed.  And so, as I string each cloud- like kernel of popcorn and ruby- red cranberry, I think back to years past…
It’s always the last bit of decorating, and it’s always left to the week leading to Christmas.  

As soon as the last ornament had found its perfect spot, I’d pop some corn in the old Revere Ware kettle that came to us from my husband’s beloved Aunt Helen and Uncle Don.  That, together with a bag of cranberry, some thread, and a needle or two, would become a fixture under the tree.  And every night, after my lesson planning and grading were (mostly) done, I’d put on some music of the season, our favorite being this:

and soon, a child would join me.  We’d weave away, and I’d hear stories of crushes, heartbreak, and school gossip.  Of books being read, papers being written, subjects being wrestled with.  Of dreams to travel the world, try new things, venture to new places.  Of new fashions to try, soccer moves to experiment with, songs to sing. Of big stories about the heart and soul, and small stories about everyday joys and sorrows and noticings and wonderings.
We’d work on a few strands at a time, every evening. And then…the garland would be done. We’d loop that last one all the way to the top, and stand back to say:
“This is the best tree we’ve ever had!”

I’m thinking of all those conversations now, all those growing up years…and all those little things that we did together once.


21 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: The popcorn and cranberry garland

  1. Oh your heart is so open here. Those memories are so important to hold on to. Love the tradition of the cranberries and popcorn, the music, and the stories. My journey is a little behind yours and I'm holding on appreciating it as it goes.

  2. What a great photo to invite us into your prepping for the holidays. We are watching on the sidelines but it's wonderful to let us take a peak inside and include some great Judy Collins. Let me know when you are ready for some coffeeBonnie

  3. I decorated my tree alone this year. When my daughter got home this weekend, she said "I heard you decorated the tree by yourself this year." There was a bit of nostalgia in her voice. Maybe we could make a garland together while she's home. Thanks for this beautiful memory.

  4. Now I am crying. So beautifully written — I can see each piece go on the string and hear the conversations. Thank you for reminding us with younger children to slow down and appreciate this time, these memories. I remember the first time I went to my in-laws house for Christmas. The tree was not decorated. I remember thinking how strange that was –did she run out of time? Now I understand why she left it for us to all do together.Clare

  5. Oh, Tara. Thank you for sharing your beautiful tradition and how it brought you time with your kids. I bet they will be doing this with their kids some day. The magic of time together doing the simple things over and over is something that in our rush to live everything to the fullest, we forget and sadly, sometimes, we feel empty. Your tree is filled with love. Keep on stringing!

  6. It gets harder and harder to find those moments with the girls as they get older. I love the way you strung your popcorn, cranberries, stories and memories all together. Beautiful post, Tara. Enjoy the holidays!

  7. Teary eyed, but I love this piece so much. You caught me with cranberries and popcorn. I love how they look, but so much work! I think we tried two or three times and gave up. So that really stood out as your work and patience and faith through the years, then all the stringing in of stories, bitter and sweet, was beautiful. And I love the way the spirit of "the best tree ever," a voice of a child, carries through on and on. Happy holidays to you!

  8. Sweet, this had such a wistful tone to it. Traditions have to change as the dynamics of the family change, but at least we can hold on to those memories in our heart.

  9. I love that you do this, and have continued even with your family grown, Tara. It shows the love you give both to your family and your students, that "extra" that means everything. It certainly is a time for memories, isn't it? Happy holidays to all your family!

  10. Tara, this is one of my favorite Slices ever, I think! I have such an image of your cozy house in my head and you and your family, once upon a time, stringing and talking, stringing and talking. And I think of my young babies and all the Christmases we'll share together and I can't wait for them to start talking to me about their hopes and dreams. And I think of you stringing in solitude, but not really, because you're sitting amongst memories. It's so beautiful and filled with so many emotions. Happy holidays, Tara!

  11. I remember going to a friend's house as a child and helping to string popcorn garland when I was about eight years-old. What a fun time I had trimming the tree. Never thought of adding cranberries into the mix (but I suppose that's because I've only decorated a tree with friends a handful of times in my life).What a wonderful slice of life, Tara. Thanks for sharing this with us. Happy holidays to you and yours!

  12. Thank you so much for sharing. I love hearing positive stories from my friends who have teenagers.Too often people tell the stories that begin with "Just wait until…" instead of sharing the beautiful memories like the ones you shared here. Happy holidays to you and your family!

  13. OMG – as the kids would say – my heart is full of the memories you inspire in this wonderful post. They will notice and be glad that you remembered! I know just how those memories come flooding back…for me…it was in the ornaments…each one a story….even if it was a shopping trip to Mays!

  14. I love how your memories string together like the popcorn and cranberries on your garland. We tried a popcorn garland one year, but one year did me in. I'm impressed with the patience and dedication you give to do it every year.

  15. This is lovely, Tara. What special memories you've shared today. Our holiday traditions include music, too, but I've never heard this Judy Collins song. Merry Christmas to you and all your family.

  16. Wonderful tradition, great memories. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I think I'd eat more popcorn than what was put on the string! Merry Christmas to you and your family.

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