Antoinette Stockenberg's 2010 Christmas Display

Merry Christmas(6K)

For my 2010 Christmas village of vintage Japanese cardboard houses, I had but one desire: to capture the sparkling magic of ice and snow. For that, I think I blame Fred Astaire in Holiday Inn ... or maybe my east European heritage ... but definitely the taunting of my friends in Florida. To me, nothing sings Christmas more than falling snow and skaters on ice. I can't make snow actually fall from the ceiling onto my mantel's cardboard village (not for very long, anyway, without having to drag out the vacuum), so I've created the next best thing: a cold, cold Christmas with drifts of snow piled high against the banks of the river that flows through this year's vintage putz. The river is frozen solid and the skating is the best it's ever been; almost everyone in town is either on the ice or watching from the sidelines. I've included some new characters in the 2010 Christmas chapter, and their stories will develop in the coming years. I should add that nearly all of the tiny tin Zinnfiguren in this year's village have been painted by me. (And I now have the crossed eyes to prove it; it's not easy painting expressions on faces that are an eighth of an inch small.) And so for all the other children besides me out there:

A River Runs Through it
The 2010 Christmas mantel.
   For closeups, click on the church and each of the thirteen houses.

Antique Christmas cardboard house putz (village) on fireplace mantel at night (80K)

The City Hall and Town Center Scene (Houses 1, 2 and 3 (the church))

ice(8K) Some years are better than others for ice. This year the temperature plunged in early November and has stayed below freezing every day since then, resulting in clear ice more than a foot thick with no cracks, no breaks, no holes; no ridges from currents and wind. Perfect. Mothers feel good letting their children skate unsupervised, and children -- being children -- feel even better than their mothers about that. In any case, there are lots of grownups on the ice -- mostly couples, because nothing is more romantic than a lovely young thing nearly falling and being held up by her taller, stronger partner.

That's the theory, anyway. On this particular day, some of the slipping and sliding isn't working out that way. Young Stephen Jamison, for one, has landed hard on his rump -- though not enough to dislodge his top hat. Stephen had the notion that carrying a walking stick would make him look dashing and smart. "Whatever gave you that idea?" his laughing date wants to know. (Alice has no problem keeping her balance, even with her hands tucked away for warmth.) Stephen's stick is now bent, and so is his pride, but he's having too much fun with Alice to care.

ice skater(148K) Sonja's broken ankle has healed, and she has taken to the ice again, timidly at first, but now with more confidence. She skates every day. Every single day, because she still wants to be the best skater there is, even though it sometimes hurts if she doesn't land properly on her mended ankle. She has center stage because the rest of the townspeople respect her talent enough to give her the room she needs. And, truth be told, they all feel a little sorry for her because they know it isn't going very well with Johnny Hooks. Oh, he does stop by the ice now and then with a friend; he's around right now, waiting for his pal Ben to lash on his skates. But by and large ... it does not look good. Sonja knows it, but still she skates, because once, when Johnny was still a farm boy and before he went to sea, he told her that her skating was the most beautiful sight he'd ever seen and that when she skated, he fell completely under her spell. Sonja would like to bewitch him again.

ice skater(4K) As for Johnny, he's feeling out of sorts. Has been like that, ever since his ship got frozen in port because of a careless judgment call by its captain. Johnny is restless, irritable. He hates being tied down, that's all there is to it. His dad wants him back on the farm, but he won't be tied down. Sonja can float like an angel on the ice behind him for all he cares -- he won't be tied down. He will not.

The elder John Hooks casts a baleful eye at his son as he tries to ignore the ear-piercing screams and shouts of the children he's hauling behind him. God in heaven, what a racket! But the pay's good -- the mayor's seen to that -- and things're slow on the farm this time of year, so he can spare the time. Even so, that son of his could pitch in and help out if he had half a mind to. But oh no, the sea the sea, that's all he ever hears from the boy. What's so special about the sea? The sea can't give you corn or wheat. Agh, the boy's whole problem is he was raised without a mum. John senior flicks the reins of his aging horse. Giddap, Bessie. Giddap.

coach(4K) Lavinia Pittman (she'd much prefer to be addressed as Mrs. Mayor) sighs in exasperation. Hooks and his broken-down nag are taking up the entire narrow lane. She is going to be late for the meeting at Pettifore's. Why her husband insisted on again hiring Hooks for such idle foolishness; and why that ... that woman in the carriage in front of her felt entitled to squeeze between Hooks and Lavinia, endangering them all -- well! It's just intolerable, that's all. She glowers at the back of the passenger ahead. She's just arrived in town ... a well-off widow ... Mrs. Sparks. What was her first name? Dorothea. Dorothea Sparks -- who'd had the nerve to smile and wave as her horse cut off Lavinia's gray. Well! They would just have to see about that.

Sitting on a makeshift bench, Mr. and Mrs. Woodcut have no interest in braving the ice; hot cider's the ticket for them. They toast one another and the state of their good health as they survey the slow procession of sleds and carriages. "I've heard," says Mrs. Woodcut with a wink at her husband, "that Lavinia Pittman came back from Paris with an entire new trousseau -- twenty-one trunks full to the brim, says her charwoman."

Mr. Woodcut nods sagely and lets out a hiccup. "Now, don't you be getting any crazy -- wait just one minute." His eyes narrow. "Would that be a new frock you got on?"

Mrs. Woodcut answers cheerfully, "Oh, look. Old Man MacGowan is having Florrie's cider. I know for a fact that he don't like cider. But I do wonder how he feels about Florrie." Subject changed, mission accomplished.

northpole(5K) Beneath the portico of City Hall, a young boy perched on a fence is wondering if that is really Santa Claus standing on the bank below, or whether his sister is right and it's just a man in Santa's clothes. He'd like to know, he really would, because it would save him so much time to pass on his wishes to Santa directly instead of writing a letter since he couldn't spell very well as his sister liked to mention and he wasn't sure a letter could get to the North Pole in time anyway and what if it didn't and he got nothing for Christmas not even an orange in his stocking and certainly not a new puppy or oh how he'd love at least to have skates and probably not those either. No, he was going to have to take a chance that this Santa was real Santa. Because he desperately wanted the puppy. Or at least the skates.

Tim Conner wipes a smudge from the brass flagpole on which a bright red Christmas banner snaps in the breeze. The mayor paid for the pole and the flag hisself, no burden to the taxpayer, and Tim had made a point of that over ale with his pals in The Caboose on the night before. "Yessir, the mayor's a straight-up fellow," said Tim, who happened to be in the mayor's employ. But it was clear Tim had some convincing to do. For one thing, no one much trusted a man who'd only been in town for three short years before somehow managing to marry the richest woman in that town. Vote for him, yes -- did they have a choice? -- but trust him, no. The mayor still had some proving to do.

The Wedding Rehearsal scene (House 3 (the church)):

ringd(65K) Clyde and Margaret wait starry-eyed on the porch of the Church of St. John before stepping inside for their rehearsal. Tomorrow's the day: the wedding. After a year-long engagement, and after planning every little detail down to the lace surrounding the pillow on which Margaret's cousin will carry the rings ... the wedding! Margaret has thought of nothing else for an entire year. She has driven her loving sisters to distraction with her obsessive attention to the event, but it's hard to stay annoyed with Margaret: she's too bubbly and joyful for them to hurt with a sharp word. So her three sisters stand inside with Reverend Martin in their appointed positions, while Margaret's mother hovers just on the other side of the door, waiting to be of service. As for Margaret's father -- well, her father. He can hardly wait for it all to be over; the unending chatter of four spirited women has been excessively wearying. He will miss his youngest and prettiest, but he is looking forward to making over her bedroom into a quiet retreat for himself. Yes indeed. One. More. Day.

The Important Meeting scene (House 4):

Mayor Pittman is wondering where his wife is; the meeting can hardly begin without her, because it's her money that will fund the cottage hospital that the Mayor is determined to establish at the edge of town. The idea for a hospital took hold in an idle conversation a year earlier between Albert Pittman and his friend Nicholas Greene, a physician who was visiting the mayor's town with the thought of establishing a practice there. One thing led to another, an architect was engaged, costs were assessed, and the case presented to Lavinia -- because she was where the money was. The plan is to buy out John Hooks, because his farm is ideally suited for a hospital: a generous space within walking distance, if need be, for all but the truly infirm. The farmer knows nothing of this, but surely he will jump at the offer. After all, he's tired of farming, and his son doesn't care for the life.

The plan is for attorney Pettifore to submit the necessary documents to Lavinia for her signature, and a project that was bound to reflect well on the mayor will suddenly take a great leap forward. Jeremy Pettifore has offered his home for the signing, although the mayor agreeing to it without first consulting his wife was probably a bad idea. But since the Pittmans would be attending a formal holiday fete later that evening and the Pettifore house was right on the way, the arrangement made eminent sense. Except ... no Mrs. Mayor. So the men wait outside, apparently for evidence that the carriage of Lavinia Von Struss Pittman has not upended in a ditch somewhere, in which case they will all rush to her aid, even though no one besides Doctor Greene could be of any real use.

The Midwife scene (Houses 5, 6 and 7):

Cradle(11K) Grace Newcomb hesitates just outside her door, mentally reviewing her kit. Does she have all she needs? Stethoscope, forceps, scissors, knives, clamp, a sedative, bandages and plaster? Yes. The birth should be an easy one; it will be Teresa's sixth, and the first five were fast. Grace won't have to walk far: her patient's comfortable, gabled house is just across the river, and the billowing smoke from its huge chimney suggests that there will be hot water aplenty. No doubt June, Teresa's middle daughter, will be clutching her own baby doll and waiting for Grace. Little June-Bug wants to be a midwife when she grows up; it will be a task to keep the child out of the birthing room. Grace wonders about Doctor Greene, whether it matters to him that he won't be the one delivering the baby. Their relationship has got off to a rocky start -- each of them clearly feels threatened by the other -- but lately they seem to have achieved a level of comfort with one another. Grace hopes so, because if the rumor of a cottage hospital were true, she would like to be included among its staff.

Mickey Sullivan, pushing a customer briskly in his sled, catches sight of the midwife with her kit and calls out to her: "Will you be needing a ride, Miss Grace?" He's all business now that he owns a conveyance; he has left childish pursuits behind him. There's money to be made, and he prides himself on his professional manner.

"Thank you, Mickey," the midwife answers, "but I can easily walk. I'm going just across the bridge."

Well, bad luck there, he thinks, disappointed. Grace always gave him a little something extra for his services. "Another time, then, Miss Grace."

The Rooftop scene (House 8):

santa(15K) If that's Santa down by the ice , then who's up there on the roof?



The Perils of Skating scene (Houses 9 and 10):

santa(15K) Little Eloise has been asking for skates for three straight winters now, but her mother is having none of it. "Why, anything could happen to you, child. You could fall in, you could get knocked down and run over, you could get cut by a blade or break a bone. More than one bone!" Mrs. Pettifore points to a gaily dressed young woman sprawled on the ice, produce spilling from her basket. "She will be sore tomorrow, mark my words." But Eloise isn't convinced. "The others aren't falling; they're holding a rope. That's all you have to do, mother! Please?"

The answer is most decidedly "no."

The Faithful Dog scene (House 11):

santa(15K) Rusty is getting on. The dog is eleven years old now and has developed a touch of rheumatism this cold, cold winter, but he's as devoted to his elderly mistress as ever. Mrs. Jack Jones suffers from the affliction herself, but that doesn't stop her from limping through her appointed rounds, her faithful dog in tow. Her husband is also in tow. "Why won't you see Doctor Greene?" Jack Jones begs her. "He would give you something for the pain."

"Shush. We're home. I'll be fine after I have my tea. You fuss too much!" snaps Mrs. Jones. The former Miss Bates (for a very long time) is used to taking care of herself. "But I'll tell you what," she adds, softening. "You can build us a nice hot fire, and I will sit with you for a spell."

For Jack, it will have to do. For Rusty, it's all he could possibly want.

The Town Sweep scene (House 12):

Samuel Rickens has been trying hard to stay on the straight and narrow, he really has. It's been weeks, going on a month now, since he's been in The Caboose. He's not sure what turned him around -- he's certainly not sure he'll stay turned around -- but for now, he feels good about having steady work and not just the odd job sweeping up after horses on Main Street. He's a genuine town employee, thanks to a mayor who was willing to give him a chance, and he wants to stay that way. Sam sweeps the bridge with extra vigor. It helps to keep his mind off all the goings-on in The Caboose.

The Snowmen and Snowballs scene (House 13):

santa(15K) santa(15K) Well, it's just not the same without Mickey Sullivan to lead them, the kids all agree; every gang needs a leader. But they're making do as best they can without him, convinced that after the snow melts and his new business dries up, he'll come back to play. As for Mickey's cousin Big Billy, he's not keen on coming out of his house today. The last time it snowed, and without Mickey to protect him, he got absolutely pummelled with snowballs. So he stays inside, peeking out a window and wondering why the others have to play right alongside his house and not somewhere, anywhere, else. "Go outside and get some fresh air," his mother cajoles. Billy's reply? "I'd rather walk the plank." Which, in a way, is what it would amount to.



The New House scene (House 14):

santa(15K) Will and Harmony Jenkins have been married for half a year. It was a quiet ceremony with almost no family -- they have none to speak of -- but it was attended by many who have real affection for the kind-hearted handiman and the young widow who agreed to be his wife. Father Andrew officiated, needless to say; he has become a close friend. Now, buoyed by the news that Harmony will soon have a child, the couple has decided to search for a house that they can call their own. Will has lived his adult life as a tenant, and the situation has suited him. Not any longer. He wants a place that he can fix and improve as time and money permit. A place they can call home.

The red house is one they've always admired -- nothing too big, but charming and in wonderful shape. Which, alas, is its main flaw, because Will does want a fixer-upper. Still, as they stand before the entry, waiting for the owner to usher them inside for a look, they can't help but imagine themselves enjoying a quiet supper with a -- smiling, of course -- baby at the table beside them. And planting fruit trees in the yard come spring. And vegetables in the summer. "And gooseberry bushes; we must have them, " Harmony murmurs to Will while they wait. "There's plenty of room to add on in the back," Will notes with satisfaction. What a nice house. If the price were right ... this might be the one, despite its fine condition.

The door swings open, and from within comes the cinnamon smell of apple pie. An elderly man, bearded and with white hair, shoos them inside and into the embrace of his welcoming wife. "So! You want to buy our house ...."

For earlier chapters of this Christmas tale, click on the links to previous mantels:

2016 Christmas Putz

Xmas candle(1522K)

2015 Christmas Putz

2014 Christmas Putz

2013 Christmas Putz

2012 Christmas Putz

2011 Christmas Putz

2009 Christmas Putz

2008 Christmas Putz

2007 Christmas Putz

2006 Christmas Putz

2005 Christmas Putz

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