2020, Here We Come

As much as New Year’s Day is a snore of a holiday for non-partying me, I love starting a new year. A fresh start, a new journal, a chance to start over. I’ve heard it said that the 20s don’t technically begin this year, but actually start in 2021. While there’s logic behind this reasoning, I’ll follow the crowd on this one and welcome in the 20s with everyone else. At the worst, I’m just getting an extra year of the 20s.

The Youth’s Companion, March 10, 1927

It’s surreal that it’s the 20s again. Not that I remember this decade from the 1900s but for some reason, it doesn’t seem all that long ago and I’m not sure why. It might be because my grandparents were born in the 1920s and I have a connection to the decade that way. 

Or maybe it’s because it’s a decade from the past that we can relate to. There were huge differences from the early 1900s to the 1920s in every way, from transportation to clothing to technology. But  think we can identify more with an era of cars, radios, and electricity than we can relate to the times of ankle length dresses and horse-drawn carriages just a few years earlier.

I also think that the 20s don’t seem long ago is because the 1920s are as accessible to us as present-day media. What started as a quick youtube search this week led me down a rabbit hole of countless fascinating videos from the 1920s. The first talking movie was made in 1927, after all.

I’m really excited to explore the life of a 1920s housewife this year and for the decade to come. When people think of the Roaring 20s, they usually think of the flapper culture and the loosened morals. They were a part of the decade, of course, but those were only subsets of the culture. It was a fascinating time in history.

I’m hoping that 2020 kicks off a renewed interest in the 1920s. So, as long as it’s the 20s….Art Deco everything, please! Suits for men, dresses for women, and elegant hats for all! Jazz and songs like “I’ll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time” and one of my favorites, “Stardust.” Sitting around the radio and dancing the Charleston. It would be the bee’s knees.

Vintage Readings for Christmas

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Here we are again in the middle of December, the height of the Christmas season. For me, the time from November 1st to January 1st is jam-packed with Christmas music, lights, movies, food, and hopefully lots of snow to set the mood. Getting my fill of the holiday to last me until the next November 1st is serious, focused work.

Music, movies, and food are ubiquitous during the holiday season, but what about Christmas stories? Yes, it’s likely difficult to slow down for a quiet activity like reading. But it’s another way to enjoy this special season if you’re able to take the time.

Everyone knows the story of the Nativity, A Christmas Carol, and “Twas the Night before Christmas.” As well known as the stories are, people seldom take the time to actually read them. But you should! I notice something new every time I read one of the familiar stories. Every Christmas season, I pull out my old and new favorites to enjoy.

Journey into Christmas. I found this copy last January at a used book store and saved it all year to read this Christmas. Bess Streeter Aldrich is one of my favorite authors. If you enjoy cozy stories about home and family, I highly recommend her writing. Some of the stories are excerpts from her longer novels but others are stand-alone short stories. This is a collection of just her Christmas-themed stories–old-fashioned vignettes of family and simple living. I read “Youth is all of an Up and Coming” for the first time last night and the ending took me by surprise. My, my, such a scandal!

Did you know that Charles Dickens wrote more Christmas stories than A Christmas Carol? I have this particular beast of a book that my husband bought me, but you can get a similar edition here. (And if you like the e-reader format, you can get the ebook here for a song.)  The book includes The Chimes, which I have in a separate, antique edition titled Christmas Stories. I’ve started it several times, but this will be the year I read the whole thing, I’ve told myself.

Another of my favorite discoveries is this little ebook gem, called Evergreen Christmas Readings. This bargain has everything Christmas–stories, poems, and carols, all by classic authors. The collection includes authors I know, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Lousia May Alcott and it’s introduced me to many “new” authors of the past. I even found a story I’ve long looked for but didn’t know the title, called “Papa Panov’s Special Christmas” by Leo Tolstoy.  It will take me years to read through this collection, but that’s perfect. By the time I finish I can start all over again.

Grandmother’s Party; 1916

Everyone in the house had had a party except Grandmother. Mother had entertained twenty friends at cards and Janet had had a dancing party. Bob had a fine time giving some of his chums a sleigh ride following with a dinner at the club and Father had just bowed his last guest out from a dinner.

“Now it’s Grandmother’s turn,” said loyal Bob. “She ought to have a party. And have a party she did.

Never was more pleasure given to twelve elderly ladies than was theirs on that lovely September afternoon. The whole family entered into the spirit of the affair. Bob insisted that his part was to get the flowers and vines to decorate the house and Janet could arrange them. “I’m not going to have any of your ordinary garden stuff,” he announced,”anyone can have that. Grandmother’s party is to be the best ever.”

He always knew just where the most decorative things grew in wood and field and often brought home specimens the family had never seen nor heard of. So he came home laden with quantities of bittersweet, clematis, goldenrod, asters and the lovely berries of wahoo, Solomon’s seal and the wild smilax. These gave the keynote to the affair and the party grew into a real autumn party in every way.

Twelve of Grandmother ‘s friends were invited and word was sent to them that they would be called for at half past two o’clock on Thursday afternoon. In the neighborhood lived a man who was the proud owner of an old white horse that could hardly ever be persuaded to hurry. He had, too, a comfortable surrey with low steps, exactly right and easy for elderly people to step into. Mother asked him to call for all the ladies and then later (after supper) to take them home, especially the ones who were not well and strong.

It was a pretty picture, this one of twelve ladies in dainty gowns sitting with their work and visiting about people and customs of long ago. They had dainty work in light pretty colors—baby socks and lovely little sweaters, mittens and wristlets and beautiful stripes for bedspreads. After a while three little tables were brought in, each one daintily spread and decorated with Bob’s choicest berries. At each place was a four-leaved clover attached to a card that bore an appropriate wish. Then came refreshments, just the things that were dear to their hearts—the things they used to serve long ago! There was pressed chicken and cold tongue, raised biscuit, pickled peaches, dainty little crullers, pound cake and quince sauce. They sat and chatted and sipped their tea as only dear old ladies can. After supper Janet read a story—one of Mary Wilkins’ best, The Parsnip Stew. Then someone suggested a song and the picture of those happy grandmothers leaning back in their rockers, singing the old familiar words, “Should auld acquaintance be forgot,” will be with me ever. Never was music sweeter and never did words come from happier hearts.

The old white horse came entirely too soon. With many a sincere word of appreciation and joy, the guests drove away and Grandmother sat down to think and talk it all over and to tell us that after all her party was the very nicest of all, to which Bob responded heartily, “You’re right, Grandmother. It was.”—