You Can’t Get Everything at IKEA

Today is a special treat.

My dear fryber, Julie Gardner is guest posting.

Poor, sweet, Julie. She is so beloved in the blog world I’ve read her guest posts on most of the blogs I frequent, because she is generous and cannot say no to a begging plea from a friend.

Her words? Magical.

She is somehow simultaneously witty, self-deprecating, and snort-your-milk hilarious in one second, and in the next you are pouring your deep dark secrets to her, reaching for a tissue, and calling your children over to give them an extra hug because she’s reminded you how much your adore your little hellions angels.

And that’s just in her single paragraph comments. If you haven’t read her blog, you’re missing out.

I would go on about her fabulousness, but I have to pack. My two year old won’t stop coughing long enough to fall asleep. Regurgitation has already occurred thanks to The Cough. I might be doing laundry tonight in between packing and sleeping – a deja vu pattern eerily familiar from last January’s vacation.

So here is Julie, reminding us why we do crazy things over the holidays like expose our children to airplane germs and stay in a house with your extended family for a week.

Our Not-So-Silent Night

My ears remember, first, the angel chimes. Have you heard them? (They’re sold now at IKEA.) The ding ding ding of bells as golden trumpeters circle the candle flames, urged onward by heat and little-girl excitement. The air crackles with an endless loop of carols crooned by Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby; Johnny Mathis and Barbra Streisand. My sister and I gallop around our house singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” because it was. It is.

I taste authentic Swedish potato sausage (which you can’t get at IKEA); crunchy Wasa bread (not for the faint of heart); frozen vegetables mixed with cream of mushroom soup and topped by eight ounces of shredded cheddar cheese (because we don’t overdo it) before baking. We slip JELL-O salad from its mold, the sweet-pretzel crust crumbling below chunks of suspended fruit. Flour dusts the countertops our mother has lined with wax paper for cookies. We burn our tongues on freshly minted pepparkakor then cool them with wedges of uncooked dough chilled in the refrigerator. The buzz of the oven-timer joins the ding ding ding of angel chimes and Doris Day suggesting we “slice up the fruitcake” which makes us giggle because we wouldn’t. We won’t.

My eyes feast on colored bulbs my father has strung along our rooftop, the tiny lights he’s wound around the tree we picked. I take in clingy tinsel, threaded strands of popcorn and glue-caked noodle ornaments; balls of mistletoe above our entryway. Grandma and Grandpa are coming! And Aunt Karen! (Then eventually Uncle Kurt. But we didn’t find him at IKEA, either.) We huddle in our parents’ bedroom waiting for the “Okay” then run to find canopied doll beds or banana-seated bicycles; a porcelain lamp, a wicker headboard. We behold our treasures wrapped in crinkly paper and curled ribbon. We gush “Thank you,” so gratefully because we were. We are.

Julie proves a cute family photo is possible.. as long as two year olds aren't involved.

I smell smoke from the fireplace and sap on sticky pine needles; my nose wrinkles at the Glögg (homemade, sorry IKEA) steaming in cups because I can’t sip until I’m 21 and Grandpa says, “That’ll clear your sinuses!” while the adults laugh loudly. My grandmother wears Shalimar (a scent I know as well as the tune to “Lara’s Theme” she hums year-round) but I don’t know whether my ears or mouth or eyes or nose is happiest because of all the joy that I had. That I have.

(Note from Kelly: I think I had the same skirt growing up, but Julie rocks it far better than I did).

Too soon it’s time for bed so we clamber to the window and peek between curtains in search of the red light that means “Rudolf!” but I’ll never fall asleep because I’m too excited yet these blankets are very warm and my pillow is extra-soft and I feel luckier and more loved than anyone in the whole world (except maybe Santa) and I’m sleepy and my sister’s in the room with me because tonight is special since it comes only once a year, every year of my childhood.

My Christmas Eve traditions.

They were. And they are.

* * *

You can read more of Julie on her blog By Any Other Name… and you should.

If you’re visiting from Julie’s blog and would like to see what my blog is like, visit my About Me page for a breakdown of my more popular posts.

And have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a great Kwanzaa.

About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos ( sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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39 Responses to You Can’t Get Everything at IKEA

  1. Annie says:

    Love it, Julie. I had that same skirt! I thought my mom sewed it, but maybe not. She made a lot of my clothes.

    Happy Holidays to both of you! My apologies for being such an absent commentor – but I’ve been reading! It’s just been nuts around here. If you read my blog, you know we got our holiday barfing out of the way this week. Ugh. I’m just glad we are all mending before the big day.

    Great family pic, Kelly…I use the tripod a lot. You do what ya gotta do. Nothing wrong with that. 😉

    • Annie,

      My mother may very well have made these skirts; my sister and I were always dressed in matching clothes on the holidays that she’d made.

      For better or worse, my daughter’s always been stuck with store-bought stuff.
      And I rarely make my son match her ;-)…

  2. John says:

    Julie – this put me “right there,” and I’m all smiles now.

    I would look at the tree with my sister, each of us trying to figure out which present we would open the night before – then, I’d head out to Christmas service after Christmas service, playing organ, or singing, or being an altar boy, or a narrator for the Christmas pageant, whatever the church needed (my duties changed as I got older). I’d head home and open the present I had meticulously picked out, then leave the cookies & milk . . . heck, I’d even listen for Santa as I went to bed (always well past midnight).

    And I’d always wake up unbelievably early in the morning.

    • John,

      Ah, yes. The early wake-up. My parents didn’t wrap gifts from Santa so my sister and I weren’t allowed downstairs (or even at the top of the stairs where we could peek).

      It was torture to have to wait. And then also SO worth it because of the built-up excitement.

      Like most things in life, no?

      Merry Christmas to you and your family, my friend.
      And cheers to a fabulous 2012 for us all~

  3. Kelly,

    Your introduction left me speechless (almost) and smiling (definitely). Thank you so much for having me here, for your patience with me (and my ancient pictures); but thanks especially for the opportunity to put to words some of my most cherished memories.

    This has been a gift to me. And hopefully my family.

    Sending love to yours this holiday season. I hope it’s truly beautiful.
    (With minimal regurgitation – which is sort of a prerequisite for beauty, no?)

  4. Nanny K says:

    A GREAT GIFT!! Thanks Jules…for putting it all on paper (well…you know). My angel chimes are already set atop our kitchen counter, awaiting everyone’s arrival on Christmas Eve. God bless Randy for tolerating the incessant dinging. It fills ME with nostalgia, but makes HIM cringe. Since my memories are as happy as yours, it must be true. We were (are) the luckiest, most loved girls in the world!

    Kelly…Thanks for having Julie here today. Isn’t she amazing??? Loved your caption beneath the family pic. Two year olds do have a knack for taking pictures from sublime to sub-par!

    • Nance,

      I seem to remember MANY family pics of our kids where one (or more) were none too cooperative. Good thing they’re all perfect angels now. Right?

      Can’t wait to see you (and your chimes) in just two days.
      Bill’s already working on the glogg.

      And I’m working on stretching out my stomach…


  5. Poppy says:

    I can feel the love in your post, but the description of the frozen veggies and mushroom soup just confirms the reason I always eat lunch before I hit Ikea.

  6. JW Moxie says:

    Oh, Julie, you’ve done it again. Our Christmas Eve traditions were very, very different, but this post makes me feel all those nights of warmth and love all over again. Even more, it makes me so much more aware of how I’m now the one creating these memories for *my* children. It adds another layer of yuletide warmth to the whole mix.

    • I know what you mean ~ it’s a strange kind of joy and responsibility to be the one in charge of the memories now, isn’t it?

      I hope I’ve done it all justice for my kids. And also that I don’t have to wait until they’re in their forties and have a blog to find out whether or not I succeeded!

      Cheers to you, my friend. And to a spectacular 2012…so glad to have met you this year.

  7. kvetchmom says:

    Julie, I just loved reading this. Your writing is alive with scents and smells and life. I feel like I’m right there in my own hand stitched dress (the little Jewish girl standing behind you and Nancy shoving candy canes down her pants).

    Anyhow, I love you & your writing. So blessed to know you again as an adult. xoxoxo

    • JLW –

      You and your candy-canes-in-your-pants would’ve fit RIGHT in with the Christianson sisters. We *may* have done stuff like that, too. (You can’t prove anything…)

      But you CAN prove I wore blue polyester and sparkle belts in high school. And yet that’s not why I’m nice to you, promise 😉

      I am SO happy to have reconnected with you in our adulthood. It’s beyond wonderful to be on this ride with someone whom I knew “when.”

      And let me know if you find out what that means. You seem pretty smart!
      Love to you and yours ~

  8. Diane says:

    While I didn’t have that skirt and my holiday memories aren’t as clear as yours, your story brought a smile and a tear to me this morning. Thanks and happy, happy holiday! See you later 🙂

    • Di –
      You have much better taste in clothing (which I can swear to in court since you give me so much of your wardrobe…)

      So glad you are a part of my life now, and a part of our holiday traditions past and present.

      We’ll miss you this Christmas, but hopefully can meet up on the 27th. No matter what, we’ll be together soon and often…

      This I know for sure.
      XOXO and have a wonderful holiday with Phil!

  9. Julie – great memories! Love the pics that go along with it. As adults, for all of the challenges the holidays can bring, it’s JUST MAGIC for the kids. And that’s why we keep the traditions going strong.

    • Missy,

      Yes. It’s the magic, always. Treasure it with your girls because as much as our memories and moments are still joyful, my kids are already past the age of total “belief” –

      It’s hard for me to imagine those years of Santa faith are already over.
      Hold on tight, my friend.

      And I hope you and your family have a beautiful Christmas!

  10. Such beautiful memories -is that how you turned out so wonderfully? Your family sounds like joy and warmth.

    Happy Holidays to you and yours, Julie.

  11. Julie, I want to spend Christmas with you! And GO Wasa bread! And Uncle Knute. Love the name.

    ps – Isn’t Nat King Cole just THE BEST? Aside from the Carpenters Christmas album of course.

    • TFC –
      I would totally spend Xmas with you – I’d get my baby fix and play with Chalupa…my kids are so big they aren’t even cute anymore (shhhh).

      But. I draw the line at Carpenters Christmas. That Karen is constantly on the radio crooning carols in that alto voice of hers. It’s depressing. I’d *almost* rather hear the chipmunks. Almost.

      p.s. Knute is my grandpa. He’s a rock star for sure. Better than Wasa bread, even.

  12. So sweet and lovely and wonderful. If it weren’t for the creepy elf-on-a-shelf-looking Santa, it would be the most perfect portrait of childhood Christmas. Who am I kidding? It’s perfect even so. You are one very blessed woman to have such a beautiful childhood. To have such a remarkable life. Your family seems very special to me. What’s more, it’s obvious you’re aware of it, and that makes you special. Merry Christmas, dear Julie (and you, too, Kelly. Heyyyyyy. Nice to meet you.)

  13. Kelley says:

    This was beautiful, Julie! I think the feeling of being incredibly loved is better than any physical Christmas gift. It is no wonder that you are so awesome since you came from this wonderful family. Merry Christmas!!

  14. Stephanie says:

    We had one of those bell things, ours had angels though. I loved that decoration!

    • Yes, the Angel Chimes. They’re so fantastic – if you grew up with them and remember them nostalgically.

      There may be a person or two who married in who don’t so much LOVE them 😉

      Not naming any names…

  15. Cameron says:

    For Christmas, Julie, I want your ability to write about my memories.

  16. Nancy C says:

    What Cam said.

    You know? As a German-Lutheran girl, I grew up thinking I didn’t have a “culture”—you know, like my Italian-Catholic friends. But as I do my special little traditions—making cookies full of vowels and other oddities that feel completely normal to me—I realize that I did.

    I love how you honor yours. The real kind. Not the IKEA version.

    • Nancy,
      Yes. Exactly! It’s the little details that make up the traditions, the culture;
      And it’s the people. The love.

      That’s what matters.
      And I know you have plenty of that…

  17. Nina Badzin says:

    Seriously, you’d fit right in with many families in Minnesota who have that authentic Swedish heritage. (though everyone here still loves IKEA!)

    Also, you’re a guest-posting maven! Good for you!

  18. I swear I also had that skirt, but you totally rocked it. Like a G6 like a G6. I can’t see what I’m writing because I’m on my iPad and it isn’t behaving, but now I can see. So I hope what is above this makes sense. Guess I’ll find out in a minute.

    More importantly, have a wonderful Christmas with the people you love the most. And keep on dancin’ you crazy Dancer!

  19. Hi Julie. You put a Christmas smile on my face. Thank you. And? I love the skirt! Now I’m going to write my Christmas oddities……er, I mean memories down before I forget them yet again.

  20. Bridget says:

    Oh this is lovely. Lovely. I wish I’d read it when I was weepy on Christmas eve. So sweet. I can’t wait to enjoy great Christmas traditions again.

  21. Mommy Shorts says:

    You see? This is why being Jewish makes me sad sometimes. The one night magical wonder of it all. You make it sound so gut-wrenchingly glorious, Julie! Thank you for sharking as always.

    (Merry Christmas, Kelly!)

  22. Mark L says:

    Yeah, Julie, fantastic. Funny and heartwarming all wrapped up in a pretty Christmas package. I’m excited for a New Year’s post . . .

  23. maybaby says:

    The best part of celebrating Christmas is unwrapping our memories each year. Your post brought me back to the lime jello with onions, celery, peas and black olives my dad requested each year, the smell of oyster stew that no one else would eat, the krumkake and divinity and wearing pink sponge curlers in my hair all day for the Christmas eve program at church. I so wish my grandparents were still here, to read my blog and see me honor the beautiful moments they created for us. You have done a fantastic job (as always) of honoring yours! Happy New Year Julie, so glad I discovered you and your beautiful voice this year.

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