Mysteries of Christmas

santa's empties Maybe it's too early to put the tree away, but I'm ready. When the New Year comes tomorrow, I want to face it without all the holiday detritus around. There's just one burning question I have to answer first.

Don't get me wrong, it was a wonderful Christmas: we had three of my four brothers and their wives and girlfriends and my niece visit; my daughter Hazel was here and it was a joy to see her doing well; the house has progressed so much from last year that everyone gave Eric (and me, though it was mostly him who deserves it for building everything) a round of applause when they saw it; I worked a few shifts at Spotty Dog, earning me some dough and the busy Christmas Eve eve one reminding me what real hard work feels like. I took the break in playing as an opportunity to get my acoustic guitar worked on, it feels like it's in rehab or at least on a long spa retreat and will come back to me refreshed and renewed; the ever-improving kitchen has me feeling more inspired and confident with cooking; I have very nearly finished my Kickstarter reward paintings - I am at long last on number eleven, the final one.

It was a relief to take a break from the booking/mailing/following up/self-promotion/gig treadmill to the point where I can even almost miss it all and want to start doing it all again (only one show in January, here) Instead of worrying about having this record out and who will ever hear it, it's nice to be quiet and appreciate the comments people have sent about the record and realize that however it gets out in the world, we made something good.

All that still doesn't answer the question: what to do with this mysterious box of stranger's ornaments that found their way into our house?

Ten days ago I was trimming the tree, listening to the NRBQ Christmas album and shedding a tear for Tom Ardolino and Wunderle and Will's dad George Rigby and Levon Helm, all gone this year. It was a small tree so I had to be selective, taking ornaments out of boxes: vintage glass and folk art ones, a string of decaying Fruit Loops on yarn from when Hazel was in grade school. The tree was taking on a definite 80's feel - that's when I first had my own Christmases. "Just look at these relics" I was thinking, opening a "Champs" shirt box, filled with - hmm, plastic needlepoint shapes of rocking horses and wreaths, in fluorescent red and green yarn...when did I get these? I turn over an embroidered star: Merry Christmas 1988 with love from Bernie, Denise and the kids. Who?

I turn over another ornament, same thing Merry Christmas from Bernie, Denise and the kids.

I've never heard of these people.

I've never been to Champs.

I've never seen these ornaments before.

I look in the box for some clues: there's a Scots guard in tartan pants, a glittering drummer boy drum.

Maybe the tartan on the Scotsman is a clue - did these come from the UK? Did I end up with ornaments from the people who bought the house in France? Or was Champs a shop in Limoges?

I do a quick Google search - Champs is most definitely an American store, with many branches in the New York area.

I call Eric and he shakes his head - never seen `em before. He reaches in the box and pulls out a desiccated bird's nest, drops it quickly and moves away from the box.

Maybe one of my brothers brought it last year, as a joke? They all plead ignorance. By Christmas Eve, a few of the ornaments had found their way onto the tree.

We opened the backs of the stars, looking for clues. Maybe the box got mingled with my stuff in the storage space in Cleveland. We'll find a note: "The money is buried in the backyard." "Bernie is buried in the backyard."

And now it's time to pack up the ornaments - so what do I do with the Champs box and its contents?

I'm ready for this holiday to end, but I'm already imagining next December, and how it wouldn't feel the same, without Bernie and Denise and the kids.

Better hold on to it.

I want to thank everybody for visiting my blog, and reading and commenting. Here's to a peaceful, hopeful, happy 2013.