Christmas Crafts, Part 1

Route 1, North PoleBack by popular demand: my Christmas story, in three parts, which first appeared here in December 2011. It’s been updated a bit, but mostly it’s the same story that made readers laugh until they cried. Go on, read it again….


Grandpa Jack collected Popsicle sticks the way most men collect baseball cards. There wasn’t a pipe cleaner or butter tub the man didn’t use. He wove potholders out of cloth loops and covered wire coat hangers with plastic braid. He crocheted blankets, stenciled leather wallets, and painted wooden Christmas ornaments by the boxful.

Grandpa Jack had three children and seven grandchildren and I’m the sole repository of his crafting gene. I’ve never crocheted, but I’m proficient in paper maché and can macramé, needlepoint, faux paint, and sew. I own my own glue gun.

My ex-husband had little patience for crafts, but in 1995, Michael discovered the Department 56 North Pole Village and purchased twelve porcelain buildings in one spree at the local Hallmark store. He trundled through the front door with box after box of the toaster-sized buildings plus Santa and his sleigh, Mrs. Claus, a slew of bustling elves, and a small forest of trees. He handed me the reindeer barn. “See the hole? You insert a light bulb to make the windows glow. It’s like the elves are inside working.”

I turned the barn side-to-side and smiled despite myself. “Yes, but….” I glanced at the packaging and gasped. “Forty-five dollars?”

“Honey, it’s an investment. Collector’s items appreciate.”

I had trouble envisioning a reindeer barn as an investment.

Michael swooshed a pair of sledding elves down an imaginary hill. “I wanted to buy more but settled for a starter set.”


The first year Michael lined up his collection on the fireplace hearth, the white electric cords snaked across charcoal stone. To build a fire, we had to dismantle half the display. When my parents crawled on the carpet to see the elves, I knew I had to devise a better presentation, sealing my fate quicker than Liquid Nails.

The video included with Michael’s purchase displayed dazzling villages surrounded by snow-dappled trees. A man sawed into chair-sized foam blocks and sponge-painted them gray and brown to create mountains. He bored holes to hide electric cords and built ice sculptures and peppermint footpaths. I leaned forward, giddy with excitement. Who knew Michael’s North Pole Village was the ultimate craft project?

The next Christmas Michael acquired the Elves’ Bunkhouse and the Glacier Gazette. I bought yards of cotton batting and bags of artificial snow to cover the growing tangle of electrical cords. When Michael bought the Teddy Bear Factory the following year, I moved the village to the buffet in our remodeled kitchen. I carved sheets of Styrofoam into a jagged mountain backdrop and paper machéd shoeboxes into multi-level terrain.

Grandpa Jack’s crafting gene melded with my urban planning degree; on our kitchen countertop, I master-planned the North Pole.

To be continued…

Until next time,

About Cynthia J. Patton

Writer, Editor, Advocate, Speaker, Special Needs Attorney, and Autism Mom. Also the Founder and Chairperson of Autism A to Z, a nonprofit providing resources and solutions for life on the spectrum.
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