Which Goose Is Getting Fat?

Double wreaths edit

Double wreaths, December 2014 (iPhone 5s)

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat,

Please to put a penny in the old man’s hat;

If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do;

If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you!

Christmas Is Coming” has been playing over and over in my head lately. My sources, aka wikipedia, tell me that it is both a nursery rhyme and an American carol. Why the “ha’penny,” or half-penny, if this song is American? Maybe half-pennies were used in eighteenth-century America? I could find out, if I did extensive research, but there’s the rub: I can’t do research, because Christmas is coming, and, at our house, the metaphorical goose is looking lean.

Close-up of a Christmas wall-hanging made by my mother

Close-up of the wall hanging, made by my mother

Historically, I am the one who sees to it that Christmas cards are sent and presents are bought. Once my husband gets the lights on the tree, I’m the one, aided by my youngest son and daughter, who puts on the ornaments. This year, the strings of white lights were mysteriously missing, but putting on the lights never goes smoothly. Still, my husband got ’em up. He even put up the Father Christmas wall hanging and placed the angel on top of the tree. Despite the fact that Christmas cards have been on the dining room table for weeks, I haven’t started addressing them, nor have I put one ornament on a hook. I’m hoping that the influx of my college kids this weekend will motivate me. If I don’t buy the presents, who will? If I don’t bring up the ornaments from the basement, will they find their way onto the prickly fir branches this December?

A line from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory drifted into my head as I thought about the many responsibilities that mothers and fathers have on holidays and birthdays: “We are the music makers, / And we are the dreamers of the dreams.” I’m not sure what Mr. Wonka meant by quoting Arthur O’Shaughnessy here, but, for me, these words mean: make music for your children, and dream dreams with them. In my childhood, my mother added the sparkle to festive occasions. She was the person who ensured that gifts were bought and cakes were made. Being a parent is daunting, and there are moments when I fail, or nearly fail. This year, my blog is threatening to derail Christmas at our house.

IMG_3306 straighten

Season of Symmetry? There seemed to be many “doubles” in this picture of a downtown church decorated for Christmas. Closer examination reveals more triples. (iPhone 5s)

IMG_3305 rotate

Designed by Douglas Ellington, First Baptist Church was completed in 1927. (iPhone 5s)

For now, I must shift my focus from the blog and to the family goose, which needs fattening with only two weeks left until Christmas Day. The literal goose is getting fat, by which I mean myself. I have gained between 5 and 10 pounds this fall. I’ve heard of the Freshman 15, but is there a Blogging 10? Too much time at my laptop, too little time in the kitchen, and a slowing metabolism have proved an unfortunate combination. When I first started blogging, I was taking hikes to generate fodder for posts, but then Blogging 101 came along, followed by Photography 101. So, yeah. The weight gain isn’t exactly encouraging me to roll out the sugar cookie dough.

Of course, the point of “Christmas Is Coming” is not a reminder to stuff the goose (whoever the goose might be) but to “put a penny in the old man’s hat.” While this phrase brings to mind a Dickensian figure holding out a battered top hat, an awareness of those less fortunate than ourselves is as important now as when this rhyme was first sung. (And when was that? My desire to research this carol is growing.) Recent posts by Teresa and Kim have reminded me to think of others in the midst of merry-making. This week, my mother-in-law took my son to buy gifts for a needy child; she has done this with my children for years. Many people, old and young, struggle through cold, hungry, or lonely days while I am busy making cookies or addressing Christmas cards.

Except that I’m not mixing cookie dough or putting on stamps: I’m on my computer, tweaking a sentence here, reading a post there. I hope that you see less of me over the next few weeks! I’ll miss reading your posts regularly as much as I’ll miss writing my own. My 10-year-old tells me that I talk about other people’s blogs too much, but how can I keep silent about Lia’s apple pie encounter on the New York subway, or Dan’s reference to a Star Trek episode in his post about comment spam, or Deborah’s post about the Christmas Train in Santa Cruz? In the meantime, I leave you with a Christmas poem that I wrote “many and many a year ago,” back when I used to make Christmas cards:

Starry Night poem


The “double” photos are for a Photography 101 assignment. All text and photos copyrighted 2014 by Sandra M. Fleming. “Starry Night” poem written by Sandra M. Fleming and copyrighted © 2014.

Note: I succumbed to curiosity about the origins of “Christmas Is Coming.” While the song experienced a surge in popularity in the United States during the mid-twentieth century, it first appeared in a British publication in 1882, according to the author of TreasuryIslands.

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19 thoughts on “Which Goose Is Getting Fat?

    • Well, I have my “orange” moments for sure, Terri — like right now. I’ve been pretty good today about staying off the computer, but it is hard not to check email and see what new posts have come through. I wonder if it is better or worse for two “colors” to be married to each other? My husband is probably a “blue,” with traces of “gold” and very little “orange.”

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  1. Pingback: Pack Your Bags: Virtual Tour Blog Award! | sappy as a tree: celebrating beauty in creation

  2. You may remember that we have 18 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. When they first started making their appearances, I was worried they might become self-centered or proud with all the attention they were getting, and I surely did not want that to happen. Several years in a row, I gave them money to use–not for themselves but for others. The requirement was that they had to buy, wrap and deliver the gifts to someone who was poorer than they. That proved to be a great experience for them all. I went with five of them on one such shopping spree and was amazed that our “non-verbal” grandson (still standing up in the shopping cart) could calculate in his head just how much money he had left after each item he purchased. Of course the little pre-schooler did not know about tax, so he did not calculate that, and I did not remind him. 😉 ❤

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  3. I so enjoyed reading this post! You put me in the Christmas spirit! I’ve actually sung that song since I was a kid… Our music teacher taught us about the half penny…
    And it was heartwarming to read about your family Christmas traditions… Plus, your poem from your homemade card was lovely!
    Thank you for sharing and merry Christmas to you and yours!!
    Ps Thank you so much for the mention of my apple pie story! I feel honored and overjoyed that my words made you smile:)

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    • Thank you, Lia! We learned that song in my music class, too — I have been amazed at how many of the songs that I learned in elementary school have stayed with me as an adult (considering that my music class teacher for grades 1 through 5 was an intimidating person; maybe she scared us into paying attention, although it is not a method that I would recommend).

      I loved your apple pie story, and I saw that “Momma” of A Momma’s View had mentioned another one of your posts in her wrap-up for the week. You have a knack for writing about the human experience, I think 🙂 Merry Christmas to you as well!

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      • Oh, she sounds like an intimidating teacher indeed! My teacher was a sweet lady and I remember thinking how cool the song was because we sang it in a Dickens’ style British way!

        I’m so thrilled to have been on your blog and honored as well to be on Momma’s! Your comment about me having a knack for writing about the human experience really hit home…You made me smile ear-to-ear!
        Have a lovely Christmas and look forward to reading more when you’re back from your holidays!

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  4. Loved hearing about the Christmas Goose and all the goings on in your neck of the woods. Great photos of the church. When my kids were young and still at home I remember feeling the pressure around the holidays. I was the one to buy the gifts. I was not baking homemade cookies but I did decorate as well. It is special to have decorations that are made by our mothers. I love the expression, the Blogging 10 for weight gain. I know exactly what you are talking about unfortunately. Blogging is a sedentary activity. I did not know that rhyme about the ha’ penny was American either. It does sound like something from Dickens’ England. And I don’t know what it is either. I remember we learned about it in elementary school. Hang in there with all the Christmas preparations. There are some most important things about the holidays. As you say it is the religious significance for some and thinking about others less fortunate and the importance of being with family. I am sure your Christmas decorations will be beautiful and wishing you a very Merry Christmas. Be sure to be good to you and put you feet up with a cup of something warm and enjoy some time to yourself too. Thank you for the mention in your post. 🙂

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    • I’ve never been the best at decorating, so I might be using my blog as an excuse? It has been so much fun getting to know people in all parts of the country (like you), at all different stages of life 🙂 My daughter pointed out that she and her sister had to jumpstart the decorating last year, so I think it is really just me, procrastinating because I’d rather do other stuff besides clean my house. A few years ago, we ended up hosting the party for the church youth group: it was a lot of work, but it was really nice to have the house decorated early. . . .

      I wonder if wikipedia was wrong about that song being American? I finally gave in and started doing some research, and another website said that it was British, which makes more sense. Usually, wikipedia is fairly reliable, but this particular article was a “stub.” It wouldn’t be the first time that I had to change a post.

      I do hope those heavy rains, etc., let up in California: such a balance, because the water is needed. I was sad when I saw the photos of flooded San Francisco in the newspaper (after I read your post). Merry Christmas to you and yours! (As you see, I am still checking WordPress. I still have one last assignment to post for Photo 101 but will probably post that on my other blog, for media storage reasons. My oldest daughter and middle son come home tonight, though, so we will see how much restraint I have about checking on my blogging buddies.)

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