IMG_2258Every year, the minute Thanksgiving turns into Christmas, I head to Tuesday Morning and hope for something good. By this time, their Christmas décor is on the shelves and it’s all I can do not to rub my hands together in anticipation. Every year, I am looking to add to the only collection I have in this world, one composed of an army of nutcrackers.

It all started when I moved to Kentucky and realized my then-boyfriend was in possession of these stately gentlemen, some holding beer steins, one dressed like Sir Arthur, another like a Mouse King, some just standing around holding regal holding staffs. William loves a fully decorated house, so I plonked them down in random places and continued on my merry way.

I didn’t think much about it until Gabrielle helped me decorate the next year and I realized how excited she was to rediscover these guys. She oohed and aahed over every box, cradling each specimen and examining their nut cracking faculties. By then we’d discovered she had a tree nut allergy so there wouldn’t be any actual shell cracking, but she seemed happy enough to be in their presence and help decide where they should live for the month of December.

That’s when I decided we should add one nutcracker every year, so that our army would grow and stay fresh.

And so it has. Thanks to Gabrielle’s mom, we have a ballerina nutcracker whom we call Nina. There is Voyageur Jean-Baptiste, who is from the Hudson Bay Company in Canada. There is Big Benjamin Clarkston, the tallest of the bunch and looking quite a bit like a member of the Queen’s Guard. There is Vlad the Impaler with a handlebar mustache that can only be described as unapologetic. And there is Colonel McSparkles, who Gabrielle has decided is boyfriends with Lieutenant Philip Glitter. These flamboyant fellows were bought on Amazon after I decided I wanted to increase the variety of the collection (boy, did I) and before I discovered the brand Steinbach, the Cadillac of the nutcracker world. For chumps, these Steinbach specimens can set you back between $140 and $160 apiece. But for smarties like me, you can get them for a cool $39.99 to $49.99 almost every year at the beloved Tuesday morning.

Other than a few months at the not-pretty age of 10 with a book of stamps, I’ve never had a collection before. I have to say, there is something uniquely satisfying about it. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that it has to be added to slowly, only one piece each year. This makes every new addition cherished and much examined. I have been known to actually smile at the newest member as I walk by, something that invokes both pleasure and embarrassment.

Interestingly, I have never received any compliments about my collection from my friends. I have several of them assorted right in the kitchen where they can’t be missed and I’ve watched a few of my friends sidle by and look a little uncomfortable. Nutcrackers are, to be fair, pretty freakish. I mean, I’m not saying anything has ever happened in the middle of the night, but I wouldn’t put it past them. They all have glaring blue eyes, no-nonsense mustaches and gumless, exposed teeth that could really pull into a piece of flesh if so inclined. Essentially, if Hitler wanted the ideal-looking army, this would probably be it.

Still, I have affection for the little guys. And Gabrielle still gets a kick out of pulling them out of their Rubbermaid nests every year. And so a nutcracker girl I will remain.

On another note, since this will be my last column of 2015, I want to wish you, dear readers, a very Merry Christmas. With people in my life experiencing a fresh loss today, I am reminded of how important it is to never take anything for granted. Hug your friends and family members hard, eat lots, celebrate long into the night, and never forget how lucky you are.

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