Growing up in Vermont I finally understand what people meant by “You grew up in a Norman Rockwell Painting”.
While yes, my little town of Arlington was actually home to the famed painter, I never really understood until I moved away, and the world began to fall apart.
An idyllic, picturesque, quiet, small town with all the New England charm. Snow crunching under your boots, sun during the day, and clear skies at night so you could see the stars. Wrapped up in scarves and mittens, playing in the snow, and coming into a warming cup of hot chocolate.
Holiday bizarres with tons of beautiful homemade goods, decorations, and gifts, the town tree lit at the community house with everyone gathered around eating cookies, drinking eggnog, and singing Christmas carols.
My mom and I would gather pinecones and pine tree cuttings and make wreaths to hang on our front door and to give to friends.
My dad and I would go pick out and chop down a tree every year. Some years when I was small, he would have to drag me in a sled because the snow was too deep for me to walk. That left him pulling a sled and dragging a tree while walking through 3 feet of snow with a saw in his hand.
We would visit stores like Christmas Days in Sunderland, Vermont to get fun ornaments, bows, and berries to add to them. Christmas Days was a magical place where it was Christmas all year long.
The CANDLE MILL
We would also go to the Candle Mill – an East Arlington hidden gem. This old wooden building overlooking the river had all kinds of beautiful handmade candles – the scents walking in automatically relaxed you. You could dip your own candles, which I loved to do. They had gifts, beautiful boxes, soaps, lotions, stained glass, bells, and upstairs a completely unique music box shop.
Attached to the Candle Mill was a small series of shops not found anywhere else. There was the Rosebud Toy Company that had all kinds of stuffed animals, and creative toys like magic windows, balsa wood airplanes, mood discs that changed color to the touch, paints, markers, coloring books, and much more.
There was a Hat Shop where no one got mad if you tried every hat in the place on and a Cheese Shop with samples galore. Across the street was another store full of fudge, candy, wooden boxes, mugs, and random treasures.
If we wanted to venture a bit further up to Manchester, there was the world-renowned Jelly Mill.
THE JELLY MILL
The Jelly Mill was an indoor shopping area created from a gigantic old barn. It had 5 floors, the top of which was rather rickety even when I was a kid. It would creak and moan as you walked through, which was part of its charm. Each floor was totally unique. Card shops, posters, glass art pieces, figurines, holiday decorations, a gourmet candy, and cheese shop, Crabtree and Evelyn soaps I loved to stop and smell and mixed in among it all were these very interesting cases with hand-sculpted street scenes done of clay with characters in them. Some moved, and all were lit. It was a window into an imaginary world.
Upstairs on the second floor was the Buttery – a luncheon restaurant spot popular in the day. I always felt very fancy eating there when I was little. Going out to lunch or dinner was a special occasion, not common place as it is now. They had great food and big windows, and I can remember piano music always playing from a player piano that was downstairs. At Christmas, they would change the roll to holiday music. It was always warm in there and felt cozy.
The remaining floors were beautiful cookware and table settings and houseware and at the very top was a toy store.
Christmas shopping was personal. It was fun and it made the holiday season feel like the holiday season.
Almost none of these shops exist any longer, nor does my mom who was really the one who made it feel like Christmas for me. My memories are from a time gone by.
The only way to bring them back is in my heart and by sharing them with you.
Thanks for reading! 😉
What makes Christmas “Christmas” to you?