It never occurred to me how very Christmas-like is the world of Gnomes. The gorgeously illustrated book of Gnomes was something my dad and mom had out on their coffee table when I was younger. I remember pouring through the pictures and spending hours daydreaming about life in the forest as a Gnome. Perhaps, that was even my first introduction to the adventures of a self-sustaining lifestyle.

I don’t exactly know what made me think of Gnomes, but I picked up the book at the library the other day. As Bean and I looked through it this morning, I remembered exactly how captivating this book was to me and how much imagination is woven throughout the writings and paintings.

There is the gorgeous two-page spread of the inside of a Gnome’s underground home, with a mud room, large living room, the throne of a toilet, the sleeping nooks, the pet mice in a little bed, the enormous stove and the neatly stacked wood. I love the craft area, and the secret trap doors for emergency exits. I love the wood-carved portraits, and all the ornate paintings.

What fanciful child wouldn’t want to lose time looking through this book and living vicariously in this tiny magical world? They have Christmas Decorations on their table all throughout the year. Weddings take place at midnight under the bride’s birthday tree (they don’t start thinking of marriage until they are in their hundreds, so by then the birthday tree is quite magnificent). There is so much symbolism and mysticism and romance here.

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Bean and I were reading through it and he exclaimed that this is the best book he’s ever seen. I love that my parents introduced me to this book, and that I’m sharing it with my kids. I started remembering my childhood home. There were many, because we moved a lot, but there were things that were stable and familiar in every home. Whenever we moved, dad and mom put the pictures on the walls first, and then we were “home.” There was always a coffee table with coffee table books changed out periodically, a few magazines like National Geographic, and some wooden brain-teaser puzzles.

I didn’t realize it then, but the coffee table was strategically set up as a slow-down place to daydream, ponder, imagine, learn, and relax. Something about the beautifully decorated, but not functional or kid-friendly table decorations in some magazines leave me cold. Our coffee table was always being used, and always part of a clean-up of the living room, because it was the center of activity in that room.

This started out about Gnomes, and I realized along the way how very interactive, and learning focused, artful, profound and lovely our home was growing up. This is what I want for my children. I think this is the environment I provide. It is the aim anyway that there are always art supplies, and great things to read, and beautiful things to captivate and imaginative things to help us dream.

And I just might incorporate some Gnomes –  the little, red-hatted folk who are a help to most forest animals, and unknowingly to most humans, a very big help to us as well.

Today I was surprised by a Christmas Decoration I didn’t even know meant anything to me until just today. Now I’m curious about other people’s decorations: the tried and true, the sentimental, the something borrowed/something blue, and the ones you are learning about by your own curiosity and whimsical view of life. Do you have a favorite story you like to put out on your coffee table at Christmas?

photo of Gnome statue from here.

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