Sunday, December 26, 2010

Betsy-Tacy Annual Ornament Exchange

Every year for the past 13 years the Betsy-Tacy listserv has done an ornament exchange to commemorate the famous shopping expedition made by Betsy, Tacy and Tib in Chapter 10 of Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown. First organized by Elizabeth K and then taken over by energetic head elf Betsy Sundquist as a sort of Secret Santa, it is an event that is anticipated with great pleasure by Betsy-Tacy fans. The idea is to send an ornament that is somehow tied into a BT event or character. Some years I have very clever ideas and some I can barely get my sadly ordinary ornament mailed in time to be received by Christmas. For several years, I have included my nieces in the preparation. Although they have not read *all* the books, they were very familiar with Betsy and Tacy from an early age and have enjoyed choosing ornaments and composing notes to their recipients.

This year my ornament sender was incredibly creative! My package was addressed to Emily Webster, the heroine of Emily of Deep Valley, who comes to terms with missing out on a traditional college education when she becomes involved in Deep Valley activities as an adult. Among other things, she befriends the Syrian community, which begins when two boys, Kalil and Yusef, offer to sell her frogs' legs. When Emily realizes that these lively outgoing boys are having a hard time with their American-born classmates, she is determined to help them make friends with children their own age. When she visits their family, she is overwhelmed by the lavish hospitality.

My ornament package, which arrived most appropriately on Christmas Eve, actually included four small glass bowls full of the delicacies offered to Emily by the Syrian families: raisins, dates, nuts, and chocolate beans: Under these carefully wrapped glass bowls (which we unwrapped and immediately sampled) were three beautiful nested boxes (both my mother and I love little boxes so I can't wait to use these). My family watched with interest as each layer was revealed - my nieces and I often open our ornaments together but my parents had never participated in this holiday ritual before:
Inside the pretty boxes was a frog ornament, reminiscent of the frogs' legs sold to Emily Webster by Kalil and Yusef.
Here is the final decorated tree in my living room. After positioning it, I went outside to make sure the lights were visible from the street. Next year, I may try it in another room right in front of a window.

For thos unfamiliar with the Betsy-Tacy books, Emily of Deep Valley is more of standalone title about one of Betsy's younger friends. It is back in print, in a lovely new edition with a forward from Mitali Perkins, a talented author who has been a delightful recruit to the Boston area Betsy-Tacy fans. Even if you haven't read the other Betsy-Tacy books, Emily of Deep Valley will appeal to teen and adult readers who love a good coming of age story.


Wendy said...

I think this is actually the sixteenth annual ornament exchange! Love the boxes, and love that she sent the unusual treats.

Jeannie Marie said...

My musical ornament from Tony will be cherished, but the bagel ornament chosen just for me made me laugh! The ornament gift exchange is a highlight every year! This is my 12th year.