Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Wreaths of Darlington, Part II

When I was a boy growing up, my mother, MD, would buy a Christmas wreath every year to place on the grille of her car, a Volkswagon bus.  Yes, it was the 1960s.  MD, who always thought of herself as something of a rebel when compared with the other ex-debutantes of her generation and circle, was rather proud of the fact that she drove a VW bus, and not the expected country club station wagon that the other mothers drove at the time in our neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

Our Rover at Darlington, decorated for Christmas

It was a pleasant ritual each Christmas for the young Reggie to accompany MD to the garden center near our house to choose the perfect, diminutive wreath for the front of her car.  MD, who was ordinarily a no-nonsense, down-to-business gal, would get surprisingly girly with the guys who worked at the garden center, who were charmed—and sometimes exasperated—by her insistence on choosing the perfect wreath for the front of her car.  It had to be just so.

MD took Christmas very seriously.  It was the only holiday when she truly rallied and followed through on the rituals of her Episcopalian tribe.  She could have cared less about the other holidays of the year, such as Easter, when she was far more likely to toss out a disparaging wisecrack than toe the line of expected behavior.  But Christmas was another matter.  And I'm grateful that she took it seriously (unlike a lot of other things), since she imbued in me and my siblings a reverence for the rituals of Christmas that pleasantly stay with me still, to this day.

Ever since I have had my own cars, I have bought wreaths to decorate their grilles during the Christmas season—at least the grilles of the cars that I drive that can carry off sporting a wreath without looking completely ridiculous.  Not only do I like the way they look, but it is a sentimental connection that I have with MD, long after she is dead, at the time of year that she loved the most.

Here's to you, MD.


  1. I love a fresh wreath on a clean car!!! I don't know why I never do this, it always brings a smile to my face whenever I see it well done!

  2. As long as you don't put those stuffed antler things on your Rover windows :)

  3. What a sweet memory! I am loving the wreath on your Disco. My mom actually just asked my sister and I if we wanted her to pick up wreaths for our Discos! Merry Christmas! xx

  4. Ahhh, "Just so" ! I had forgotten that phrase-
    My Mothers flowers always had to be arranged
    and placed that way. The table was set on Sundays... Thanks.

  5. A&A: Thank you!

    Yoga: I'll keep that in mind the next time I see them...

    LTPYDA: I hope you said "Yes!"

    Izzy: Nice to hear from you again. I remember your mother that way, too. She was, indeed, a very "just so" lady.

  6. I believe she'd be happy to hear this.

  7. I've had wreaths on my cars, since car #1 as well. This is my first year with a black car and I completely love the way it looks.

    We spend a good part of Christmas Day in the car, so between the wreath and the Christmas carols, it's a festive way to travel!

  8. Dear Mr. Darling,

    For as many Land Rovers that I saw in the country growing up in England during the bleak wintry
    months, none sported a smart wreath like yours. Shame really. This is truly an American tradition that should have caught on years ago, in my humble opinion. Brings a smile to one's face.

  9. Dearest R, I note that you drive a Land Rover. How sporting of you to prop up the economy on this side of the Atlantic by buying British. Whilst they are wonderfully reliable, equipped with every bell and whistle one can dream of, I have always found them incredibly difficult to get in to [and worse get out from] elegantly. I assume that you and Boy do not experience the same problem.

    The wreath looks pretty and is a sweet reminder of your mother.

  10. Dear Mr. Darling,

    I agree with Edith Hope's comment about the lack of elegance as one attempts to climb into/out of a Land Rover(perhaps it is a different story for males). I must inject, however, that outside of the solid and practical Volvo Station Wagon (or Estate, as they are referred to across the pond), Land Rovers were the only other vehicles seen on the roads once a good amount of snow had fallen, and at that point, who cares how elegant
    one looks as they climb in. All other vehicles just could not cope with the snow (snow chains are practically unheard of in England, sadly, and something the Brits should adopt from
    our American cousins post haste).

  11. I would NEVER have thought you sprang from a mother who had a VW bus....My bus was red and white with blue star curtains...no wreath though

  12. Most delightfully beauteous sir. Happy Christmas to you and yours!


  13. RD, as I have said before- MD sounds-lovely "Just So" and I love this story, I am family girl-not a car girl, some years wreaths some not-however had it been the tradition regardless of the wheels pedigree-it would have a glorious wreath.

  14. Back when MD was putting the tiny wreath on the VW bus it was so unusual that she had to have it especially made. This would have been in the early 1960s, when Reggie was still a wee tyke and I was in high school. Not only was she a true nonconformist, she was also an innovator.

    xox Camilla

  15. Of all posts I love it most when you post about MD. She comes alive on your web page. I feel I know her. My Mom and yours might have shared some laughs had they met. We sported no wreath on our VW Bug but Ann always found ways to make XMass special.

    Wishing a Merry one to you and Boy!

  16. I just was visiting my beloved Gigi (g-mother) in Washington for 2 days. Oh, how charming Georgetown is this time of year. She too relishes in Christmas and we used to go to Johnson's Nursery together to get greens. While my grandmother always stayed true to her Episcopalian rituals, she loved Christ Church this time of year more than any.......
    Merry Christmas! ~ Ashley

  17. Edith Hope: Yes, the back seats in particular are difficult to get in to and out of gracefully. Reggie is grateful that he wears trousers for that, among other, reasons!

    Liza E: Thank you for both of your comments. Exporting this tradition is something we could be proud of, as opposed to Halloween or the more commercial aspects of Christmas.

    Graysonfavour: Reggie is startled, too!

    Alyson: I am sure our mothers would have got on like a house afire.

    Ashley: Johnsons was the very place that MD would get her wreaths, and I remember it well. It was on the site where Best & Company used to be before, and what is now an office building, I believe. I attended Christ Church in my college days when visiting my father, who lived in a house on Sheridan Circle. CC was a pleasant walk from his house on a Sunday morning, and was a parish that I have fond memories of.


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