Sally Ann Shurmur: No One Does Christmas Like Peggy Jane, The Mom

Columnist Sally Ann Shurmur writes, "The gift I treasured the most was the new addition to my Department 56 Snow Village, a very particular and pricy brand of ceramic, intricately painted and lit Christmas adorableness."

Sally Ann Shurmur

December 21, 20234 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Every Christmas for about 30 years, from the late 1980s through 2019, I received the same Christmas gift.

There would be other gifts too, because no one did Christmas like Peggy Jane the Mom.

But the gift I treasured the most was the new addition to my Department 56 Snow Village, a very particular and pricy brand of ceramic, intricately painted and lit Christmas adorableness.

The first piece I received is called “Cathedral,” and is the tallest of all the pieces. It is white and big and I adore it. It came with a nativity scene for the front lawn and a foursome of red-cassocked choir boys for the other side of the outer stairs.

The only advice that came with the village was “you must repack in the styrofoam and outer cardboard sleeve to store.”

When the village started coming, the kids’ dad was working retail and already not a fan of anything Christmas.

So imagine his delight when the village needed a separate plastic storage tub and a place of safety in the basement laundry room. To be followed by more tubs and lots more storage space.

The pieces have continued, with Mom’s special touch toward the recipient.

One year, it was the newspaper office and a metal newspaper box for single copy sales.

There are several that are in my favorites column — the dairy barn with the black and white cows (my decor used to overflow with everything cow), and the police station, patrol car with red and green light bar and officer I received the first year my guy the police officer and I were an item.

There is a garage and driveway that includes a motorized guy and snowblower that circles the interior of the driveway.

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Department 56 is headquartered in Minnesota, and when it arrived, the man’s stocking cap was purple with a gold pom pom. Unacceptable in our Packer house. So my talented crafty daughter painted his hat green and gold and now he is welcome in the house.

The series that I love the most are the elaborately detailed homes, with lights shining brightly in each window.

Some are one-story bungalows and cottages, others are massive mansions that remind me of Casper’s downtown district.

There are 1950’s era automobiles and ceramic people that go with almost every one. And peeking through the lit windows, there is often a decorated Christmas tree or other holiday vignette.

Like a fool, in 2018 I apparently told Mom to stop. The collection had far outgrown my display space, especially since moving to my minuscule townhouse in Glenrock in 2008.

And because God’s sense of humor is sharp at best and wicked at worst, he gifted me with yet another guy who has no use for Christmas, unless it’s spent on a golf course with palm trees.

So I got a piece in 2018 — and then in 2019, I got another piece with a note from Mom that basically said

“I know what you said but I bought this a long time ago and found it in a closet.”

Mom is 92 and spending her first Christmas in assisted living, which she hates.

The village was not out at all last year, because our family Christmas was at my daughter’s and we left the day after for the Arizona Bowl.

I sold both of the furniture pieces that I used to display the village, but desperately wanted some out this year, mostly because it reminds me so much of Mom.

So I bought a shelf on Facebook and my assistant retrieved it in the dark.

Then last Saturday, he started hauling in the crates from the garage shelving. I promised I wouldn’t be picky as long as we had the cathedral.

It was in the first crate he grabbed. With me directing from my chair, he set it all up, checked the lights, added snow to each shelf and figured out the electrical. He even bought a timer so I don’t have to bend over and risk falling on my head to get it all plugged in.

It’s probably about half of my collection, but at least there is a display of some kind.

I am looking at it now, all lit up as I write this, the hockey players playing on their aluminum foil rink and Mr. Lundberg diligently snowblowing his driveway under the glow of the matching lights on either side of the garage.

As long as I live, the village and its memories will be part of my Christmas. As will Peggy Jane the Mom, the most generous person on earth.

Sally Ann Shurmur can be reached at:

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Sally Ann Shurmur