Sunday, December 4, 2016

Small Magic - Nostalgia

My dear blog friend Andrea, at Falling Ladies, has begun a monthly collection of stories and experiences of what she has termed as "Small Magic". You can find this month's post by Andrea by clicking HERE

And the original "Finding Small Magic" Post on her Falling Ladies blog is HERE:

I hope you will take a moment and check them out, add your own (even just a link to a picture or a sentence or two is PLENTY! It need not be as wordy as I tend to be. :)

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If you've been following my blog or visiting my shoppes on Etsy over the years, you probably are aware that i am a huge fan, and a fierce protector, of the notion of nostalgia. While my childhood was far from perfect and we all tend to gloss over some of the not-so-great aspects of  our lives, I think many people have a tendency to drift, for one reason or another, back to the past. Especially as we get older. 

For some it's childhood, for others it's college or the early years of their own children's lives. But it seems that, in one way or another, we all tend to find those spaces in the past where we can safely dwell for whatever personal reasons. 

Now, when that nostalgia revolves around childhood. . . well, many adults seem to leave it completely behind or, at the very least, rarely speak about it in and among their adult lives. You may see signs of it in someone's doll collection or Teddy bear Hug. Or in the way they interact with their own children during playtime or in creative endeavors. 

I never let go of that past and I am thankful, every day, that I didn't lose sight of it. 

To be completely honest, most of my life I lived with a foot in two worlds. That of the adult world around me and that of the world of my imagination and childhood. The struggle to maintain both led to a lot of frustration and misunderstandings among friends and family who could not see that I just was not cut out for the "adult" world. I needed every spare hour for my imagination and it was a very solitary pursuit for the most part. I made bad decisions. I tried to reconcile the two worlds in so many ways but, in the end, I always felt that the magical/childhood part of me was suffocating in the adult world. 

Then, after an accumulative series of events, I decided that it was time for a leap of faith. I was going to have to open myself up to the possibilities and ask for guidance as I threw myself and my world completely into the pot. All or nothing. Sink or swim. Betting on childhood, imagination and nostalgia over the adult world I had come to loathe.  Now, don't get me wrong, please, there are people who thrive in the adult world and I am  ever so grateful for them because someone has to keep our world running. . . it just couldn't be me anymore. 

I could tell you a dozen stories of what now seem like moments and instances when "angels" appeared, all within months, to be my guiding lights along the way. I also met Sofie who, without fail, has been the only person I have known in my adult life who didn't ask me to balance the two worlds or question my draw to the past, even though hers was a different experience. Despite that, she reveled in my memories , stories and dreams and explored them WITH me. With complete acceptance. We made the break together. And we changed our entire lives from top to bottom to suit the new life we wanted to have. We didn't expect that the world would accommodate our dreams without being willing to change along with it.

Around that same time as I was in the midst of creating what would become the building blocks of the reclusive, creative world we dwell in now, and of the work you see here that I create, the ghosts of Christmas past came to call. I stumbled upon something that I have held to as being a source of inspiration and light ever since.

During a random internet search laced with nostalgic ideas I found that, not far from where I grew up, there was man in his late 60's who had created a website for the history of little Christmas Putz Houses. Those glittery, magical, cardboard houses many of us remember form under our family trees in childhood. The history of them is fascinating but what I was taken by was that this man, and his love for these houses, was a clear channel to and from his childhood. That he REVERED that time and those memories and that he had found a way to keep it close and invest himself within his passion for it so late in life. 

It was a deeply appreciated thread for me to reach out and hold to.  

And the first thing I read from that web site was this:

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"There is but a very brief window in early childhood for many of us, a period of time that lasts from birth until we are cast from the nest and into school. A time when all about the world is new and good. A time when we are open. A time when we take things in so deeply that they will form us ever after. So we imprint upon the Christmas of that time, and what that was is what it will be for us always. 

I think that is what collecting is all about, especially for those who collect for LOVE and not for sterile speculation. 

This is true of most of the toys and trappings of the holidays. 


Actual tangible contact with our own past.

It is true that we forget nothing. The power that an object unseen in decades can have to transport us in mind and spirit back to a specific period or moment of our lives - to unlock long-closed doors in the mansion of our memory - is the true value that it has. We can hold such an object in our hands and know those times were real and welcome back whole parts of who we were into who we are - and let the inner child in each of us out once again to play - to live as part of us and and help us see again through our own "Magic Window"  

You will find that those old objects will take you back in time, but NEVER listen to those sad fools who say that you are "living in the past." We are what we are because of our pasts. Would that we could live in the past at will or at least visit from time to time. But we can bring  those things forward, to live within us as we face the uncertainty of the present and the future. 

Those pasts informed everything that we know so never be ashamed of your nostalgia . . .it was, and is, your reverence for the life you had, the path that you have traveled. -T.H. "Papa Ted" Althof

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Sadly, as a second wake-up call, I soon discovered that Ted Althof was dying, having been diagnosed with cancer just as I was diving in to his website in 2009. I'd never really put ityself in mortality's shoes before that. I always had time. Lots of time I thought. Angels, and small magic, really do come in many, many complex forms. 

What I am left to say is this: I wouldn't dream of asking anyone to be anything other than what and who they are. BUT if  this holiday/yule/solstice season you find yourself feeling silly for daydreaming of the best of your memories as a child, or your best memories WITH a child, please embrace it fully instead. We can't actually go back, I know, but allow yourself that time, that place and those memories to come back in a quiet hour. Indulge them fully. I can't say they'll lead you to a life path like mine but they WILL fill you with a bit of small magic and wonder again. And you might just find that today does not have to be so far from that wonderful memory of yesterday.

Have a wonderful and magical season wherever you are and find that SMALL MAGIC always and in all ways!

And  a special thank you to all of you for coming along on MY nostalgic road-trip, offering your kind words, support and patronage as I built this world I thrive in now. 


If you are interested in Christmas Putz houses and their history, there is an archive of the original Papa Ted's Place website, maintained by fans and friends of Mr Althof after he passed in 2012. They kept it just as it was with only a note stating his passing as an addition. It's a relic of a site. Not slick and "squarespaced". . . but that only adds to it's charm and beauty I think. Great old photos, collections, stories, memories. 

The site is here: Papa Ted's


  1. Of course, better late than never! I loved your post, so true. I find myself longing for the toys I had before, the Christmas decorations from back then. For me, we didn't have the houses you mentioned, but I found myself searching online for a plastic light up Santa Mouse that we had that was from the Santa Mouse book, (I still have the book), and that lead me to a search of the old mercury glass ornaments and angel hair like my grandma had on her tree. I didn't get either because they would just get broken with Jace and the pets but it was fun to search. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for inspiring my trip down memory lane to my grandmas house at Christmas time!

    1. Andrea, your comment got me all misty eyed. :) I am so glad you indulged in those memories. I'd say that the internet can chalk up nostalgia to it's credits on the good side. :) Two years ago I found an old, German-made, wind up, music box manger that I recalled as a child. It was my grandmother's favorite Christmas decoration even though it had lost a few of the animals and the angel on top had broken off long before my time but it still played "Silent Night". As a boy, I loved how it slowed down as it unwound and I would lay there by the tree, staring at the little manger scene within, waiting for that last note to sound. It must have already been 30 years old or more when I was a child. But I found a working and mostly intact one (also an animal missing and the angel broken though I fixed the angel) on Ebay and the woman who sold it to me was delighted I had found it. My mother, who I gifted it to, was amazed. She said she'd never have remembered it until she opened the box. .. and then it all came flooding back to her. To give her that memory back, that was priceless to me.

  2. My goodness. I have been reading this while drinking a jar of freshly harvested wheatgrass juice and I feel like my mind is on fire! What a stimulating, moving wonderful post Nicolas. You're amazing. Such strength and power in believing in magic. I put this on facebook this morning: “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places." xx

    1. Louise, I love that quote! So true. I think we often lose sight in this world of the magic that surrounds us. Many have come to expect it is going to be just show up or be able to be purchased, then they wonder why it is so fleeting and hollow that way. But deep magic, I think, waits in those places for us to meet it halfway. To venture to it, to risk, to discover it and prove our intentions towards it. Then it may ink itself into the soul. I know you believe in magik Louise! And I know you put it out into the world thru your art. I hope you find it within your world, always, as well. :)

  3. Memories can indeed be beautiful! You have such a gift with words, I often find myself not sure what to say... Thank you for the beautiful stories about Wednesday and your birds on my blog. I think these words of yours here, I will return to read again...

    1. Thank you Lisa! I love visiting your blog too and the lovely creative spirit you share there. :)

  4. Nicolas, your post touched my heart! You got me crying! Thank you for your wonderful, touching, thoughtful words!! Thank you for being you! Big Hugs!

    1. Thank you Stacy! I am so appreciative that you drop by and I wish you and yours a most wonderful crow-tastic holiday!

  5. Thank-you so much for this beautiful post!

    1. You are so welcome Christine. I am honored to know that you read it and appreciated it. :) Thank YOU!