Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Tree Biography

My tree as of December 21--
still undecorated!
This post could be subtitled, "Why I Could Never Have a Designer Christmas Tree."

But first, am I the only one who is having trouble getting into the holiday spirit this year?  Am I getting old?  Am I overscheduled?  Well, yes to both questions, but they cannot be the explanation for others, too, can they?

I did deviate from my routine this year in that I did not decorate the house the weekend after Thanksgiving.  This is not the first year it has happened, but I was disappointed with myself that it happened again this year.

So, on December 21, I pulled out the ornaments and confronted my bare tree.  I have boxes and boxes of ornaments, but I seem to be paring down the number that actually make it to the tree.  The plain glass balls stay in the box.  A lot of the "collectible" ornaments do, too, unless they have a clear connection with a family member.

A hand-carved whistle recalls
a trip to the Smoky Mountains.
{And that sets me thinking about the whole designer/collectible fad.  Somewhere along the line, I let someone convince me that some trinket (stuffed animal, ceramic house, you name it) would increase in value just because it was "collectible."  How did I let myself fall for that? So, most of the "collectible" ornaments stay in the box.}

What seems to go up on the tree are the ornaments that have some memory attached to them.

The Resident Dragon has an
honored place on the tree.
Several years ago, I traveled a good bit for business.  I made a habit of bringing home souvenir magnets for each of my children (practical, and displayed on the family information center--the refrigerator) as well as an ornament for the Christmas tree.  On vacations, we decided to invest in ornaments as mementos (we're just not spoon people).  Over the years the collection has grown to include starfish Santas, clay Clydesdales, ships in a glass ball, western pottery bells, and Santa riding a dolphin.  Some are pretty kitschy, but hanging each on the tree replays the trip in my mind.
My son's feet were never this small!

Some remind me of hobbies and interests we've enjoyed throughout the years:  there are plenty of football- and cheerleading-related ornaments on the tree.  Long before I developed an interest in gardening, instead of plain glass balls I began collecting glass ornaments shaped like fruits, vegetables, and nuts.  I'd like to tell you it was some ingrained response to the German tradition of hiding a gherkin in the tree, but I just thought they were pretty.
There are plenty of bears and dragons, too, since we've collected them for years.

There are some special ones, though, whose sentimental value far exceeds their monetary value.  To commemorate the birth of our first child, our son, I splurged on his "official" tree ornament.  It was, in those days, quite an investment for us.  Nevertheless, I did it, and those bisque baby shoes have been on the tree for 28 years.
How did I know how much she would love to dance?

For the birth of my daughter two years later, we added a pair of dancing shoes--a prescient choice as she loved to dance!

My grandmother could barely see
by the time she made this star.
There are some ornaments on my tree that are obviously not professionally-made, and that's just fine with me.  Until I was 12, my grandmother, in addition to managing a store and sewing for the public, made every stitch of clothing I wore (until I became embarrassed by "home-made" clothes; what an idiot I was!).  By the time my son was born, her eyesight was dimming, but she worked so very hard to make, among other things, some pieced stars.  The patches are from scraps she had saved throughout the years.  Every stitch was made with love.

The memory may have dimmed, but lingers on.
You'll find on my tree some ornaments that are scratched and very faded.  They are from my childhood tree, some of the few that survived the year the cat knocked down the Christmas tree.  Growing up, I thought they were a bit ratty-looking, and always hid them in the back of the tree.  What I did not know then, but learned far too late, is that they were from Mother and Daddy's first tree, probably from 1956.  My mother was not at all sentimental, but, for some reason, she kept these.  They have witnessed the years Daddy was sick, the years Mother was sick, the years where we the only meat we could afford was Grandaddy's country ham and venison a friend gave us, the years we were teenagers, and all the years since.

I've promised myself that, before I forget it all, I would set to paper the story of our family, but it occurs to me that our story has already been told.  You can read it every year.

On our Christmas tree.

So, from our house to yours,

a very merry and blessed Christmas!