I started Christmas decorating on Friday. I think my favorite part of the whole decorating deal, besides finally finishing it, is unwrapping each ornament and knickknack. It's like reminiscing with an old friend I haven't seen in a year. Each piece has a story, like the wreath a dear friend, now deceased, surprised me with one Christmas. Every year I hang it on the door and think of Faye and what a special person she was. There's even the opposite of that. A lady I worked with many years ago, someone I didn't think was so special, made reindeer ornaments out of clothespins and gifted everyone in the office with one. Each time I unwrap the little guy, and he's really cute, I remember Jan, just not too fondly.
My mother-in-law, back in her ceramic days, made the figurines for our Nativity set. She was not very happy with two of the three Wise Men, saying their heads didn't come out of the kiln right. I would never have noticed if she hadn't said anything; to me, they appear to be appropriately reverent, but each year when I free them from their tissue bed, I recall the back story and it makes me smile. I also have the big (and heavy, God forbid it gets dropped) ceramic Christmas tree she made. That tree graced the sofa table in her living room for years, now it gets a place of honor in my den. I did draw the line on her Santa Claus, however. This particular piece must have been one of her first ceramic attempts and it's pretty bad. My husband was a little miffed that I forced Santa into retirement, but I have my standards.
There are beautiful beaded felt ornaments handmade by a friend of my mother's for me when I was just a little girl. Another of my mother's friends painted several glass ornaments depicting scenes from our early married life: a cat named Gathright that we had for a short time until we were forced to give her up (stupid apartment manager); my husband's pickup truck; our dachshund Fritz, and even our first house painted from a photograph, right down to the Victorian woodwork on the porch. I have a number of ornaments that belonged to my maternal grandmother that must be 100 years old, or very close to it. Birds with tails made of very fine spun glass threads, and two heads, which sounds kind of gruesome, both of young ladies with the bobbed hair and headbands of the flapper style. I never knew my grandmother, but having her ornaments on my tree links the generations and reminds me of the stories my mother has told me about her.
In the kiddie department, there's an ornament my husband made back in first grade, a Styrofoam ball with his initial in glitter and a pipe cleaner for a hook. The Styrofoam has gotten so brittle over the years, I'm leery of handling it too much. There's also one from my grade school days, another Styrofoam ball with little beads stuck in it. I think I made it in third grade. In my den, I have a small tree, my Kid Tree, that is decorated solely with the baubles my children made over the years...fingerprint mice, reindeer heads constructed of Popsicle sticks, an Indian tepee my younger son made when he was in the Indian Guides, grade school pictures glued to miniature wreaths and frames and snowmen, an angel topper that dates back to first grade with my older son's initial glittering on its paper doily robe.
Our Aggie Tree, a small table tree, includes a see-thru ornament filled with ashes from the 1994 Bonfire, and a tiny replica of the Aggie Bonfire made out of twigs with a miniature t. u. outhouse on top. There's also a remembrance ribbon my husband wore in 1999, when he attended a vigil for the young people killed in the Bonfire collapse that year...November 18th, to be exact.
When my daughter was three, I bought her her first Christmas ornament. She didn't much appreciate the gesture at the time, nor was she too thrilled with the others that arrived each Christmas thereafter. They were, after all, fragile glass trinkets and not to be played with. The impetus for this was because I had nothing for my first Christmas as a newly married wife, not even a strand of tinsel, and I thought it would be nice if my daughter had a starter box of ornaments, so to speak. The thing I didn't anticipate is that I've fallen in love with her ornaments every bit as much as my own, and it's going to be a wrench giving them up when that day finally gets here. I keep dropping hints that she should marry a nice Jewish boy, and I even had a young fella picked out at one time, but so far, no dice.
Someday, my kids will each get their share of the ornaments and Christmas knickknacks they grew up with, and it's my wish that they will cherish them just as much as I do now, even Jan's little one-eyed reindeer.
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