Jade and I finally managed to trim the Christmas tree. It was a wonderful journey down memory lane. Funny how we each had fond memories of an ornament, but they weren’t the same memory. The bubble lights are a great example. My Grandma always hung bubble lights, until the year she and Grandpa bought one of those new-fangled aluminum trees that had the rotating light show on it. All of us grandkids were disappointed: we wanted the bubble lights. So I seized upon a set when I saw them for sale again 15 years ago. My girls love them too, but with very different eyes.
We have lots of ornaments. The tree is loaded. This, despite the fact that we left a box of ornaments for each girl in storage in Racine. Those were ones that their aunts bought for them each Christmas. But I can’t imagine parting with any of the other baubles on my tree.
Whenever I was on a trip, instead of buying knickknacks that would cause even more clutter around my house, I bought an ornament for my tree. There are crown ornaments from Winsor Castle, articulated cloisonné fish from China, scroll ends from Korea, Chinese New Year tchotchkes from China, Good Soldier Svejk from the Czech Republic, sheep jumping over fences from Wales, lavender sachets from England, a coo-coo clock from Switzerland, a glass pickle from Germany, and more. Each told a story – will I ever get the chance to tell them all? I can barely get the girls to trim the tree with me, much less listen to the stories.
I also saved mementos that were never meant to be ornaments. These brought back the best memories for Jade. There was the boo-boo bunny, a cube you put in the freezer then pop into a bunny wrap to sooth little boo-boos. Jade remembered it fondly. I saved Faye’s last baby shoe, and her first library card with the childish scrawl of her name.
We hung the rattle socks that Jade wore when we first became a family. She was so delighted to be able to move around after being swaddled much of the time in the orphanage, that she constantly rubbed her feet together to make the rattling noise. We called them fire feet, as we were sure she’s start a fire with them some day.
BG loved to make ornaments out of Happy Meal toys and the character heads on the Mr. Bubbles bottles. Even now, Godzilla is watching over the Baby Jesus in the crèche – who put him there!? These usually wind up on the back of the tree.
I also hang the pompons from my cheerleading days in eighth grade. We cheered for the St. Boniface Rams Basketball Team. Because we had a no-cut policy, ours was a very large squad – most of the eighth grade girls. I was so proud to be a cheerleader. But in ninth grade when I went to a public junior high school, some popular girls laughed at my silver megaphone necklace. I never wore it again. So it is amazing the pompons survived. It wasn’t until I learned the lesson that I am good enough with Rita, that I came to love them again.
The tree also holds the first few ornaments I made for my first tree in 1973. We had no money, so I sewed a bunch: a stuffed red velvet heart, a felt gingerbread man complete with the blue scarf I knit for him, a red velvet stocking with white fur trim, and a drum. The drum was originally the sponge I had used in my biology class with Dr. Chuck when we were dissecting our pig. Now, I don’t recall its purpose. Two years later as a young bride, I wrapped it in blue felt and hung it on my tree as a memento of my first mentor.
When my Mom passed, my sisters and I spent an afternoon reminiscing as we split up her ornaments. Actually some of them were originally my Grandmother’s ornaments. These were Czech glass with intricate shapes, hard waxed paper stars, and metal bells and balls. Grandma also had six painted glass angel bells, handed down to Mom. Now we sisters each have two.
I welcomed back the Santa and Elf ornaments I had made for Mom when I was a Brownie in second grade. She had them on her tree every year until the end. The girls didn’t think much of them until I told them the story, and explained that they were 53 years old. I wonder if they will pass them down to their children.
We also opened a box that contained the breakable ornaments. BG and I had put them away when Jade and Faye came along, and they hadn’t seen these. I figured they are old enough to trust, now that they are 14 and 18. So we hung the sand dollars I had collected on the shore during my first trip to the ocean at age 35.
That box also contained BG’s family’s glass blown ornaments from Columbia – Santa, rabbits, and a farmer wearing a little straw hat. We also found seven glass bead chains, and three clear glass chains in the box from his parents. I put them all on the tree, despite the fact that I had already put about 10 bead chains on it. Our bead chains are very special to us – BG and the girls made them when the girls were little. He indulged them with all manner of bead shapes and colors, all of them translucent. They had such fun making them.
Yes there is Hawaiian memorabilia from our many trips here as well – Mrs. Claus playing her ukulele, and a crocheted lei in white, red, and green that we received from the parishioners at the Painted Church one Christmas. That was a great service. The choir consisted of five or six elderly church ladies playing their ukuleles and leading the singing. It put new feelings into the old Christmas favorites. They graciously gave out these crocheted leis to all visitors – Aloha in action.
I definitely have more ornamentation than tree. But it’s not about having a perfect tree – it’s about making a memory tree. And we’ll be adding a few new ones this week. Every year we give Jade and Faye a new ornament with some meaning.
Some year, it will be them taking ornaments out of boxes, and reminiscing about stories from their past. It’s one of the best Christmas gifts I can give them. I hope you take the opportunity to make new memories this season, too. Happy Holidays!
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