Monday, December 12, 2005

Who Decorates Your Tree?

Every year, relatives and friends decorate our Christmas tree. And gratefully, every year, this number grows. See, every ornament that gets hung on our tree has a story, a past and hopefully unbroken future. Yesterday was our day for visiting.

At the very top of the tree is my grandparent's star shining above the remaining 6 thin glass ornaments they gave us. The paint chipped balls are so old I imagine they've been in our family for almost forever. My absolute favorite ornament is Nana's bell-shaped little girl in a red dress. Her little legs are the clapper. She's a twin, and when Nana died she came to me and her sister hangs on my Aunt's tree. Near the little girl are the two clip on birds that remind me of the childhood bottle brush tree that my father still insists they set up every year. I remember the first Christmas we had that fake tree. It was the first time I'd ever seen a tree in a box. It seemed fuller back then. But those huge gaps between the branches make decorating easier these days.

A set of little glass Santas remind me of Christmas in Florida with my in-laws. Memere and I were out on one of our shopping marathons when I saw them on sale. Still my favorite ornament from her is the petite point beaded brown bear she made. It is always given a place of honor. Hanging front and center; the Santas always seem to circle it. She died 3 years ago, but she is still with us.

There are the gold era ornaments. Shells my grandfather painted gold while they wintered in Florida. Even my littlest one knows that these get hung of a good strong branch because they are so heavy. I love to hear the kids say "this is a grandpa ornament." He passed away 6 years ago, 4 months before the youngest was even born. But through his ornaments she gets to visit with him every year.

We have photographs of cousins in snowmen and snow flake frames. The girls laugh at how young they look, and I show them their baby picture ornaments and remind them that they are growing up and older too.

We have ceramic ornaments from my old college friend Peggy D. Peggy had lupus and died almost 2o years ago. But each Christmas I am reminded of those porch swing sessions and the pizzas we shared. She loved life and lived each day better than anyone I know. When I hang her ornaments on the tree I get a lesson on the important things in life.

Our tree is graced by ornaments from Arkansas, Texas, Vermont, New Jersey, Colorado and Ireland. Decorations like the Texas boot with the words "Merry Christmas Y'all" painted by Aunt Marion, the hummingbird sent by Aunt Louise, the gold tone bells from Aunt Judy, the wooden bells from Aunt Beth, china pig from Aunt Karen, Aunt Jeanne's painted eggs, inspired by the first story I ever tried to get published, Aunt Steph's Christmas spiders, and the Irish farm house from my folks' travels.

We've picked up decorations on our own too. The "Collectible CVS" ornaments, the skiing moose I bought during my younger skiing hay day, the clarinet, which yesterday served as a reminder for a practice session, the step dancers, the skates, and the karate kid to list a few. Our glass vegetable ornaments are always a big hit. Now old enough to hang some of the more fragile ones my oldest takes great joy in putting these on the tree. It's a rite of passage.

This year I let the little ones hang the glass icicles. With each one I handed out they'd ask, "Mom, isn't this your favorite?" I'd just smile and tell them they're growing up and can handle them. And they did.

Each Christmas the girls get a new Barbie ornament from Santa. This year the Barbie section fills 6 branches. I would love to ask Santa to stop, but they love to look in their stocking and see what Santa brought. When they have homes of their own, their ornaments will hang on their own trees. I hope they will linger over each ornament as they do now.

I am so glad that nestled among all the shopping, card writing, wrapping, and running around that there is a special quiet time to visit with relatives and friends.


Idiot Cook said...

Once again, another lovely essay...since national mags often plan their issues 6-9 months out, consider submitting this somewhere in March...

Anonymous said...

Is Memere a French-Canadian term? That's what grandkids called the French Canadian lady who lived down our street.

I like the ornament that's a twin. Lots of nice specific details in this piece.


P.H. said...

Yes, Memere is Canadian French for Grandmother.

Anonymous said...

Thought of you last night at a party where people were reminiscing about tattered Xmas ornaments that they've cherished through the years. Like gold-painted macaroni that's peeling. I think you've hit a hot button for many people.

It's worth aiming high with this essay. Maybe one of the women's mags like Family Circle?


P.H. said...

You guys are the most wonderful writing support buddies, and friends a person could have. Thanks. I'll send off a submission in the spring.