We heard the crash of glass just as we were heading out the front door to go for a walk, the children and I. We had just finished decorating our Christmas tree and were wanting some exercise and air. There it lay on the floor amongst the broken shards of glass, lying in a pool of muddy water. Todd had dug rocks out of the garden to stabilize the tree trunk in the bucket and the water laying on top of the handmade braided wool rug was deep. I raced to the cupboard in the bathroom to fetch towels and threw them down in an attempt to soak up the water. As I was patting the towels, I commented, “The last time this happened my dad died of cancer.”
My mother cried when her tree fell over that year as it added insult to injury, the whole family knowing it would be Dad’s last Christmas tree to see. My dad neglected to tie up our tree that year as did mine this year.
“What, do you think someone is going to die now?” my son asked.
“No, but it made me think of that sad day.”
As my son lifted up the fallen tree, I could see which heirlom glass ornamnets did not make the fall. The blown egg with the rapidiograph ink drawing on it dating back to my art school years lay in tiny fragments. I thought of that dear artist friend who made it for me every Christmas for forty years. Even though I had completely lost touch with her, I still warmly remembered her friendship and the support she gave me during that time in my life. She may be completely forgotten from now on.
Someone said to me. “They are just things.” This is true, but they are special things. All things are not created equal.
When we decorate the tree, there are memories after memories that flood my brain as we hang up the hooks and finger each ornament. I relay stories to the kids as they come up- places we’ve been, where we purchased ornaments to remember the good times. Skin kayaks and fur mittens from our trip to Alaska, colored straw fish from Hawaii. Stuffed fabic ornaments covered in embroidery and French kots that my sister painstakingly made for me many years ago when she was crafty. Glass hearts with snow-covered mountains painted on them by our mountian loving friend. My husbands’ first carved wooden ornaments are there, crude and rough. The kids laughed when they compared them to his magnificent chainsaw carvings of today- how far his work has come. There are the homemade ones by the children- their photo glued to cardboard and surrounded by a circle of cotton balls. Our first Christmas as a married couple with our photo in it. There is a tiny wool Christmas stocking that my mother received in the hospital when she was delivering me, a holiday baby, that did not break. Thank goodness. So many of my ornmants are from my mother’s tree, as she died thirty-five years ago and we four chidlren divided up her ornamnts. Of course, I always think of my mother and my own childhood as I decorate my tree. That is a given.
My kids asked if I would pass down my ornaments.
“When I am dead, you’ll get them,” I informed them.
When we first got married, Todd and I began to design an annual ornament and give them to our friends and family as a present. Todd made them out of wood, I painted them and decorated them with fabric paint. When the kids were at home, they added their artistic flair. When we had children, we decided to put one aside for each of them. Then when they left home in their early 20’s and had their own tree, they would have a head start on their decorations with a box of over 20.
My mother’s friend began my Christmas ornament collection when I was fifteen years old. She gave me a box of them and said it wasn’t too early to begin my own collection. I still hang the tiny rabbit fur mouse up and the tiny baby in a half walnut shell that acts as its cradle and think of her and my childhood every year.
As the years went by, we tried to come up with an ornament idea that related to a major event in our lives that past year. They would not be just any Christmas tree ornaments- but a carved llama the year we finished hiking the Continental Divide Trail, a manatee when we went to Florida and swam with them. A Thai long boat the year we traveled to Thailand , a carved wooden Swiss Army knife the year we went to Switzerland. There is a wooden painted goat the year Sierra got her goats, a tiny replica book with a printed paper cover the year “Scraping Heaven” came into print, a wooden canoe the year we paddled the 100 mile Wilderness Trail in the Florida Everglades, a wooden slice of pizza the year we went to Sicily, a wooden puffin when we went to Iceland, a wooden chili pepper the year we cycled New Mexico’s Great Divide Mt bike trail, a wooden seashell for the year we did the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the trails’ symbol; a wooden Temple “T” when Sierra first attended that university, a ping pong paddle when Sierra and Eben taught English in China and we went to spend the holidays there. This year is a wooden tiered wedding cake with glitter icing to commemorate our first child’s wedding this past year!
It goes on and on- 25 years of memories for them, 32 for Todd and I. I know there are friends out there that I have lost touch with that still think of us when they decorate their tree. My Aunt Dot calls me every Christmas as she decorates her tree, as she wants us to know that she is grateful for us in her lives and her many handmade ornamants. The way to become immortal, perhaps, is via Christmas tree ornaments.
My kids have yet to take their personal box of ornaments. They may have moved out of the house but they don’t yet have their own tree and still come back to the homestead to celebrate the holidays. I suppose that will happen when they get start their own families.
The edge of the braided wool rug is propped up with a stick and the ceramic heater is shooting heat under the rug. The living room smells like smelly dog. But the tree is back up and most of the ornaments are hanging on the tree. No one close to us is dying this Christmas (that I know of) and it has been a great year. That is all that matters.