Christmas arrived at our house this past weekend. The usual pictures and decorations have been packed away. Yuletide joy has exploded and splattered the walls with keepsakes and memories.
One of my favorite things about our Christmas decorations is our tree. The tree itself is holding up well. It looks good for being over 17 years old. We bought a better tree than we could afford by using money we’d received for Christmas (most of that from Grandma Dissinger, who has since gone home to heaven) and took advantage of an after-Christmas sale. The fact that the box was missing for the tree we wanted helped to lower the cost even more. It’s bushy, and the wire of the branches holds shape well. The skirt is from my childhood—one my mom made of gold felt back in the early 70s. It has green fringe around the edge and has been embellished with different things, including felt cutouts of my brother’s and my handprints. The ornaments are a walk through our lives.
There are the ornaments from our first Christmas together. The Furry Guy was a marine, and we were thousands of miles away from our families. We received our-first-Christmas ornaments from our church. I made a lot of ceramic ornaments, since those were cheap. We have two ornaments that are especially precious to us. The first is a Humpty Dumpty that The Furry Guy simply fell in love with at a pricy (at least to a poor military family) store in a nearby town. I snuck over and bought it without his knowledge while he was wandering around another part of the store. While I was purchasing it the lady at the shop said, “I really hate to ask this, but are you pregnant?”
I was four months along at that point, so I definitely looked pregnant. I said that I was, and she showed me one of her favorites that year. It’s a stork carrying a little bundle. She hid the ornament I was buying while I showed the stork to The Furry Guy. He agreed that we absolutely needed that ornament.
There are ornaments that our son made through his years of Sunday school, preschool, and public school. There are gifts from friends. Then there are the ornaments we’ve bought or made each year to commemorate something from that year.
*The bottle brush squirrel from the year that we moved into our house. With 12 mature walnut trees we have an abundance of squirrels.
*The snowflake man we bought on vacation in Branson, Missouri.
*The crazy Grinch-green snowflake with red balls that represents our love of Dr. Seuss.
*The bottle brush pig in memory of my Pig Butt Buddy, who loved Christmas with her whole heart.
*The frame ornament with a picture of our son at his CFNI graduation.
Our kids are on our tree. A few years ago I was struggling with not feeling in much of a Christmas mood. In an effort to change my attitude I decided to add to our tree pictures of the young people, friends of our son, who had become so very important to us. I bought some foam ornaments, wrote their names with a fine-point Sharpie, and attached little photos I’d printed off myspace. (That was before facebook existed.) Whenever I see them I pray for whoever’s picture has caught my eye.
This year we added a Beardie. The top is a brown felt toboggan-style hat with wire in the top so that it will hold a squiggle. Attached at the bottom is a beard-shaped bit of poly-fil. Where the two meet is a small, round, wooden nose. It represents the story I wrote about the Beardies—little critters that live in The Furry Guy’s beard. According to the story, that’s where he gets all of his best, most creative ideas.
I love decorating the tree and remembering the story behind each and every ornament.
We have two other trees in our bedroom. These are table-top trees. One holds ornaments from my childhood—ornaments my brother and I made as we were growing up. (My brother isn’t at all sentimental. I remind him every once in a while that I have these, and he can have his if he wants them.) It’s a real throwback to the 60s and 70s. Anyone remember the egg crate ornaments? How about the gaudy, thread-covered, bead-festooned, Styrofoam balls?
The other is my Jesus tree. It holds Adornaments—ornaments representing each of the adjectives used to describe Christ in the Bible. It also holds a set of ornaments given to me by the preschool at which I used to volunteer. Legend has it that the song was sung with different gifts, depending on where you lived, until the 16th century. For over 200 years in England it was illegal for families to teach the tenets of their Christian faith at home. Sometimes that referred to Catholic families. Sometimes it referred to Protestant families. Either way, teaching your children principles of your faith at home was illegal. That’s when The 12 Days of Christmas became standardized. Each of the gifts represents a basic part of the Christian faith. The partridge in a pear tree represented Christ—both the child and the cross. The two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments. The four calling birds were the four distinct voices of the four Gospel writers. The ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments. Whether or not the story is true, I love the symbolism.
A few years ago I took the time as we put our Christmas ornaments and decorations away and wrote down where we had gotten each one and the story behind it. Now I don’t have to worry that I’ll forget the where, when, why, and from whom for our precious treasures.