Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Trip Down Ornament Lane

I really love our Christmas tree.  And it's not the tree that I love so much as the ornaments that decorate it.  We opt for a wide range of ornaments, from handmade to crystal, sentimental to kitsch.  Each one has a story behind it, which makes looking at our tree a trip down memory lane.  And with the addition of many of my mom's ornaments this year, there are even more stories and more memories.  My girls love to pick one and ask, "What's the story behind this one, Mom?"  Some were given to me by my students, others were given by friends or family, and many were made by me or my kids. I thought I'd take you, my few readers, on a little journey to explore a few of our ornaments.
This red and green and gold beauty made of felt and sequins, is one of many diamond-shaped ornaments hand crafted by my mom and my grandmother back in the late 70's.  These have been on our family tree for nearly as long as I've been alive.  There is something funky about them that I just love.
The first year Mike and I were married, we had exactly zero Christmas ornaments to decorate our first tree.  That's when my friend Lisa stopped by with a box of twelve Victorian style angel ornaments to get us started.  Although the number of ornaments we have has grown over the last thirteen years, I always make sure to start decorating the tree with these twelve special ones.
Nothing beats a baby hand print on an shiny red ball.  This one is from Leah, dated 2005.  She was one.  I can't believe how little her hand looks.  Especially since she will turn SEVEN tomorrow! 
Then there is the famous pickle.  What?  You don't have a sparkly green pickle hanging on your tree?  Back when I was in high school, my aunt gave everyone in the family pickle ornaments.  You could hang it on a branch where it would be an interesting nod to a yummy vegetable/condiment.  But in our family we like to "hide the pickle" in the tree.  Each year it is someone's job to hang the pickle ornament in some obscure place so that it is camouflaged and hard to see.  Then everyone else had to try to find it.  Whoever finds it gets to hide it next.  Our pickle has already been hidden and found several times.  It's a classic.
Our astronaut (or "robot guy" as the girls call him) is a recent addition to the tree.  Last year I gave the girls $5 and let them pick out an ornament for Mike. Together they thought this was the one he would like best.  The astronaut beat out all the snowmen and Santas and gingerbread men in the store.  I like to think they really know their dad.
My mom was a fan of ornament collections.  She started collecting these rocking horses from Hallmark back in 1980.  We have one for every year up to 1999.  Growing up, it was always my job to decorate the tree each year, and I can specifically remember hanging each and every rocking horse.  It is amazing how many we really have.  This one is dated 1983.  I would have been six when she bought it-- about the same age as my girls now.
In 2000, my mom upped her game and started collecting Swarovski snowflakes.  It amazing how the light glitters through such high quality crystal; it's really beautiful.  We have one each year until 2009-- the last Christmas my mom was with us (not in the hospital, like last year, but her "real self").  Since these were expensive, they hang higher up where little hands can't reach.  They are simple, elegant, and  pretty.  Just like my mom.
Finally, I have about four of these little snowflakes.  Three years ago, my mom came up with this craft project.  She called me one day and invited me over to take some beads and wire and somehow glue them together to create a snowflake. She had seen them in a magazine and thought we could reproduce them as gifts for teachers and neighbors.  My dad was home that day and would  keep the girls occupied, so she and I could work (Lucas wasn't in the picture yet).  I remember sitting at the kitchen table that afternoon, Christmas music playing, mom and I laughing at ourselves as we tried different methods of getting the beads to stick at the ends of the wire, and my girls laughing and playing with their PaPa in the other room.  I look at these ornaments and it seems like a hundred years ago that there was such life in that house.  I look at these ornaments and remember the carefree days when my mom could call on a whim and the day would turn into a lovely memory.  I am glad I can be reminded of those days.  

Funny what memories a simple ornament can bring up.


Jacquelyn said...

I love this post so much! What a good idea. We have a pickle ornament also. Did you know the legend of the pickle is that whoever finds it first gets an extra present from santa? :)

Joe and Talsie said...

My whole family has a pickle ornament. We always hide it for christmas and whoever finds it gets a special gift. We have some great stories from searching for it. Our ornament collection is eclectic too. This year we opted for less breakable ornaments so that some of my more precious items could survive.

Ashley said...

My pickle went missing. Seriously. I was so bummed and then my Mom showed up with a new one. We hide the pickle too. What a weird tradition. Grant asks abotu the stories behind our ornaments too.

Victoria said...

Sweet. I love the ornament with the wee hand print. What a wonderful idea and a lovely memory.
p.s. I have a pickle too!!

Maria Rose said...

Oh my goodness! I TOTALLY HAVE A PICKLE ORNAMENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I admittedly keep it up on the window year round.