Autobiography in Pine

2004 Christmas Tree

My tree from 2004.

My autobiography will not be written on a computer, or disseminated in the form of a kindle file. It exists already in the collection of ornaments that have been lovingly cared for, some since before I was born.

My earliest Christmas memories are of decorating the tree with my mother. We would usually do this on a Friday or Saturday evening in December, with Christmas music playing in the background, and both of us singing along, my mother with… great enthusiasm.

As each ornament came out of the layers of tissue paper, my mother would tell me the story of where it came from. “This is the Santa Claus your grandfather brought home from Germany after the war,” she would say, or “this was attached to your very first Christmas present ever.”

Every year, our collection would increase by an ornament or two, usually as a souvenir of somewhere we went, or something we had done. As I grew older, the ornaments began to reflect my interests as well. The ice skates (both Mom and I love skating) were joined by books, hats, and an array of musical instruments. When Fuzzy proposed to me over my Christmas visit to South Dakota, my mother’s initial response was congratulatory, and then wistful: “I guess I’ll have to wrap your ornaments separately this year.”

Twenty Christmases later, my collection of ornaments has grown exponentially. Our first tree was barely full, and the tree we had in our condo was three feet tall and in a pot. This year, we have a pre-lit plastic tree with seven million tips (this may be an exaggeration) that is seven and a half feet tall (that is not an exaggeration), and I still feel like there aren’t enough branches.

Last year, my mother sent some of her collection to me; she was downsizing to accommodate her smaller house and slightly advanced age (she’ll be 66 in February), and it was a kind of virtual reunion, seeing some old favorites and meeting some new pieces from her life in Mexico.

I’ve never done a count of all my ornaments – there are more than a hundred and less than five thousand – but I know when one is missing, as if a paragraph or a chapter was accidentally deleted from a favorite novel.

My ornaments are my story, my autobiography, told in red and green, wood and glass, and set against a background of pine.

Holidailies 2015

Rubber (Glass?) Ducky, You’re the One

I meant to post this last night, but after a morning of dropping the foster dog, Dexter, at adoptions (He was adopted. Congratulations to Dexter’s new family, and Happy Whatever Holiday You Celebrate!), having an early lunch of tacos, making lemon pound cake (which involved finding and washing the juicer so I could use real lemon juice), and an afternoon of good company with good friends, all I wanted to do last night was soak in the tub and watch a few episodes of Warehouse 13 on Netflix. Duck-Ornament

In any case, my friend Carmi hosts a weekly (and fairly loose) meme called “Thematic Photographic” on his blog, and I haven’t participated forever, but I noticed that the current theme is “Mellow Yellow.” No, he’s not celebrating a defunct brand of soda with that title (well, not directly, and anyway, they didn’t use the Ws in that) but all things yellow.

I could have taken a picture of the lemons that went into the pound cake (five of them), or the finished product, but since I made my friends work for their dessert by helping me hang ornaments on my Christmas tree, I thought a picture of an ornament would be most appropriate. And what better choice of subject could there be, than my whimsical rubber duck ornament.

Which is made of glass.

I suppose you’re thinking, “That makes it a glass duck ornament,” which, technically it is, except it’s modeled on the classic bath-time Rubber Ducky toy. Which makes it a glass rubber ducky. Or a rubber glass ducky. Or…hey, look at the adorable duck ornament nestled in the dark green faux pine needles!

(And on that note, I’m off to meet friends for brunch. Potato pancakes, anyone???)

Happy Holidailies


Ornamental 2012-Click to Embiggen

Ornamental 2012 – Click to embiggen.

I waited until today to set up the Christmas tree, partly because of the funk I’ve been in all week (I think it’s a little bit because it’s been so warm) and partly because there were other things that had to be done first. So tonight, while my husband was winging his way back from a week at corporate headquarters in Boca Raton, a young friend helped me set up our 7’5″ pre-lit (with lovely white LEDs) Christmas tree, and then we unwrapped all my ornaments.

My ornament collection was started before I was born, and has continued to grow. I don’t have an exact number, but I know when things are missing, or broken, and I recognize every piece. Every ornament has a story, and I remember the cadence of my mother’s voice telling me each tale as we unwrapped and hung them every year.

“This one was from your first mobile,” she’d tell me, gently caressing a yellow-painted wooden piece. “And this one was on one of your first packages,” she’d say, showing me a bunny tucked into his walnut-shell bed (with pink gingham sheets that were just like the ones I had as a child). Every year, until I moved out of her house, the ritual was the same. My mother still reminds me that one of the most difficult things she’s ever done was packing my ornaments separately from hers the year I got married.

Imagine then, my devastation when, upon opening one of the two giant rubber tubs full of carefully wrapped Christmas treasures, I noticed odd pink staining on several of the white tissue-paper wrappings. Even worse, as I pulled more packages out of the box, was the pervasive odor of mildew, and several packages stained brown as if they’d been drenched by something unmentionable.

“I’m going to cry,” I told my young helper, as I peeled still-damp paper layers from around a set of Christmas train candles I’ve had for more than ten years. “This was one of my favorites,” I added a few minutes later as a blue-painted balsa-wood sailfish ornament disintegrated in my hands.

I’ve been using the same tubs to store these ornaments since we moved into this house eight years ago, and this has never happened. I’m not even sure how it DID happen, as not all of the ornaments in the box showed signs of moisture (though all had that ghastly stench). I called my mother, who was busy sewing, but took time to console me.

All told, I lost about ten ornaments, a few of which were never favorites, and a few of which were. One of them was a glass geisha that had shattered into pieces; another, the worst loss, was a giant starfish (sorry, sea star) that was a reminder of a trip to Carmel or Monterey (it was decorated with a tiny wreath and bits of pine).

It may not seem like a big loss, but every ornament that had to go into the trash represented a memory, a moment, something I wanted to carry with me forever, and while the actual thoughts and images may be indelibly etched on my brain, without the ornaments to serve as keys, those etchings may as well be chalk drawings washed into the gutter by a heavy rain.

Bluie Holidailies