Back when our first child was born, my then husband and I were very clear about the importance of creating traditions. We loved that we could start doing something, and it would become “the way it has always been” for our children. I have to admit I took this all pretty seriously when it came to decorating the Christmas Tree, but for the first few years of our marriage I was sort of flailing around. I hung the colored balls, I draped the silvery tinsel, I think (but I honestly can’t remember) that we might have had strings of colored lights on the tree. I was definitely trying to come up with my personal style, so to speak, of tree decor, but as those who have read past blogs realize, when it comes to fashion, and putting something together in a pleasing way, I kind of was born without that gene. Decorating when I was a child is something that only seems to have sort of happened, but maybe the fact that we had a fair number of Decembers in tropical places like Baghdad, Dar es Salamn, and Monrovia is one reason what went on the tree (to say nothing of if there was a tree at all) was not a HUGE ritual in the Bacon family.
If I am wrong about all this, and if my mom thinks I have just dissed her, I’M SORRY!
Anyway, back to the part where I was flailing, or should I say failing, at my decorating techniques. And then I had a tree epiphany. I saw my friend Kathy’s tree which was covered with ornaments she made, had tiny white lights all over it, and was beautiful. My epiphany basically consisted of announcing “THAT is what I want my tree to look like!” To my delight, Kathy gave me a box filled with homemade ornaments two weeks later.
There wasn’t just one little paper hat, there were six or seven, and see that little strawberry? Yes, she made that and gave me at least six. There were stuffed little plaid hearts, and ice skates with blades made from paper clips. She turned clothespins into stiff soldiers, and halved walnut shells into small cradles. Lace was somehow turned in circles and became small wreathes. I was on to something. I can’t have just ONE of something on the tree, I’ll have multiples! And so my tree began to take shape.
It may not be easy to see, but trust me when I say there are several straw: angels, wreathes, pine cones, stars, and baskets with little wooden apples. Hot diggity, tradition here I come.
Alice was born three years after Jack, and I began buying two special ornaments each year to add to the tree. The plan has always been to gift them to my children when they start decorating their own trees, but I kind of think that is not going to be all that easy to do.
Here’s what I mean.
I kind of think of her as Dolly Parton with wings.
And here is Jack’s from that winter.
You may notice the red glass beads under the wizard. I stole that idea from my friend Dorothy, and I have many (multiples again) strands of red beads.
Two different years this same artist was chosen to make the “ornament of the year” for the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. Of course I have one of each on the tree for my children. Years ago I may also have left another one of the little angels on the desk of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s mother….who worked at the same school as my older sister….along with a card to her daughter….who is my soul mate even though she doesn’t know it…but this is a blog on stealing not stalking.
My kids learned to ski, both alpine and nordic, but they gave their hearts to nordic racing, and at an annual festival over in Stowe, these were for sale. By the way, when I use the term “stealing”, let me hasten to assure you that I have not shoplifted all these ornaments. Just saying.
I confess right here and now that I have a thing about Swedish ornaments…..it’s something about the red and that they are made of wood. Perhaps that’s because while I don’t have a visual of my childhood trees, I DO remember the popping sound of the ornament that has just lost its little metal cap – which is still attached to the hook and somewhere on the tree – and has smashed into little sharp pieces on the floor. As a result, I have red wooden mittens attached to each other with string – just drape and done, red figures, red horses, red hearts, red wreathes….you get the idea.
This is one of the only glass ornaments I had on my tree for years.
My mom has a whole collection of little German angels playing instruments, and when we lived in Princeton, there was a store that sold them. I sort of had my eye on forming my own band, but I didn’t get very far before we moved.
I wouldn’t be a good mom if I hadn’t held on to the kindergarden flying tinfoil angels.
The star on the top of the tree? A sentimental and beloved angel that came home 26 years ago from daycare.
And then my beloved sister Suzy, decided something needed to be done about the level of cuteness on my tree.
She had ornaments in the shape of television sets, and hairdressers. She had fat glassy balls that looked like spaceships, purple wire twisted into funky shapes, pink flamingoes, and high heeled shoes. She went in for the whimsical, the large, the unmatched. She did her best to expand my tree. She gave my children funky icicle shaped ornaments made from blown glass and I carefully unwrap and hang them each year on the tree.
I’ve gone from stealing trees to treasuring memories, and that is why I am going next door in a few minutes. Earlier this afternoon I saw my next door neighbors bring home a tree. They were married in May so I think this might be their first tree to decorate together, and I am going to give them some ornaments to get started. In time they will find their own style, but if they want to look at my tree…the window shade is up in the living room and the lights are turned on.