Christmas/Holiday Cheer: Every Ornament Tells A Story

We still get a live tree every December. It always resides in the basement, though its location down there has varied from year to year. Most of the time, it’s been just inside the doors leading out to the back yard. Last year, however, it was placed more toward the center of the room, where the recliner usually is–a concession to our aging dog and his need to avoid going down the deck stairs in the dark. I guess we liked that arrangement well enough, as we elected to put the 2021 tree in the same spot.

The 2021 tree is smaller and lighter than what we usually get, in part because prices are higher, in part because we didn’t want to shop around all that much. This meant when it came time to decorate, we had to be more selective about which ornaments made the cut–sentimentality and weight (due to fewer hardy branches) were both factors. As the tree filled up, I couldn’t help but think about the stories behind many of the ornaments. I know the same holds true for those of you who decorate Christmas trees at home; I appreciate your indulgence as I share some of mine.

One December while my father was the minister at Stanford Christian Church–which means it was between 1968 and 1971–my sister and I received glass ornaments as gifts from a family in the church. A mouse for Amy and a musketeer for me, both about 7″ tall. It was a bit of a moment when it came time to hang them on the tree each year as we grew up. Even so, neither Amy nor I thought to claim them from our parents after we moved out–it would take until 2015, when I discovered them anew cleaning out my folks’ townhouse. I wound up with the box they had come in.

My most recent visit to Stanford Christian was in the early fall of 2017; only a few people in attendance that Sunday remembered my father and his tenure there. One of them, a man in his 60s, had a name that sounded familiar. Three months later, I realized why: his parents had been the ones to give Amy and me the ornaments (their names are written on the top of the box I kept).

One more thing: The man had mentioned he had a nephew who’d attended where I teach back around the turn of the century. I’d had the nephew in a few classes–if only I’d realized at the time, I could have told him about the ornament his grandparents had given me.

Nothing says the 1970s to me quite the same way this variegated yarn does. I made the God’s Eye at church in Walton somewhere around 1973.

Thirty-five or so years later, Ben got into Perler bead art for several months. A number of his creations became ornaments; this is likely my favorite of the bunch. Arranging it on the tree so that there’s a light behind it makes for a decent effect.

I moved into my first house in early December 1993, my second year on the job. A couple of my colleagues arranged a small end-of-semester party at school for our majors that also served as a house-warming event for me. A few students gave me ornaments, some with a math-related theme. (That’s another of Ben’s efforts, a Lego snowman, in the lower right.)

Every year since 2005, I’ve bought a personalized ornament for the tree. Until recently I got them from a kiosk at the mall in Lexington–you know, you choose an ornament and as you pay, you tell the cashier what you want written on it, and where. I’m thinking that 2014 was the year the young woman charged with fulfilling the request insisted that I needed to include an apostrophe somehow, somewhere in “The Harrises.” Even though I obviously prevailed in the end, I left pretty certain I’d failed to convince her she was wrong.

While Ben was growing up, Martha would often conspire with him to surprise me at Christmas. The same year I was getting bad grammar lessons at the mall, she came across a kit to capture your pet’s print in plaster. This was a little more than a year after Buddy had entered our lives. She and Ben corralled Buddy one afternoon while I was still at school and forced his cooperation in the project (I understand he was not pleased). We couldn’t forego getting this one out, even if it’s too big, too much for the 2021 tree–we’ve hung it on a knob for one of our cabinet doors. I knew last year he was almost certainly spending his final Christmas with us, but that doesn’t make it easier.

That’s plenty enough. Wishing you fond recollections, whether it’s spurred by Christmas ornaments or something else near and dear to you.

From the post’s title you could guess who’s providing the musical entertainment, no?

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