Tuesday, December 01, 2009

To Each Their Own

I might offend here. It is not my intention.

I do not understand theme Christmas trees. I know people, people I love, who change their tree every year.

I don't get it.

I see trees like this in the stores and they just flabbergast me. Seriously folks, what. The fuck.

First of all, looking at this particular one, I can't even detect the presence of a tree. There might be one lone needle showing. There. To the right. See it?

Me neither.

The first thing I'm going to mention is that having been a buried pagan my entire life, and a not so buried one now, the tree is important. It's life. In your house. Even a plastic one is a perfectly acceptable representation of the green goodness that the planet provides for us.

Ok, now that that's out of the way, bless all yer hearts, but what on earth compels people to change their tree every year? Aside from the expense, where does it leave your heritage?

I was standing in front of the tree today, and as I looked at the ornaments I could remember the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of each one. Nothing really matches. It's a giant hodge-podge (this is the first time I've ever typed that phrase. Basking in it) of my last 38 years here.

If some moron assigned a theme to it they would probably call it, "eclectic," or some other such nonsense. I hang candy canes every year, because really, the idea of plucking candy randomly from a giant tree in my home makes me happy. To be honest, this is the first year in about forever that the tree has been taller than myself. I do have enough ornaments for the frigging thing if I were to pull out the fragile ones packed away in plastic bins, but they aren't toddler friendly. I have not used really fragile ones in years. Clancy used to climb the tree too. Brought it down more than once.

So the front and sides are adorned, and the back against the wall is not. This year the tree is so tall that our colored lights, while they did manage to stretch from the top to the bottom, were skimpy looking when I plugged them in. So I wrapped our white lights in between the colored. Good to go. Because Livvie begged for every pink foil and silver foil tree she saw, I bought silver garland at Family Dollar and wound that around the tree as well. We used silver garland instead of tinsel every year when I was a kid, and each year it would be carefully packed away for reuse the next year. When I removed the garland from the packages this year I saved the cardboard flats they were wrapped around. Mom taught me right.

My grandmother had three of these sheet music ornaments on her tree. This is the last surviving one. It has tiny seed beads glued to it that keep falling off over the years. If they ever all come off I'll redo the whole thing. I think this ornament is about 50-60 years old. I place it up high on the tree despite its size in order to keep it safe. This particular one is Silent Night, and I'll tell you what... when we were only having one kid the idea of passing it on was a lot easier to imagine. Now I'll have to figure out where it goes.

I was up in NJ visiting with my mom one year and we happened to go into Strawbridge's. You know, back when it existed. They had several of these little brass ornaments, and my mother bought me The Philadelphia Museum of Art (pictured), Independence Hall, and Barnegat Light House.

One year I couldn't find Independence Hall, and I nearly lost it. Each of them gets packed carefully each year now so I don't come unglued again.

Each of those three places is incredibly special in my life, and seeing them every winter makes me all kinds of warm and fuzzy.

"Cross stitch" on plastic canvas was The Thing for crafty people back in the mid-80s, and one year my mom went berserk and made about a billion ornaments. When I moved out I snagged the Hickory Dickory Dock clock. Check it, she glued a tiny plastic mouse to it. When Livvie saw it the other day she went wild, so it too is up near the top of the tree. No way, kid. This one is mine. I also managed to grab some smaller plastic canvas ornaments she made to hang at the very top of the tree. And seeing this is inspiring me to grab a can of gold spray paint and a bunch of sweet gum balls. Don't ask.

Santa here on the ladder placing the star hung on my grandmom's tree forever. As a kid I always placed him on the tree near the top so that he actually was placing the star on the tree. He's made of wood, and somehow he's managed to make it through several moves without a bit of damage.

To his right is a tiny bell and glass police officer my mom bought me a couple of years back. She meant it, she said, as an homage to my dad. Sometimes it mocks me because I'm not allowed into the force, being all crazy and whatnot.

The glass heart was etched in 2004 in the mall when my very romantical husband took his butt there and had them make this for me. "Our First Christmas 2004." The gold bow came untied the other day, and I nearly had a coronary. I managed to tie it again with no ill effects. It's up near the top of the tree too.

You know, there hasn't been much in the way of romantical lately. Unless you count him asking the folks at McDonald's to make my Quarter Pounder with Cheese onion-free with no prompting from me. Seriously, those onion chunks are vile.

Emma had a small stocking that hung on the tree that had her name on it, and when Ginny came along, naturally, there were no tiny stockings with her name on them.

So I bought her this.

It doesn't look a thing like her.

She's way cuter.

But it stays.

Our first Christmas together Rich and I were poor. Even more poor than now, which is crazy considering we now have two kids. He owned the bait shop, and one day I went in on my day off from work and bought some bobbers from him, actually paid for them, and took them home and threaded them onto paper clips. It didn't occur to me to go to the mall and have something made. I hung them on our first tree. They have been on every tree for the past 5 years. If anything ever happens to those bobbers I'll be crushed. I could buy a pack of ornament hooks, but I really don't want to. The paperclips will remain forever.

A very good friend of mine, knowing my absolute lust for popcorn and beer, sent me a set of 3 ornaments several years back. A box of popcorn, a bottle of beer, and a TV set.


Livvie is also in lust with popcorn, and informed me the other day that the popcorn ornament belongs to her.

That's fine. I'm keeping the beer and the TV.

This is a hedgehog. I bought him one day on a whim because he was cute. Then I noticed he had a small loop attached to the top of him. Voila. Instant ornament.

The cats used to snag him every year and bat him around the house. Every January I would have to search under appliances and furniture to find him again.

I miss that.

In the meantime, his name is Gerald. Livvie hasn't spotted him yet.

Livvie has been begging for "rainbow stars" for over a month. She saw Mickey Mouse and friends walk a path of rainbow stars and demanded that I provide some. I had to tell her they were pretend. We went 'round and 'round.

The other day at Family Dollar she gasped and said, "Rainbow stars!!!" I looked to my right and saw a pack of 4 ornaments for $1.50. They're plastic. They were probably made in China. I forgot to look. All I know is that for $1.50 I could finally give my kid rainbow stars. They will be carefully put away each year. She has about a billion and one ornaments already, but these were the first she chose herself.

My life is on this tree. My life is on every tree. My aunt and uncle have 2 trees each year since their home is large enough to do so. One tree holds their lives. The other tree is beach themed since they have a home down the shore.

That idea might be doable someday.

I will always, though, decorate with the full chaos of my past.

I just don't see the fun in any other way.


Cyn said...

i like this idea of posting with pictures of favorite ornaments. My childhood ones are on my parents' tree, the ones I have I either bought or were given to me. My theme is Narnia. I find a few ornaments each year that remind me of the books. For instance I have animal ornaments but only if they look like they could speak. Lots of tree showing as hello- Narnia is mostly forested.

Julie said...

See, that makes sense. The tree doesn't change each year. You add to it.

We get new ornaments from people every year, so they just go on as well.

I like your idea. And now I have something to find for you.

Kelly said...

I LOVE the Hickory, Dickory, Dock ornament. I went nuts when I saw the little mouse, just like Livvie.

What is the X-stitched one in the bobber pic? My first thought was ghost but I think snowman would make more sense. :)

Does the hedgehog squeak? I have one just like that, I should hang it too!

Great post, I loved hearing about all your special ornaments.

Julie said...

Yep. It's a snowman. It does look like a ghost though.

The hedgehog doesn't squeak. Bummer. That would rock.

HeatherGroves said...

We have a basic tree theme of birds and pears and cranberries (which stays the same from year to year with the same decorations)and then we augment with whatever ornaments we want to add (we have way too many for one tree and with 4 year olds and cats, the good ones don't get used at this point). So base fruit-bird tree and then free-for-all ornamentation.

One year of my aunts decorated her tree in nothing but sand dollars tied with red ribbons along with giant red bows on some of the branches. I was maybe 8 at the time and it is the only "not mine" tree I remember with any clarity, not because I thought it was so pretty but because it was so incredibly badly done. I don't even think she was doing it because she liked the beach or because of the "doves of peace" found inside the shells. It was totally devoid of emotional content and maybe that was the point.

Chuck said...

We have a loose 'color scheme,' in that it's got red and gold, but we don't change it -- that part stays the same, and every year we add one ornament.

That's about as much change as we're comfy with when it comes to the Axis Mundi in Der Wendighaus.

Mellow Diva said...

The best theme I saw was one from my college years that was a theme born of necessity/frugality. The Star Trek Christmas Ficus, complete with functioning ornaments. Awesome.