Christmas decorations emphasize the celebration of this time of year. Whether modern, traditional or nostalgic, each tree or display delights the eye. Arrangements remind us of the first Christmas or reflect popular songs or stories.
I like a good story theme. Years ago, tiny teddy bears and miniature, ornament sized toys captured my attention. I collected enough to cover the tree and called it the “Teddy Bears’ Playground.” The tree displayed them until my daughter wanted something more sophisticated. Red ribbons and more sophisticated ornaments replaced the bears on our old, artificial tree. Made before pre-lit trees my husband tightly wound each branch with a string to skip the yearly chore. Then we stored it completely assembled. All our children roll their eyes at any mention of our forever tree. Eventually we bought a pre-lit tree and trashed the other.
At a church craft sale, I discovered table trees with glued on ornaments. A short tree with hand-sized Madame Alexander dolls fascinated me. As a child I spent hours studying those dolls dressed beautifully in garments from countries around the world or ready for a party or playtime. I wanted one.
As an adult my wish came true when McDonald’s issued a miniature series of the dolls. I bought a couple at the restaurant, more at yard sales, and then finally I bought the whole series off Ebay. I plastered our six-foot tree with the dolls and miniature teacups and teapots to make The Dolls’ Tea Party tree. For my husband, I added miniature rocking horses, wagons, bikes and tools.
This year one tree sported a collection of White House ornaments and another pretty ornaments without a doll in sight. I suddenly did not like it either. I ousted all of it. I left only a quilt whose green, red and whilte blocks form a tree with strategically arranged buttons holding ornaments representing our 50 years of marriage. For instance, there are the last two of the flour and salt ornaments we cut, baked and painted during our early years of poverty. Also the remaining three of the dozens of tiny, stained glass ornaments my husband made by meticulously arranging teeny glass beads in frames to bake and melt in the oven.
In recent years I have found ornaments of Bible stories: The first Christmas, the crucifixion nail, Moses holding the 10 commandments, plus Jonah and the whale. They reflect our beliefs and years of teaching children at church.
Miniatures of our hobbies remain from the big tree: a ladder, paint brush, drill, screwdriver, and power tool for hubby. A mixer, sewing machines, typewriter and cross stitch angels for me. (Absolutely no scrub brushes, mops, or dust cloths on this tree.) Between those separate interests, dozens of souvenir ornaments reflect our travels to the Mammoth National Park in Waco, Texas; the Dinosaur National Park in Utah, our Alaskan cruise, visits to presidential libraries, and the visit to the first “modern” penal institution in the country. (The museum’s graphics showing the higher percentages of prisoners in the USA compared to other countries’ statistics deeply impacted my viewpoint of “three strikes and you are out” laws.)
This cloth tree tells many stories. A small clay pot reminds me of my teen years in the desert and our trip to the Alamo. I still smile when I look at the ornament from the book “Make Way for Ducklings.” During a visit to Boston, we stumbled on the park depicted in the book. So many other ornaments with stories, but time and space restrain me. My wall of memories will never win a prize for artistic technique. However, it does feel just right this year as we near our 50th wedding anniversary and reflect on our many Christmases together.