The Roundup -

Tree Ornaments Reservoirs of Holidays Past


I put up a tree every year festooned entirely with outhouse ornaments, all made or bought for me by family and friends. The tree always sits in a prominent place in my house so evefryone can admire it.

I can't understand people who each year purchase a tree already decorated in one theme or another, all coordinated and cutesy. They place this tree with its meaningless ornaments somewhere in their house for a few weeks, and then discard the tree along with all its ornaments at the end of the holiday season. Where is the meaning and the fun in that? I have received my ornaments, each and every one of them, from family and friends through the years, and these trinkets provide memories of times past and people I have known and loved throughout my life. I would no more part with my cherished tree decorations than I'd burn down my home.

I don't always put up a tree at Christmas; it depends on time and circumstances, but when I do I haul out my tin stuffed full of treasured items. The memories that assail me as I reverently pull each ornament out of storage makes trimming the tree a true blessing. These decorations provide me with a lifetime of memories that embrace, celebrate, and remember family and friends across the decades. Every single ornament I own was either handmade by me or by family and friends, bought especially for me by those same family members and friends, or I've inherited them from my parents or grandparents. Each ornament, regardless of how worn or threadbare it may have become over time, holds treasured memories of the person who gifted me with that particular item, and each memento reminds me of some incident or another associated with the person who gave me the ornament. Each object has the ability to remind me of many different adventures and good times I may have shared with that individual.

Here, let me show you. I open the large Christmas tin that stores my variety of tree trimmings, and the first item I spy is a cross stitched ornament my beloved sister made for me. One of many ornaments made just for me by my sister, this one features a Doberman with a bone; the ornament itself has the shape of a Christmas stocking. Now, I love Dobermans and have owned several special, unique dogs of this breed throughout my adult life. This ornament not only reminds me of my very talented sister and the many years of joys, sorrows, and secrets we've shared, but it also brings to mind Gypsy, Skye, Falon, Echo, and Ruby, all fantastic Dobermans that have enriched my life and given me unswerving loyalty and friendship as I negotiated the ups and downs of life as an adult.

I reach in the storage box and pull out several more ornaments made by my sister. She has given me decorations made from a large assortment of materials, including those cross stitched on cloth, ones she hand painted on wood, a snowy barn scene painted on a shiny Christmas ball, and a few store bought items that match my interests. All of these ornaments flood me with remembrances of good times and bad shared with my sister; some escapades I haven't thought about in years but a particular ornament has the ability to unleash those memories and make me smile.

Next I pick a humble plastic gewgaw out of my tin. I detest this particular cheap plastic ornament, but I keep it because it belonged to my grandmother. When I cradle this unremarkable relic in my hands, I remember stories my Grandma told me, I recall through her eyes the Depression she and my grandfather lived through, the hardships and struggles they faced, and how they came out of it intact. I remember her frugality, the fact that she delighted in making a teabag last for ten cups of tea. These life lessons I could easily forget, but a small, unprepossessing ornament on the tree suddenly becomes an object of magnificence when I recall its original owner and the love and learning that owner bestowed on me.

Now I pull a gorgeous ornament out of storage. I received this gift from a beloved friend who has passed on to a better place. This friend, the husband of my best friend when I lived in Canada, gave me this ornament one Christmas season. It brings me great joy to handle this decoration and to recall the man who gave it to me, his idealism, his love for his wife, his devotion to his two daughters, and his commitment to his community. I remember sage advice he gave me while my marriage was in the process of breaking apart, and I see his smile when I handle the magnificent ornament he gifted me.

The next object I pull from storage, a crocheted Christmas ball, came from this man's wife, my best friend at the time who remains a dear friend to this day. This multitalented lady has given me several handmade ornaments, all of them true treasures, and all of them reminding me of summer afternoons sitting on a swing in her back yard, the gorgeous flowers she grew, sharing lemon lift tea and rice pudding which happened to be two favored treats we delighted to share together. These and a thousand other cherished memories of times and confidences shared with this friend, some of them happy and some of them heartbreaking, come out of my memory banks when I handle the special items she made with me in mind. Each one has a place in my heart, strengthened our friendship, and helped make me the person I am today.

Aha, I see a very poorly made paper ornament in the tin. I pick up this not-so-nice decoration and smile ruefully. It happens to be an ornament I made the first year of my marriage to my first husband forty plus odd years ago. That first Christmas money certainly did not grow on trees, I had not yet lived long enough to collect the assortment of ornaments I cherish today, so I made our tree decorations that year out of paper and from cloth. I still have several of these not-so-attractive ornaments, but I keep them to remind me of a portion of my life. The first few years of that marriage, in a country other than the US, alone and with few friends and no family nearby were not easy for a twenty something naïve young girl. I learned a lot, encountered some difficulties, but also enjoyed great experiences that I would not trade for love or money. These ornaments help me remember those times, that place, and the life I built and the friends I made.

A friend, now passed on, gave me this ornament many years ago.

Then I come to my outhouse ornaments. My sister has cross stitched or painted many of these decorations for me, and several special friends also have gifted me with clever outhouse ornaments that I love dearly. I would never part with these under any circumstances. They recall my friends, my sister, and their indulgence with me as I developed a love affair with outhouses.

Yes, I have pictures that span six decades and that also remind me of other times and places, but I think the Christmas season in particular remains a time to remember family, friends, times past, and to help us reflect on the future. What better way to do that than through treasured ornaments that hang on the tree, sparkle in the light, and that vibrate with a life of their own as they radiate the memories and love contained within them.


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