When I was a little girl I always envied the Christmas tree at Jessica’s house. It was tall and full and perfectly symmetrical (it was fake). All of the ornaments and lights were perfectly coordinated in either pale blue or silver, like the tree was wearing an elegantly matched outfit of diamonds, ice and snowflakes. Jessica’s mother didn’t allow home-made ornaments on the tree, only store bought ones that went with the pretty motif, which seemed to annoy Jessica but I couldn’t understand why. Their tree was magnificent- like something out of a magazine or a department store and I vowed to myself that when I was older I was going to decorate my Christmas tree just like it, or even better! I’d drift off into imagining all the different themes I would do; a pink and purple tree, an under the sea tree, a safari tree……….
Every time I’d hang out at Jessica’s house during the holidays, I’d return home disgusted at the sight our family tree and it’s hodge podge collection of homemade ornaments. While Jessica’s tree was diamonds and ice, the only motif our tree had was “elmer’s glue and construction paper”. Sure we had a few pretty ones in the mix, usually gifts from my parent’s friends, but for the most part it was a collection of the ghosts of christmas crafts past. And most of them weren’t exactly aging well. Googly eyes had fallen off turning once cheerful elves into creepy cyclops. Noodles had broken off macaroni wreaths with the rest of the dried out pasta elbows hanging by a thread of glue. Opening the cardboard box every year was like witnessing ornament survivor; you never knew which ones had made it another year. I don’t even know where some of them came from, like the skiing panda bear (now with only one ski) that says Aspen ’87. Unless there was some family vacation I didn’t know about, none of us were even in Aspen in ‘87.
Finally one year I’d had enough. I offered my creative design services to my mother when we were out holiday shopping. I had a vision. I called it “Starry, starry night tree’, a tasteful yet glamorous outer space themed tree, with glowing star lights, swirly and sparkling marbled glass planet like orbs and shooting star garland….it was going to be out of this world! and elegant , of course. I was only seven years old so my mom was going to have to pay for all of the supplies, but that was just a minor detail.
I explained my inspiration and design plan with unbridled passion in aisle 5 of that wal-mart but alas, it was to no avail. No matter how hard I tried to convince my mother that our tree situation needed a major makeover, she refused. She said she actually liked all of the ornaments her children had made and she didn’t want a tree full of matching store bought ornaments. I wondered how I hadn’t realized sooner that I was adopted…..that would explain why I didn’t remember Aspen……..and glumly placed the pieces for my masterpiece “Starry, starry night tree” back on the shelf.
Just today I was in that same Wal Mart buying the usual cleaning supplies and toiletries when on the way to check out I noticed the Christmas decorations were already for sale. I picked up a box of pink and purple glittery ornaments and the part of my brain that’s still six years old said “Pretty, pretty, buy them!!” Then I looked over and saw a fuschia, metallic, miniature tree and my 6 year old brain squealed “It’s pink and shiny and perfect!!!!!” These were the makings of one amazalicious tree! But I didn’t really want any of it. It would have matched my apartment perfectly but for some reason it all seemed so……..fake.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to love all of those old handmade ornaments for the same reason I once hated them…..they weren’t bought. They were all made by me and my siblings when we still believed in Santa Clause or were gifts from friends who loved us (and thought of us even on their ski trips to Aspen, whoever they were). I look forward to opening that old cardboard box to discover which ornaments are still hanging on after all these years.
Our tree always looks the same. It’s not a perfect, fake, store bought tree of diamonds and ice. It’s a quirky, real, one of a kind tree of memories and I love it. I love how my family respects the fact that every year since 1991, I’ve placed the yellow star with my 2nd grade picture on the most centered, eye level branch for prime viewing by all visitors to our home. I love that we still have the strangely cute ornament my little sister made when she was young enough to decide a felt Christmas tree cutout should have a bunny on a leash attached to it, as only a four year old can imagine. I love how every year my mother offers us warm apple cider while Manheim Steamroller plays even though we all know she just goes in the kitchen and microwaves some apple juice. I love the adorable picture of my sweet little brother at age 6 in a red angel costume. I grow nostalgic over how I used to enjoy explaining to anyone that remarked how cute he looked that red angels are obviously evil just like the place they came from, until eventually I moved it to the back of the tree. Aahh, memories they can’t be bought and that’s what really makes an ornament special.
This year, instead of buying matching pink and purple ornaments, I decided to buy supplies to make my own. Until I have a tree full of ornaments that come from a place of love and not a store shelf, I’m going to make ornaments for my friends and family to add to their collections. I’m excited to start this new crafty tradition and one thing is for sure, I’m going to use super hold glue and lots of glitter so my friend’s daughters will love my ornaments more than any store bought ones year after year.