By Ev Bishop
In the first years of my married life, it was our tradition to buy one holiday
decoration every Christmas.
The first year, pre-kids, we purchased an inexpensive box of tiny, ornate wooden ornaments. Each one, be it a baby angel with paper thin wings, or a small Christmas tree, elf, or star, was painted white, detailed with gold and silver, with only the smallest bit of black for eyes and such. They are still my favourite store bought whimsies.
Year two we purchased a myriad of small foil Christmas balls in bright reds, blues, greens, silvers, and gold – and a baby’s first Christmas ornament! Year three’s addition was very special – we splurged on a Victorian
village with seven buildings, a train, and lots of little
people who sled, carry parcels, chase Christmas geese, and sing carols – there’s even an old-fashioned bobby to keep festivities in line.
A lovely porcelain angel tops our tree, a gift from Nana – my husband’s mom–when our kids were small.
Every year when we put her in place and turn on the lights, I still hear the oohs and ahhs my then-toddler children made when they first saw the angel’s little candle flame.
A large nativity – something I’d wanted first, but we couldn’t afford – became the living room’s central decoration a few years after that. My kids shuffled the figures around to different places so often that it seemed the animals walked about on their own, while Mary and Joseph took turns pacing with Baby Jesus.
Over the years, the number of our decorations grew bit by bit just like our kids, and homemade treasures for the tree replaced store-bought additions. I love these ornaments from years gone by – when the kids were small – best. It doesn’t matter if they’re torn or a bit worn, or if the sparkle is fading or an edge a bit crumpled. As I pull them out one by one from the boxes we’ve accumulated, memories flood back, strong as the scent of cinnamon.
A red-clay dinosaur, decked out in red and green glitter, joins a host of handcrafted angels. There’s a small clay dog about the size of half my pinky that frolics near similarly rolled and cut-out gingerbread people, a teddy bear, stars and wreathes.
A juice can top picture frame stars my son at four, topped with a red ribbon so it can hang and look pretty. Little puzzle piece reindeer sport my children’s names and Rudolph’s nose.
And it’s not just memories of the kids our collection triggers.
My little sister gave my husband and me a box of homemade Christmas ornaments one year early in our marriage: pasta angels with the cutest heads of tiny-crinkly noodle hair, little satin balls, and paper drums. I can’t look at them without smiling.
A family of snowmen, labelled with our names, brings my sister-in-law’s face to mind. An origami crane, a cross-stitched card, and similar intricate gifts make my friend Allison flutter into my head.
The Christmas boxes have the same power over the rest of my family as they do over me, and listening to them chatter about this memory and that as they unpack things makes me happy that I’ve never weeded out our collection.
Even the things too beaten up to make it on the tree bring happy squeals. Stuff is just stuff and I’m usually quick to dismiss it, but in the case of Christmas trinkets, I admit my weak spot. I love the memories sparkling in their shiny surfaces and folded into their fabric.
I hope you experience peace, laughter, and joy this holiday – all things found easily stashed and stored around your home. Merry Christmas!