Sunday, December 02, 2007

If Ornaments Define the Character of a Christmas Tree...

If ornaments define the character of a Christmas tree, the trees of my youth would best be characterized as "Charlie Brown" Christmas trees.

When I was growing up, we always had a hodgepodge of ornaments on our tree. There were some made of plastic but most were glass balls. A few were hand painted. There was never an effort made to coordinate the Christmas tree. I don't recall any handmade ornaments. In old photos I can see a string of popcorn but I don't remember stringing it. Maybe my brothers did that. If a local business or church was giving out a free ornament it was put up on the tree with all the rest. I just can't think of a better way to describe our tree than to call it a hodgepodge.

There are a couple ornaments that stand out in my memory. One was a large white glass ball with a dancer painted on it. I'm not sure why this ornament stands out in my mind except possibly because I've always loved to dance and to watch dancers. If I had to pick a favorite ornament from my memory that would be it. Another ornament I remember was what looks like an angry old lady with a club in her hand looking like she was gonna beat somebody, and she had a pine cone body. Sounds bizarre doesn't it? Check it out.

To add to the hodgepodge of ornaments we also had a hodgepodge of lights. Mostly the lights were the old fashioned large indoor multicolored bulbs with blinkers scattered here and there. One time we had a string of bubble lights. I remember sitting and watching those lights bubble away for the longest time while dreaming of Santa Claus and presents. On the top of the tree we had an angel with what looked like aluminum foil wings.

The base of the tree was always covered in "snow" (a white batting with glitter on it). And we always put silver tinsel on the tree to finish it off.

I can remember several times when my mom scolded my dad and me for bringing home a crooked tree. And I must admit some of them were rather homely looking. But once we put our hodgepodge of lights and ornaments on the tree it all just sort of came together. It didn't matter if the tree wasn't exactly straight or well shaped. It smelled wonderful, it was brightly colored, and the blinkers winked at you making the tree seem animated.

We discovered my mom's Christmas decorations when we went through the attic of her house after she died earlier this year. I can't tell you how many times I asked her about those ornaments over the years. She always insisted that she didn't have them anymore. She told me she was sure she gave them away but she couldn't remember who she gave them to. She stopped putting up a Christmas tree several years ago when it just became too much of an effort for her. I guess she just forgot where she put all her decorations. (Certainly understandable given that she had Alzheimer's disease.) They were all there stored neatly away in her attic. My brothers and I divided them up and now I have my favorites and a few others. I wish I'd thought to take photographs of them all before we divided them up.

Here is a photograph of our hodgepodge Christmas tree along with my favorite ornament.
The white ball with the dancer painted on it, now hanging on my tree.
Here's the hodge-podge tree of my youth, Christmas 1959.
The red arrow points to the white ball with the dancer on it.
One of very few color photos from my childhood.

[The Advent calendar number graphic used in this post was created by NicNic at the NBK blog.]