We have the discussion every year at Christmas. We should get new decorations for the tree. These are old. They’re tacky. It would be so nice to have a “themed” tree festooned in matching designer ornaments like in the magazines – the same magazines that make us feel fat, plain, and living under our potential. But that’s as far as it goes – a discussion.
Our tree is not cool or designer, but rather it’s decorated with a hodge podge of mismatched ornaments that don’t result in anything resembling a style and a few have been labeled ugly but they’re hung none-the-less. Some date back to our first Christmas together twenty eight years ago, a few are even older. There’s a ceramic bell from the anniversary of the church I grew up in. A popsicle stick sled hand labeled “SK (senior kindergarten) ’91 is entering it’s twenty-first year of service. Another popsicle stick masterpiece – three sticks glued together into a triangle, with a red fuzzy nose and one googly eye (started with two) – it’s a reindeer with Kim neatly printed on the back.
A small picture frame holds a photo of Sunny our first dog, a Golden Retriever, and beside that hangs a red lacquered Styrofoam apple, an ornament decidedly cheap and questionably tacky but it has it’s own story. It hangs as a reminder of Sunny’s first Christmas with us, when, as a nine month old pup, he ate everything on the tree from three feet down. Yes everything. I came home at lunch to find a definite demarcation line three feet from the floor between the decorated and newly denuded portions of the tree. The chocolate ornaments were naturally gone (first target), and the red lacquered apples had all been sampled, their lacquer having turned gelatinous and been smeared into the carpet and the dog’s fur. The truly amazing part was the glass decorations. Delicate multi coloured blown glass balls, crafted no doubt by some underpaid artisan in Czechoslovakia had all been crunched up – AND EATEN! We thought “Well that’s it, our dog is dead” lacerated to death from the inside but he showed no ill effects and you’d never know that he had ingested a million shards of glass except for the back yard. Yes, for the next two days, cleaning up the yard was so colourful and glittery you’d swear we had a pet unicorn.
I was chastised this year by Jenn for my failure to hang Glitter Baby Jesus. Another primary school Christmas project, this is a small picture of the Nativity cut out of a used Christmas card, and affixed to a clothespin to which Jenn had applied enough glue and gold glitter that the baby Jesus cannot be seen. Hence it’s name – and it’s prominence in the ornament hierarchy.
There are the two birds, big and small, possibly meant to represent quail, but dubbed Mommy and Daddy Bird. Every year they perch somewhere near the top, looking out into the room, their little wire feet wrapped tenuously around a branch. They’ve been known to be found hanging upside down, only to be righted again and their grip tightened by a twist of the wire. A Christmas tree is naked without a couple birds in it.
And of course there is the Drunken Angel. She no longer takes her place atop the tree – purely for safety reasons, but every year Eve tries to talk me into putting her up and I refuse. She’s a beautiful porcelain angel doll in silk robes complete with wings and a motor unit that causes her hands and wings to spread open and closed. What the angel developers failed to take into account is that every time she opens her hands, her center of gravity shifts (there I go with the engineering talk) causing her to rock back on the treetop and as her hands close she rocks forward again like a truly fallen angel about to take a header into the gifts below. Year after year Eve is hopeful. “Where’s my angel?”
We can’t simply throw out these ornaments and replace them with something new and better – that’s where their beauty lies. They’re not shiny and new, they’re old and battered and they all tell a story. They’re memories.
For this Christmas season and the coming year Eve and I would like to send you all warm wishes for health and happiness for you and your family. May you know the love of family, enjoy the company of good friends, and hold close fond memories of those who’ve left us. Reach out to those in need and share your blessings with those less fortunate. Plant seeds of love and kindness for the future. Set a place at the table for those we’ve lost or those we hope to see again – I know we will this year. Most importantly, dress your tree in memories.
Paul and Eve
About the Photos:
Yes it’s true, we admit it. We have more photos of our dogs than our children. This photo shoot started out as an attempt to make Leica our 2012 LOL Christmas poster child but before long, Ruby and Bennie wanted in on the limelight. Missing is Kimchi our other granddog, but he’s a bit camera shy and self conscious about some recent bad hair issues.
Leica: 11 mo. old, Jack Russell Terrorist. She is our spoiled rotten princess and our children have made acusations that she is the child parents often have late in life after the others have grown and left. This may be so but her sweet personality and silly antics keep us in laughter. (And she never asks for money)
Ruby: 3 mo. old, Boston Terrier/Pug mix (BUG). Ruby is the newest member of the Rice four legged family. An early Christmas present for our youngest daughter Kim, she is fitting in well and visits between her home, Grandma and Grandpa’s, and Aunt Jenn’s. Eve has nicknamed her Squishy.
Bennie: 8 yrs. old, Border Collie. The most misunderstood dog in the history of domesticated canines Bennie wants nothing more than to be loved by everyone but it’s complicated by his fear of just about everyone but family. To us he’s a 70 lb suck who wants to sit on your lap and be hugged – his favourite thing in the the world is a kiss between the eyes. To outsiders he’s that crazy barking dog, determined to repel all boarders.