What This Tree Lacks in Balls, it Makes up for in Character

This year I decided to have a grown-up, matchy-matchy Christmas tree. No multi-color baubles or foam and popsicle stick reindeer for me! I bought a basketful of overpriced monochrome ornaments and pre-approved every one that the kids hung up. When Jonas and V-meister were done, there were ornament clusters hanging like overripe bananas from the tip of every bough and only the lower three tiers were covered. After they’d gone to bed, OCD fairy swooped in and re-arranged the low hanging fruit and voila! – I had my perfect tree. Not quite catalog worthy, but still very nice.

Even so, I couldn’t forsake the mismatched “heritage” ornaments sitting in shoe boxes on the kitchen counter with their thirty plus years of memories safely shut inside. The faded and tattered trinkets that, en masse, contribute to the double-edged joy and melancholy of Christmas. As much as I love taking each one out and examining it in turn, the process is bittersweet, reminding me of fleeting childhoods and loved ones long gone.

There are the faceless ceramic newlyweds my mother-in-law gave the P-Dawg and me for our first Christmas together:

The disfigured drummer boy my husband painted as a child:

"One time, at band camp . . ."

My school picture, circa 1980:

All I Want for Christmas is a Professional Haircut and Normal Front Teeth

The photo of my grandmother with two-year-old Jonas:

I Miss Her Very Much

The bird that always hung on my paternal grandmother’s tree. We used to call her “Other Grandmother,” or “Kita Mo?ut?” because “Mo?ut?” was already taken. Can you imagine? It never occured to us to call her, “Mo?ut? Marija,” which would have been beautiful, and her actual name.  I never used to like the bird, but now it speaks to me:

"Oh, hi there . . . Other Rima"

The V-Meister’s paper doll chains:

The retro skating Santa from my grandparents’ old house:

The book ornament that was my favorite as a child, with real stories inside:

And the pine cones decorated by Jonas and V-meister’s little hands:

We hung them all, and then some, on a miniature tree in the sunroom. Our own little Nostalgia Zone.

And the children rejoiced. As far as they’re concerned, this one is the REAL Christmas tree.

They just might be right.

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6 thoughts on “What This Tree Lacks in Balls, it Makes up for in Character

  1. Life in Eden

    awww. I think that is the one part of Christmas decorating I miss, the family ornaments for the tree (my husband and I have our family celebrate Hanukkah, although I grew up with Christmas). I remember a ton of wooden ones my older siblings had all made. Love makes the real tree.

  2. Kat

    HAHA! Sounds like you and I have much in common. We have our fancy red/gold tree in the front hallway, and the FUN Christmas tree in the living room. You can guess which is everyone’s favorite.

    I love the retro ornaments. My mom has some very similar ones. :)

  3. Painted Maypole

    as i was decorating our tree today I was concocting a similar post in my head… will have to take pictures first, though. no matchy, matchy for me. I am ALL about the kitschy memories.

  4. Sarah

    First, I love your words…just got a link and am reading from beginning to now…

    Secondly, I rememember when m dad remarried and she was all about her vintage Victorian Christmas tree…it was beautiful but I wanted all our stuff….my brother and my little kid ornaments…this fake candy string I grew up with….my dad bought a half size tree and we put them all on it…..in the back room..but it was so good…I lost him two years ago….all of the ornaments are in storage literally across the country….I haven’t even put a tree up the last two years….so please don’t lose those tacky sentimental ornaments…screw a matched tree…

    I don’t have kids and don’t plan on any but I love your blog….thank you…

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