As a genre-hopping author (horror/thrillers/comedy/mystery), I have published twelve novels. But something was missing from my writerly life. I felt a severe need to sell out. Bound to happen, just...
Most people who know me also know I’m not a fan of Christmas and always want to mentally close up shop after Thanksgiving supper’s put away, hide in a hole for a month, then open up again after New Year’s. Just skip the whole damn mess, Bah Humbug and all that crap.
I’m not here to rant about Christmas, at least not today (check back in late November, I’ll surely be in a froth by then). Instead, I want to talk about ornaments.
Specifically, our annual ornament.
When Bill and I got married back in 1988, we didn’t have much of anything other than each other, and our only holiday decorations were a few semi-crappy things I’d made, a couple of spun glass hearts we received as a gift (top left), and the leaded glass ornaments my mother tied to our Christmas presents that year (slightly right of top left). Since we’ve always had cats – and usually have at least one ornery one; I’m lookin’ at you, Socksy!! – those four ornaments have hung on the tree three or four times these past thirty Christmasses. I still bring them out, every year, and this year Laura (our daughter) showed them to her daughter who ‘oooohed’ and ‘aaaahed’ appropriately before Laura carefully put them away again.
After that first Christmas and the oh-so-fragile ornaments, we needed at least one holiday tradition that didn’t send me into a bleak funk, so I decided to have an Annual Ornament, a coordinating set with one ornament for every person in our family. Maybe they’ll be exactly the same, but same-but-different is best!
Every ornament in the top row (aka The Lean Years when we lived on love and not much else) were either made by me (’92), made by my mother (’91) or bargain basement cheap (all the rest except ’90). 1990’s ornaments were actually – for us at that time – rather spendy at $5 each, but they were for Laura’s First Christmas and I saved up for weeks. Yep, weeks to save $15. We were indeed That Broke. I bought them at Northwest Fabrics about a week before Christmas, ON SALE, suggested retail $7.99!!
By the way, I felt GUILTY about spending that much money for, well, far too long. Years, actually. Could have bought more than a week’s worth of meat for $15 instead. Sometimes I still think about that. Could have fed the family a little better, Tam, but nooooooo. You had to have those Santas.
Fwiw, I think those Santas are Laura’s favorite ornament, so I guess the money was well spent.
The ones that mean the most to me, out of all the ornaments we have, are in that row as well, but they’re made of just paper.
1993 was probably the leanest of the lean years. I was in college, Laura was almost four, we’d recently found out we couldn’t have more kids, and it was just a damn tough winter. I had absolutely no money for ornaments or much of anything else (I think our entire Christmas budget was $20, for EVERYTHING), and while I didn’t want to let my one tradition die, I had no idea how to make it happen.
Then I found these Santas in a bargain bin somewhere. All three for fifty cents. They’re paper with foil accents. Just. Paper. The bottom Santa’s staff is cracked, and the blue Santa got his foot chewed off by I don’t remember what (A cat? A kid? Some rodent? My own holiday blues? Who knows?)
But three ornaments. Santas. One for each of us. For fifty cents.
I scrounged up change, nickels and pennies, to get them so we’d have our Annual Ornament and keep the tradition alive. Out of all of the abundance that hangs on our tree every Christmas, these three are my favorites. They are Precious To Me, perhaps more than anything else I own.
Three humble paper Santas. For a woman who hates Christmas.
Money got better, a little bit at a time, and Laura started to take interest in ornament shopping. The second row is all ornaments she helped pick out because she wanted to, once (the sparkly bells of ’99) because she did it without me. She bought them with my mother instead.
Honestly, I’m still a bit miffed about that. The ONE THING I like about Christmas, and it was taken away! WAAH!
Soon Laura got older and didn’t care anymore, so I was on my own again to find ornaments. For some crazy-pants reason I bought two sets in 2004 (the year of Double Santa’s) and I can’t for the life of me remember why.
I also don’t know why I apparently have a thing for Santas and Snowmen, especially Snowman Cookies. Just one of my quirks, I guess.
In 2008, Laura went off to college and we moved to rural NW Iowa. The kitty ornaments (for our cats Abbie, Cooper, and Puufy, the pets who moved with us) symbolize that year. Puufy and Cooper have passed on, but Abbie’s still around. She’s 18 now, an old gal but still doing fine.
Laura became a mom in 2011 and we’ve grown from three annual ornaments to four. Our Munchkin started helping me shop for the annual ornament in 2014. She liked these birds a lot, so we got birds. They’re soft and cuddly. Pretty sure we got them at Target.
Munchkin’s favorites, though, are the cupcakes, bought at Menards. Yep, Menards. They actually have a pretty good ornament selection – whodathunk?
Munchkin and I had Spent The Day looking at ornaments. We went to Target, Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Younkers, Penney’s, every grocery store, Earl May, and, finally Menards. Nothing satisfied her until she found the cupcakes. Grandpa’s is the brown one, mine’s pink, Laura’s is blue, and Munchkin’s is the Red One With Stars And Gold Glitter.
Because that’s what it takes to make her happy. Glitter and lots of it.
I cleared out Christmas today to start the new year fresh and my ornaments and memories are all put away until next year. It’ll be nice to see them again next holiday season. The rest of Christmas… not so much. 😉
I hope you have a happy and productive 2018!