These two angels that my kids made at an Advent Fair are part of the Christmas decorations I put out every year. My daughter’s has a sweet face – smiling and happy. My son’s is a tough guy – his scowling expression says, “You want a piece of me?”
Those pictures in magazines that show holiday homes with color schemes – turquoise birds on white trees with silver ornaments all matchy-matchy – that’s not happening in my house. Nothing coordinates. Just about everything has broken parts glued back on. I keep them for the same reason I’ve kept my kids’ angels all these years – they have a memory that makes me smile.
There’s the wind up little dancing snowman that spins in circles as he goes around an ice rink. So cute – especially when it worked. Now he staggers around for a few seconds and then flops face down like he spent New Year’s Eve at Joe’s Bar. I keep him because I get a warm little flip-flop in my heart when I take him out of his box each year and set him on the coffee table. I remember his better days.
Baby Jesus has a jagged line on his wrist where his hand got broken off and misaligned while applying super glue. Elves and reindeer in the Christmas village have similar jagged lines in their legs and antlers. My kids used them like action figures – my son waged battles amongst the reindeer, my daughter bonk bonk bonked the elves along the table on their way to Santa’s workshop. The village people were a rowdy bunch, and they’ve got the scars to prove it.
Cracked and broken Christmas do-dads probably fill garbage cans all around the world, but I keep mine like they’re priceless. I cherish the gold fabric Christmas tree that my German bombshell neighbor, Elfriede (pronounced Al-freed-a) gave me when she sold her house twenty-five years ago. It’s not my taste, exactly. It’s, well, it’s hideous. But it reminds me of Elfrieda. She always wore her blond hair pulled back into a bun, like an actress playing an alpine Heidi or a busty German barmaid. When she’d be in her backyard, all we could see through the shrubs was that blond hair and bun. My kids would say, “Look mom, it’s the Elfriede head!” That’s why I’ve kept that tree, because I laugh out loud remembering their little voices and that bodiless head floating back and forth while she watered the plants on her patio.
Most of the other items I own are like that – tacky, cracked, disheveled snowmen and Santas with parts missing. Most everything came into the house as a gift or a hand-me-down (a.k.a. family heirloom). My husband’s great grandmother paper-mache’d a Santa and Mrs. Claus around a Coke bottle. Their heads come off – that’s how I discovered there’s a Coke bottle under there. Their hands slide off their wire coat hangers and sometimes get put on backwards.
Someone, maybe my mother-in-law, gave me a mounted fish wearing a Santa hat that belts out Jingle Bells when it’s motion sensor detects you walking by. It’s mouth moves like it’s singing, the tail flips out and in like it’s dancing. Talk about hideous – scary, too. It’s so loud it makes you jump when it starts yelling, “YEE HA! DASHING through the snow…”
The children and I cut out holiday shapes with cookie cutters in a baking soda and corn starch dough I made. The kids got sick of painting them (we made about thirty), so they’re juvenile and sloppy. I still hang them on the tree (toward the back). My son made a Christmas ghost from a Halloween cookie cutout. It’s one of my favorites. (Here’s a recipe if you want to make your own: https://clabbergirl.com/corn-starch-dough-ornaments-2/ Ours weren’t cute like theirs.)
Christmas can be lonely at times – especially this year when gatherings are cancelled or limited because of the pandemic. My memories remind me how good life has been, and continues to be, and will be in the future. Right now I think I’ll call a friend I haven’t talked to in months. She gave me a foot and a half high Santa wearing a herringbone jacket and britches like someone from Scotland, standing beside a matching golf bag with little silver golf clubs sticking out. He’s an interesting addition to the shelf with all the Santas.
My decorations are old, and some have parts missing, but they keep me connected – to the past with my memories, and to the present, by reminding me to get in touch with the people I love, even though a lot of time has slipped by since the last time we talked.
That’s what makes Christmas merry.
Hope yours is too.