Some came from countries that no longer exist, and sold at a Five and Dime near Bremerton’s navy base. The box of a dozen glass ornaments cost fourteen cents. Others began their travel in Romania, made for hard currency export during the depths of the Cold War. Others stem from Australia, Germany, Poland, Santa Fe NM back when it was fun. Others were made by relatives, including my Southern Belle aunt who painted china as well as canvasses. As DadRed observed this year, “We could easily do a second tree.”

Ornaments mark moments in time – gifts when Sib and I were born, Texas-related things when we moved down here, my parents marriage while Dad was in the Navy, special vacations and trips, friends made around the world . . . Sib liked Star Trek, so there’s Bird of Prey that plugged into a light-bulb socket and made shooty noises. I have all the airplane ornaments Hallmark has released thus far. There are cats galore, wildlife in wood, spun glass, fabric, resin, blown-glass . . . We go for colorful, memorable, and “that looks neat!” Theme trees are not a Red family tradition, any generation of it. Sib and Sib-in-Law have cat-resistant ornaments, mostly wood, fabric, resin, and a few made from lab-glass that are carefully secured to the tree. The tree is affixed to the wall, just in case.

The oldest ornaments predate me. They came from Woolworths and Skags. Of the glass birds, only one survives and it now lacks a tail. It had been a swan with a white filament tail tipped in silver. The glass balls have patterns of rough dots and stripes on the outside. The material had once been silver, but is now almost black. They cost ten cents for a dozen, and came from Romania.

The newest ornament? A large blown-glass dragon with a red and white sash across its chest, holding the crest of the city of Krakow. We also have Polish straw ornaments as well, fish and stars and a witch and a few others, all obtained from Poland through a shop in the US.

As Mom and Dad Red finished decorating the tree this year, I polished a solid silver unicorn we got at Colonial Williamsburg a few years ago. Um, a few as in over twenty. (That trip was the last time I ever dressed for style instead of weather. I was cold the entire time.) It goes with the reproduction of the Unicorn in Captivity from the tapestries in the Cloisters Museum. Dragons outnumber unicorns in the family collection, even though unicorns are more liturgically appropriate. The most numerous animal is the cat, then dragon, fox, birds of all kinds, and so on down to a single felt kangaroo and koala. Friends in Australia gave us those one year.

We also have embroidered and beaded figures that hang from the drapes, and all of the Smithsonian carousel animals. Those are far too heavy to hang on the tree, so they hover in front of the windows. Some are in better shape than others, as years and packing problems took their toll. The Nativity scene disappeared when we moved here, and I suspect it was stolen along with other valuables. I have the pewter pocket Nativity that appeared in my dorm room drawer the first Christmas I was in college. I have no idea where it came from, and my parents deny any knowledge. It had not been in the drawer in November, then appeared hidden in with my socks in early December.

Some questions are best not asked. Like “Who ate the cookie?” or “How did you manage to break that?”


6 thoughts on “Ornaments

  1. I love this. I really felt the lack of a tree this year. However, between losing all of the ornaments during the move from NH – which included 14 years of my children making ornaments every year, as was our tradition – and the ornaments being given away when we moved from OH (they had been left out of the big moving truck, and there was no way to get them to TX after that) I have completely lost all the family history. It feels too hard to start again, now that all my children are grown, and next year is likely to be my first year with an empty nest.

    You have treasures there in memories worth far more than the simple objects they are anchored to. Hold onto them!

  2. That’s really neat, it made me think about our ornaments.

    We have a box of small straw angels that are marked West Germany which we got there when I was very young, among quite a variety from elsewhere.
    The tree itself dates from the early 70’s; I can remember when we still had the original box.

  3. Some of the glass ornaments look so familiar. The glass bell and pine cone are like some we had when I was a child. The collection also included two St. Nicholas and a bird with a filament tail, probably similar to your swan.
    Ah, memories.

  4. All the collected ornaments which decorated the family tree were lost in the fire that destroyed Mom and Dad’s retirement house in 2003 – and they were the things that my daughter and I lamented the loss of most. Mom and Dad had half an hour to load up the most valuable and critical stuff, in advance of the fire, but in that circumstance, who thinks to grab two heavy cardboard boxes stowed in the rafters of the garage. I began my own Christmas tree collection when I went into the military and spent most the next twenty Christmases on my own.
    More here – The Christmas Gallery of Memories –https://celiahayes.com/archives/3117

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