Old Ornaments

Old Ornaments

Each year when I put up the Christmas tree, I vow that when I take it down, I will get rid of some of the ornaments. I’m in too big a hurry to get it up to bother with sorting them, so I load the tree with all those ornaments collected through decades. Most branches hold three, arranged up and down the branch.

But when it comes time to take the tree down, I’m in too big a hurry to weed out the ornaments.

Not this time.

Instead of the four hours (or seven times playing Alabama’s Christmas album) it usually takes to put up the tree, (and yes, I’ve timed it because these days the question arises, is it worth it?) this time I decorated in days. One day I put the tree together, branch by branch. It’s a tall, full, old tree, and still stands pretty straight. (For pictures, see 2014 essay, December: The Scent of Christmas.) The next day I strung the lights and fumed that one whole string wouldn’t light up.

The third day, I pulled out the two grocery store banana boxes of ornaments. Besides the 24 glittered (red, gold, and blue) Styrofoam balls I made in my single days, a few decades ago I also painted-by-number 36 wooden ornaments. The glitter ones remain since they brighten the tree, but I picked out only four of my wooden ones to keep.

My mother-in-law and my mom were also ornament makers, and I have a large collection of their crafts. Although I never told them, there were some that weren’t my favorites, and some that were too big, and those I hid at the back of the tree. They went in the let-the-boys-look-at-these box before I donate them to anyone who will have them at the veteran’s thrift shop.

Let me clarify. For decades of holiday seasons we received not one of the craft-of-the-year, but five of that type. Not one clothespin reindeer, but five. Not one plastic and yarn star, but five. Not one beaded icicle, but five. I kept one of each craft, and put the rest in the get-rid-of box. My plan is to guilt trip my sons by having them and their children look at the ornaments and tell them they are family heirlooms made by their grandmothers or great-grandmothers. How can they not take them home for their trees?

I’ve never bought a real ornament for our tree, but I’ve had hundreds given to me. Some are beautiful store-bought ornaments, some delicately cross-stitched, some cleverly crocheted, some are wooden apples with our names painted on them and a date. I don’t recall who gave me a wooden pear with my name misspelled in 1983. I’ve always hung it, but not this year.

Of course, I’m keeping all the gingerbread boys with legs glued back on and the young baker/artist’s initials on the back. And how could I get rid of the ten tarnished metal ornaments with a boy’s name written by a shaky hand holding the engraving pen? The paper candy canes stay. But some things are going, going, gone.

I sound like an ungrateful person, and I like to think I’m not. I treasure the ornaments, and as I hang them I remember the friends and family who gave them to me. My Christmas tree is a very mismatched friendship tree, and I smile when I look at it.

I’m just cutting down the hours it takes to decorate the tree. I’m getting rid of duplicates. That’s all. (And I’m obviously trying to justify my choices.)

Merry Christmas.


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. My 2020 e-novella, On One Condition, is available on Amazon. Reviews appreciated.




On One Condition is now available.

When his office staff ding-dongs him about replacing their aging artificial tree with a real one, former Marine Russell Rhoades reluctantly agrees. At the Christmas tree farm, he meets widow Molly Turner, who is helping at her dad’s seasonal business. Russell is smitten by the tall vivacious woman, but is she still in mourning? He returns day after day to the farm. But how many trees does a guy need?

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