Memories are the ornaments on my Christmas tree

The other day I was admiring, er … critically assessing my Christmas tree and its many ornaments. Ever notice a trend in ornaments? Back in the ’50s there were bubble lights and fragile but brightly colored glass retro ornaments – although in the ’50s you wouldn’t exactly refer to them as “retro.” But we can trace the trends of the decades just by looking at our Christmas trees.

On my tree these days, I have lots of wild critters – owls, squirrels, reindeer – all constructed of “life-like” materials such as bird feathers and bat guano. No, I’m kidding; they are actually feathers from the wompoo pigeon. Whatever. I believe this sudden influx of woodland creatures on my personal Christmas tree has to do with migratory patterns influenced by global climate change.

One aspect of Christmas tree ornaments is that they needn’t match. Sure, we’ve all walked through malls where giant trees are decorated with spherical orbs the approximate diameter of manhole covers. B-O-R-I-N-G. Right?

Nope, to have a really awesome tree, you should be all over the map, Christmas-ornament speaking. The ones your kids made at school, like the little glittered pinecone on a ribbon, or ornaments containing photos of when they got married or were born, and pretty much everything in between.

And you simply must have a couple of hand-me-down ornaments from Aunt Ethel or the requisite dated ornaments, and don’t forget those goofy ornaments with Santa dancing with a reindeer, looking like they both stayed at the office Christmas party just a bit too long.

Most importantly, don’t let anybody tell you your tree isn’t decorated properly or you have too few or too many (guilty!) ornaments or your color scheme wouldn’t be approved by the Town and Country crowd. Nothing roasts my chestnuts faster than a critique of my decorating skills by narrow-minded (and let’s face it, uncreative) persons. Just saying.

But back to my own personal Christmas tree. These days I’m resourceful about the placing of ornaments. It used to be all I had to worry about was the dog sashaying in the direction of the trunk to sniff out who might have left a calling card before the tree found its final resting place in our family room. But these days, the highly realistic artificial tree doesn’t carry the same trunk appeal.

Now it’s little hands that – like their parents before them – love to find low-hanging ornaments and pluck them from the tree for closer examination. Necessity dictates that breakable or otherwise damage-prone baubles be placed in the higher elevations and away from sweet grandbabies’ fingers.

I must tell you, though, that my most-loved ornaments are those that come attached with a particular memory or two. The ones from Arizona when our older daughter was going to college there; same for the ornaments from San Luis Obispo when our younger daughter went off to college. It became a tradition to pick up an ornament or two when we visited them around the holidays.

There are ornaments from dear friends who moved away; another favorite handmade ornament contains a picture of my husband and I the year we got married. Or the decorated goose egg ornament we bought on our honeymoon. Another special ornament is the one my dad bought me in Monterey when he visited us at Thanksgiving, one month after we lost my mom.

The ornament that wins the prize for invoking funny memories is a little wooden cable car. My favorite aunt from Colorado bought it for me in San Francisco in 1972, when she and her new husband came here to visit at Christmas time. She desperately wanted to ride a cable car – and we tried. Each time we attempted to board, at the last second she’d panic and pull me back. So when she spotted that ornament at a shop in Ghirardelli Square, she presented it to me with a laugh, saying that was the closest she wanted to get to a cable car ever again.

So hang those ornaments with pride, friends. Remember that your tree – like you – is unique and beautiful and contains the memories of a lifetime.

May all of the season’s blessings be yours at Christmas time.

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