Some Christmas tree ornaments do more than glow, they represent a gift of love given a long time ago. —Tom Baker
This year our tree is a magnificent 12-foot, 6-inch Douglas Fir with near perfect shape. Fifteen-foot ceilings in our living room indulge my yen for a ginormous specimen. Each year, I tease my beloved that this will be the year of the 13-footer. Each year, he replies his ladder only allows him to top our tree with our oversized cardinal at 12-ish feet. He strings hundreds of colored lights and yards of silver beads, (which I rearrange) to create the glittering backdrop to our beauties.
We have hundreds of ornaments carefully collected over the past 40 years. Our tradition begun as newlyweds is to choose them as gifts for each other that reflect our passions, hobbies and spirit. T gives me angels—delicate and dainty, sturdy ones that require a strong branch, ethereal fairies, assorted dolls and cardinals. I give him Red Sox and PMC ornaments, VW Beetles, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Penguins, a skier and Nightmare Before Christmas characters, even the tacky leg lamp from A Christmas Story. The Boys added construction paper creations in the early years.
My Oz ornament collection now numbers 50. Some are gifts from T and other family members, others I collected. Most are from the 1939 movie well known as my favorite, and personal lodestar. Glinda and the Lion, my favorite characters, appear in multiple iterations. There are nine Dorothy’s. Most have sound and or motion. The Boys loved to be the first to turn on our tree as dueling ornaments plugged into light strings chanted, “Cabby Cabby,” and “I am Oz, the great and powerful.” One year I discovered they also have play buttons. I press each one, for the pleasure and remembrance now that The Boys are grown and in homes of their own, and because of COVID, cannot come home for Christmas this year.
My own cross stitch ornaments from my design company, Victoria’s Needle, are stories of my family. The Christmas Angel is the tale of Christmas morning in New Hampshire 1975 for a family holiday when we were caught in a snowstorm en route to my brother’s house and ran out of gas. My mom and I walked to the nearby phone booth to call my sister to come get us. As we stuffed into the booth, Mom realized she had no change. She prayed to Mary for help, pressed the cradle and out popped a dime! THAT was a Christmas miracle for certain.
Santa’s Reindeer was created to commemorate the Christmas when my nephew Joshua was returning from the Navy for the holiday. My brother Paul and wife Dorinda, her sister Mickey, Adam, Alex and I dressed as Santa’s entourage to greet him at the Syracuse airport in full costume — Paul as Santa, sister Elves Jingle and Jangle, twin reindeer and me in an oversized, rented reindeer suit. The plane was delayed so we entertained the disembarking passengers and their families as we waited. When Josh finally came down the walkway, he took one look at us and hurried past while we sang Here Come’s Santa Claus. He was mortified; we were gleeful.
The Gingerbread Star is tribute to my Mom Joyce Mallette, The Cookie Maker. Each Christmas, she’d baked the most beautiful trays of edible delights, shipping them off for those she couldn’t visit in person. She entered heaven in 1996 and I continue her tradition now. It is my most holy communion with the woman who inspired joy and love for family.
Santa is homage to my Dad Henry Mallette. I recently rediscovered the story I wrote for the 10th Anniversary Just Cross Stitch Collection which explained why it was my favorite submission. It is a celebration of that jolly old elf who always embodied Santa’s spirit. He believed in giving without receiving, caring deeply for others, and most of all, living in joy.
The oldest surviving ornament on our tree came from my childhood home, the dimestore purple ball with spray snow poinsettias whose luster has mellowed over six decades. My absolute favorite was a brushed gold ball encircled in glitter that went up first on our Syracuse tree. Alex accidentally broke it one year and I had to walk from the room to avoid saying anything hurtful. He was devastated as he knew the story of how my parents chose me to hang this as the first ornament on our family tree each year. Sweet boy, he carefully collected the shards and bottled them in a small jar that now sits in my home office as a reminder of resurrection and forgiveness.
Most precious are the ornaments crafted by family and friends. We have paper glitter dreidels from Adam and Alex’s pre-school days. Aunt Aurora’s Holly Hobby’s, assorted felt stars, mittens and bells, and corduroy trees always graced the bottom of our Miles Ave. tree should the cats wreak mischief. Aunt Annie’s plastic cross stitch snowflakes mingle with hardanger gifts from the Stitching Bitches, humble to expert examples of their skills. Especially dear to me are the ones my Mom made—beaded beauties, lace angels and some odd little homespun angels endearing in their homeliness. These makers are now angels themselves, so hanging them on our tree is a prayer of thanks to them for their enduring gifts of love.
Here’s the thing about our collection. These aren’t random items bought as last minute gifts to check off a list. From the humble to the spectacular, there was considerable thought and time, and in some cases, loving handcrafting. Store-bought were chosen with the greatest of care given our likes and loves. As I opened the boxes and laid them out, it was a tenderhearted connection to joyful memories and loved ones. Especially dear are images of our tiny twin sons creating their idea of beauty as they loaded branches within reach.
This is the true gift of Christmas.
Now it’s time to part with some of our collection, sending off select pieces to Adam and Alex for their own trees. Each year I will gift more, offering touchstones to our shared past to bring them Christmas joy, as they add to their own collections making new memories.