Welcome Yule!

Christmas arrived abruptly on my street today. It felt like a scene in a Suess/Rockwell/Orwell tale where walking down the street shows happy families trimming trees in window after window. Wreaths appeared on one or two doors. They will appear on many more as soon as the enterprising young Boy Scout who sold to at LEAST four of us on one Sunday afternoon returns with his wares. (Rockwell, I’m telling you.) We’re all just trying to get it done before the Stoneham town Tree Lighting and Trolly Ride to the Zoo Lights. (Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up folks. The Town Council is contemplating a skating rink on the town commons, as soon as they can figure out who will pay for maintenance.)

Anyway, as my Thanksgiving redux involves massive insights like “turkey is tasty” and “pie is good”, and Grey had a medical procedure which is fine and everything’s good. But let’s just say that I really love Dr. Yu – a urologist at Children’s Hospital Boston. Great guy. Top notch doctor. Enough said for the internet.

This year's tree. Thane really wanted colored lights.
This year’s tree. Thane really wanted colored lights.

I figured that for your entertainment, I might talk about a few of the ornaments that adorn our Christmas tree. Our ornament collection started at college graduation, when my parents and his packed up our childhood ornaments for us. In my family, in our senior years we were given leave and budget to recreate the family Christmas tree. I recall I bought some ornaments… but mostly I liked the tree the way it was. After marriage, Adam and I bought a bunch of glass bulbs at the now defunct Ames (many of which bulbs still survive), and had a few nice ones given to us as wedding presents. We’ve continue to add to the collection (in part by stealing them from my mother-in-law). I also like to try to pick up one a year. And of course, we are now adding clay and pipe-cleaner ornaments crafted by my sons.

My silver snowman
My silver snowman

This is a silver ornament my father’s parents gave me at my birth. (Or, well, one presumes sometime well after my birth, since my birth was in September on another continent. I do not remember the actual giving well.) Each of us had a silver ornament: my sister a reindeer mobile, my brother a teddy bear I think, and myself this snowman. For a significant portion of my life, I believed this ornament – crafted of the precious metal as it was – my single most valuable possession. I was obsessed with the “kid living on their own” concept (a la “Box Car Children” or “My Side of the Mountain”) and this astonishingly valuable piece of silver was often my mental ace-in-the-hole to be pawned off for real estate, or a bucket and seed corn, or moccasins… you know. What the moment needed. I used to really like polishing it. When I got older, I used my trumpet polishing cloth. I think I did that as recently as last year. My grandparents are gone now, but their birth-gift still hangs on my tree in a place of pride (even if I don’t stake my retirement on it).

Origami star

At some point in his youth, Adam met with a man who had done the origami Christmas tree for the White House. This star was part of that tree, and at the time my husband learned it, few people knew the secret of this fold. Adam has been patient with me since then. I love holographic paper, and the growing collection of origami holographic stars on my tree does nothing but please me. About once a year I’ll find a scrap of particularly pleasing paper, and beg him to make me a star. He usually obliges. Both sides are lovely. Some of these stars are now ten years or more old.

Keitha - 1973
Keitha – 1973

I am not sure if other people use their trees this way, but we store some of our most important – and most painful – memories on our Christmas tree. This ornament is the most important one on the tree. The inscription reads, “Keitha – 1973”. Keitha was Adam’s older sister, born terribly premature, who lived only a few hours. This little angel, holding its little bell, reminds Adam and I (and now our sons), that she was here. That she lived. That she was loved. And that she is missed. I’m not sure if, without this annual reminder, my sons would know they had a little aunt.

I also have an ornament – not quite as perfect – that I first hung on the tree the year I miscarried two.

Bicentennial Baby
Bicentennial Baby

I wasn’t the only one with special ornaments. This is a baby-ornament of Adam’s. My sister was also a bicentennial baby, and I remember being jealous because it seemed like a big deal to be a bicentennial baby! Adam’s ornament reminds us all of how special he was. How far away it seems now!

I have actually looked for special ornaments for my nieces and nephews when they were born. You know, silver preferably. Enduring design. Engraveable. Seriously – this has been impossible to find. The best I could do was pewter. (I didn’t WANT pewter. I wanted SILVER.) My sons have Swarovski crystal snowflakes from their grandparents, which are lovely. Actually, Grey’s snowflake might be my single favorite ornament on the tree for how it catches the light, but it doesn’t photograph well. I consider it a loss. Look people! I want to buy something expensive? Does no one wish to take my money? Guess not.

So, what are your favorite ornaments? Which are most deeply sentimental to you? Do you have styles of ornaments you particularly like or dislike? (Blown glass? Dinner-plate-sized?) Do you keep your deepest memories shinily on display on your Christmas tree?

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

6 thoughts on “Welcome Yule!”

  1. I have an angel ornament with ,y name and “1977” on it, which I use as proof that I’m a year younger than I’ve been told – who puts the year after your birth year on an ornament, right?? And it’s not like 1977 was my first Christmas, as I was a May baby! So, that’s my fave ornament 😉


  2. Both boys have at least one or more silver Gorham ornaments from me as well as silver plate if sterling was not available, Not sure if they are engravable but I believe the first 2 were snowflakes. Also pewter or silverplate celtic ones from celtic attic.


  3. I am not now, nor have I ever been, inside the White House (I have seen it from the surrounding fence, though).

    Allow me to correct slightly your story about the origami star. I learned it from a male staff member at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, which has hosted an Origami Christmas Tree for the last thirty years. And yes, at the time I learned it, I was told the star had been created specifically for the tree and only a few people in the world knew how to fold it. The man very kindly showed my brother and I how to fold it and sent us home with a star. When i got home I carefully unfolded and refolded it until I was certain I knew the pattern.

    Since then the star pattern has spread throughout the origami community, but it’s always been one of my favorites.

    But let’s get the story straight before the Feds show up to arrest me for compromising national security in folding unauthorized origami stars.


  4. Ever since I was little (and I’m 47) I have gotten an ornament on Thanksgiving from my parents. Like you, I took them all with me when I moved out of their home. Now that I have two (almost grown – 20 & 17) they have quite a collection of ornaments that I have been giving them on Thanksgiving. It’s turned into quite a tradition. I just hung up mine over the weekend and lovingly unpacked them remembering getting them and what they meant. Might be nice for your boys too!


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