Thursday, December 22, 2005

first ornaments

When my mom and dad were first married, they didn't have a lot of money. Mom was in college and Dad was in grad school. For their first Christmas, if I remember the story right, they didn't have a proper Christmas tree, they had a houseplant in their tiny college apartment which they dubbed a Chanukah bush. It held their ornaments, which (owing to school expenses and meager incomes) weren't many. My mother made Christmas ornaments that year - Christmas carolers out of cardboard egg cartons.

I wasn't impressed with them as a kid. They weren't shiny or iridescent, they didn't flash or wind up or sparkle or glow. But now I'm amazed that she squeezed that much personality out of a disposable egg carton. Now, 40 years later, this caroler hangs on my own tree, slightly battered and having many of its joints re-glued after certain twins-who-shall-remain-nameless have desired and obtained it, several times, by means of their newly acquired skills of chair-dragging.

Ten years ago, Daniel and I were newly married and living on missionary salary. Having just made a large down payment on our "new" trailer home, we didn't have a lot of money. Unlike my parents, we had the benefit of a slightly battered hand-me-down plastic Christmas tree. (For that matter, living where we do, we could have had our pick of 'real' trees - were it not for Daniel's allergies.) I handmade our tree ornaments as well - pasta angels.

Slightly battered, and having its joints re-glued several times for the same reasons as mentioned above, the angel hangs on our tree still this year, not too far from the Christmas caroler. They are certainly not the most beautiful ornaments on our tree; they are not the ones that our guests comment on, but like the Velveteen Rabbit they have, in many ways, become Real to me.

If these ornaments both survive another twenty or thirty years, they will be passed down to another young couple who, we hope, will be learning that Christmas can be a joyful time even without a lot of money to spend - learning that they can celebrate angels and carolers, and the birth of the Messiah - with a handful of scraps and a bit of glue. Learning, perhaps, that it was the poor "wrong side of the tracks" shepherds who got to kneel first before their Christ. Learning that it is, in many ways, entirely appropriate to celebrate the King of the earth with scraps and glue.


Anonymous kim said...

Hey, I didn't know you had one of mom's egg carton guys! G. walked by and said, "Wow, that's cool!"

I'm embarrassed to say that our first Christmas tree didn't have any cute homemade ornaments, we were given a set of Simpson Characters, and I tied red and white ribbons to the other branches of a tiny fake tree. The next year we bought a too-big fake tree (it looked not so big in the store 'forest' !!) and some no longer used glass ornaments (too breakable for my children's ages) ...

but every year we lovingly pull out our homemade Aunt Kelly ornaments - pasta angels, shiny gold pinecones, tiny fuzzy bears on crayons, small felt stockings, shimmery satin balls and stars to decorate our tree with tangible love.

12/22/2005 3:24 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home