Saturday, December 14, 2013

My Holiday Tradition -- Ornaments

After battling three little people off and on for a week and extracting one ornament from the baby's mouth, I finally decorated my tree.

Now, although it looks fine and I don't have to worry about that item on my check list, I almost have a case of buyer's remorse because it doesn't feel like my tree. It's not the tree I'm used to having, well, OK, so it's the same tree I had last year. I should say it's not the ornaments I'm used to seeing, but I just wasn't up to two more weeks of the struggle I had last week just to protect a few small balls. So instead of a tree full of tradition and memories, I decorated the tree with the large, shatterproof balls I bought on clearance last year for the hemlock tree in the front yard. They never made it to that tree because 1) I would need to tote the ladder to the tree, 2) When I decided I was ready to drag out the ladder, I didn't have hangers for them, and 3) Once I had hangers, the weather was nasty.

When my daughter was small and I put away the glass ornaments that weren't safe, I was left looking for alternatives. Among the less dangerous and inexpensive options I found that year, I stumbled on a few that were worthy of keeping. As the years went on and I was still dealing with small children and a limited budget, I began making it a habit to find an ornament each year for each child. They were figurine ornaments -- mice on candy canes, characters from Rudolph the Red Nosed reindeer, skateboarders -- a hodgepodge of characters that gradually filled up my tree, bumping more traditional ornaments into boxes for outdoor use.

Once upon a time, decent ornaments even came in Happy Meals. There was a Miss Bianca the year The Rescuers movie came out; a Prancer from the movie with Sam Elliott and the fallen reindeer; a dog from All Dogs Go to Heaven (I think that was the movie) that played a holiday tune. Of course, one year the dog wouldn't stop playing his tune and I took him out on the porch with a hammer. He's a small, stuffed animal, and I was able to successfully smash the music box and shut him up without damaging his appearance. I don't think the children were too badly traumatized.

By the time the children were both big enough for glass to be safe, the plastic figurines were an established part of Christmas and each year I chose one as an early gift. They were never really expensive, because by and large a Hallmark ornament would have looked out of place among the early contenders, but each came to have a little meaning of its own.

There came a point when my daughter left home that I boxed up the children's ornaments, thinking I'd start fresh. I offered hers to her to start her tree, but she said they were more my memories than hers. She decided she wanted to continue the tradition, but start fresh with her own family. Because she and her husband are in a better financial place than I was, their tree is done up in Hallmark and Disney. Of course, that also brings a little more drama if one gets broken -- because there is cost as well as emotional attachment. Although it's changed a bit, the tradition lives on.

At my house, it continues as well. After a brief hiatus of no new ornaments for children, there are now three little girls to add to the tree. Each year the search for a symbolic ornament sends me into the Christmas shops of various stores for E1, E2, and this year E3 as well. I plan on continuing the tradition, but this year they simply aren't going on the tree. I just don't want the ongoing struggle with the daily drama of three little people, or at least that's how I feel today.

I know there are people who decorate with certain colors or themes for a few years, then change it all up. I guess I'm just too sentimental for that. Or maybe too cheap -- do you know how much just a seasonal decorating change can cost? I didn't intentionally set out to change the tree's theme this year, it just sort of happened.

And I don't expect the big colorful balls will continue to reign over the tree. Although they look nice and the tree is finally decorated, it doesn't quite feel right and I do miss the old ornaments. I'm sure once the children roll in, I'll forget about how it's decorated and just be glad E3 isn't eating Rudolph and that big ball that just hit the floor won't break and hurt her. The tree will slip into its proper place as a backdrop for the holiday festivities and the change in decor probably won't be noticed.

At the same time, if I feel too much disappointment over no little creatures hiding in the tree, there are still plenty of limbs for some to make a limited appearance this year. Just as long as they're high enough to be out of the hands of certain little people.

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