Wednesday, December 10, 2008


When Suz posted an ornament list that looked something like this: 1. My Favorite / 2. The Oldest / 3. The Funniest / 4. Most Memorable / 5. The Ugliest / 6. The Reddest / 7. The Greenest / 8. The Tree Topper... got me thinking. I looked at our decorated tree, and I could see right away that I wouldn't be following that list, because we don't have everything on it. I will show you:

1. My Favorites
2. The Oldest
3. The Most Memorable

I have never been one to decorate our Christmas tree in a theme. It's not my style, unless they are in a hotel lobby or a show. I understand that it could be rewarding artistically, especially if you are a collector of certain items, but to me, the best use of Christmas tree ornaments is to tell the history of a family's life together, to carry on traditions and to bring up happy memories. Our ornaments are a beautiful hodgepodge, none of which is an item of any monetary value...but some of them are priceless, to me. We don't even own a tree-topper. Isn't that funny?

My favorites are all of the ones that David & Katie made as they were growing up.

The oldest are ones that my grandmother Edna made before she lost her way, and left on a journey into alcoholism (from which she never returned). This happened when I was about 7 years old, so my memories of her are not plentiful, and they are very dear to me. She was my favorite grandparent, if the truth be told. I adored her "Auntie Mame" qualities. She was great fun, and my memories are of her warmth and easygoing humor. A couple of examples:
1) When I asked her "How old are you, Nana Edna?" she gaily replied, "Sweeeeet 16!"

2) The three of us children used to visit her, and spend the night with her in her one-bedroom apartment. She had only one sleeping bag, in addition to two beds, and that sleeping bag was a hotly contested item between us kids. When it was my turn to sleep in it, she had (unfortunately) allowed me to eat 5 ice cream cones (that's not a typo; FIVE). When I threw up (of course) on the sleeping bag that night, she promptly put it in the bathtub to wash it without an iota of anger, and re-assured me, "It's better out than in!" What a gal.

The most memorable ornaments are this one,
which we bought while I was in labor with David. We were trying to get my labor going more strongly, and needed to stay close to the hospital, so we went to a nearby mall and walked up and down the mall for hours. While doing so, we saw this ornament in a store, and bought it for David.

And this one, which is Katie's baby ornament, a gift from dear Ria Norton.

The next one is memorable, but bittersweet. I have mixed feelings when I look at it, but I chose to put it on the tree this year.
Let me explain.

When Katie was having her 2nd round of chemo in November, 2006 (& was considered too fragile to leave the hospital, because the tumor had invaded her heart), a sweet art therapist came into her room and offered Katie the opportunity to make a Christmas ornament for a display in the hospital. Katie agreed, so they took a clear glass ball, loaded Katie's palm with ink, and had her grip the ornament. Then the art therapist dried the ball, put Katie's name on it, and promised to return it to us. After it was used in the display, it was given to us to keep.

The reason that I have mixed feelings about this is: when I saw this art project in process, it reminded me immediately of a death mask, when people used to make imprints of the dead person's face before they were buried or cremated. In my heart, I was screaming, "Get out of here! Don't have her make a keepsake ornament 'to remember her!' I want her, not a memento!" Obviously, this was not the art therapist's intent, but for some reason, I felt that doing this project was a harbinger of Katie's death, and I wanted no part of it.

Now I have the ornament, and Katie is gone.

I wouldn't put it up last year, because just looking at it made me want to cry, but this year, I thought, It's her ornament, and it has her handprint on it, and that is beautiful. So there it is.
This angel ornament is one of many that was hanging on the dogwood tree that was given to us by a group of our friends at Katie's Celebration of Life. It was a beautiful gift, and the angel reminds me of that gift (along with the fact that angels are part of the Christmas story).

One thing I haven't put out this year, but I will be keeping for the future, is our playmobil creche and Advent calendar. David wasn't in the spirit to have those out this year, but let me tell you, they were favorites of his, Katie's & mine.

David and Katie have small, artificial, tabletop-size trees of their own, which we bought with my sister, and decorated when we were living in Ronald McDonald House. We even took Katie's into the hospital during a round of chemo (she was in the hospital on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning). David chose to put those up this year, and they are pretty.

Here is our tree, with ornaments and lights. Gregg says it looks much better in real life than it does in this photo. I did tell you that he & David like sparse branches, didn't I?

I hope that decorating for the holidays brings you good memories and joy with your loved ones.


Jason, as himself said...

My mother died on Christmas morning 12 years ago of breast cancer, at the age of 51. My youngest brother was 11. Try as I may, I can't get Christmas to be what it was before. I struggle every year, and sometimes, I want Christmas to go away.

Karla W. said...

I totally agree with you regarding the decorating of the tree. I choose to only put up about half the ornaments this year. I have mine, mandi's, sam's, and family ornaments. We always remensce while decorating.

I'm glad you were able to put up Katie's ornament this year. The tree looks wonderful! The sparse branches display the ornaments better. ;)

Anonymous said...

I love this idea - thank you so much for sharing. I always mentally do this when I put the ornaments on the tree - but what a good idea to take pictures of them!
One lady gave me two "first Christmas" ornaments for a wedding present and at the time (too young) I thought, "what a silly gift." Now, I think it is perfect because there wasn't much more than those two ornaments on our first Christmas tree!

We just got back from Hawaii a few days ago - lots of catching up to do! Daniel & I got a tree from the Boy Scouts - I like the really full branches, but I think it's a man thing (like your men) - they like the sparse! I love the scent - nothing says 'Christmas' more to me than that.

God bless - thinking of you.

L in Alaska

Busy Bee Suz said...

This is lovely Karen. All the kids ornaments are the best..I cherish all the ones they made in school w/ their pictures in them.
I have never seen the Playmobil cute.
And yes, the tree is lovely and the branches are sparse. Really, I have not seen a tree like that, but I love it. Very pretty.

Laurie Keller said...

Told very beautifully ... love to you.

KBL 2 ORD 2 SAN 2 LUV said...

Ha ha ha!!! I love that tree! You weren't kidding! It makes me think of Charlie Brown's tree. Tee hee. :-)

Thanks for showing us Katie's hand ornament. Her sweet baby handprint. I can't imagine your pain, Karen. Remember, if you ever have to move and can't take Katie's handprints from the concrete with you, it will have its temporary home here in San Diego under our pomegranate tree.

Ok, I'm STILL giggling about that treeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!

Kay said...

I love your tree.. it is easier to see the ornaments.. I can hear the Peanuts gang singing now...! : )

I love the ornaments. I understand about Katie's handprint, but I'm glad you're able to have it out this year. It is very beautiful. I've never seen one done like that before.

Dreamer girl said...

How weird. I just wrote a paper about the meaning of my Christmas tree ornaments. We were on the same page. I like your kids ornaments. Your life has a lot of love in it. I'm going to post some pictures of the quilts on my blog.

Thanks for your inspiration.
You give lots of love girl.

Tara said...

Love the ornaments you posted. The perler bead ones were too cute. My favorite are the ones the boys have made.

The tree is so cute!