Christmas ornaments mark holidays past

December 25, 2005|By SUSAN REIMER

Christmas comes early for me every year, and I usually spend it alone.

My own personal Christmas occurs on some quiet afternoon or late some evening when I unpack the Christmas ornaments.

My forgetfulness comes in handy during this private Christmas. Each ornament gives me a rush of pleasure I don't remember feeling before. As I gently unpack them and spread them over the dining-room table, I am delighted by their familiarity.

My Christmas ornaments won't be heirlooms until my grandchildren unpack them some day, but they represent to me the span of years since the first one was purchased.

It is a tiny, pewter Christmas tree with "1982" embossed beneath the trunk, and it marked the first Christmas my husband and I spent under the same roof.

It was a singular Christmas for more than that reason. It was an unseasonably warm holiday that year, and we trimmed our first tree with the windows open and while wearing gym trunks and T-shirts.

Since then, I have collected a ridiculous number of ornaments, finding most of them at craft fairs and specialty shops. There are ornaments made of silk and wood and stained glass and an angel made from an antique hanky.

My Christmas ornaments mark periods in my life, like epochs. There was the Margaret Furlong period and the Lenox period, and I have boxes of ornaments from each. There are calico ornaments, which marked my quilting phase, and basket ornaments, which marked my Longaberger phase. I am presently in what I like to think of as a second pewter phase.

My kids never made ornaments in school -- probably because they were in public schools -- but my sister made them every year for years with her children, and they were quite clever. One year, she glued Popsicle sticks in a frame around a square of black poster board and wrote "Merry Christmas" in white marker. It looked just like a schoolroom blackboard.

Even my brother-in-law the attorney, who did cross-stitch when court cases kept him sleepless, would stitch ornaments for each of his wife's sisters.

Each Christmas, I purchase ornaments for my young nieces and their mother puts them away for the time when they have their own Christmas trees in their own homes. (They are always ornaments that I like, and I buy one for myself.)

For a while, I did that for my own children -- collecting ornaments and putting them away against that day long in the future. But it occurred to me that the ornaments deserved the chance to hang on a tree now, and the children deserved a chance to notice them, and to remember them.

That future Christmas is approaching quickly now, I think. This may be Joe's last holiday at home for a long time, and whatever Christmas tree he trims next year might be makeshift and in some faraway place.

Jessie celebrated an early Thanksgiving with her roommates at college and declared it the best one of her life. Can her first apartment Christmas be far behind?

One of these years, I expect to celebrate my private Christmas with them, tenderly opening the ornaments, spreading them on the dining-room table and urging the children to choose any and all that they want for their own trees. Goodness knows, I have enough by now to decorate theirs and the one in Rockefeller Center.

The only ornament I will hold back for myself is the pewter Christmas tree from 1982.

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