It all started with some lovely ornaments at the quarterly consignment sale where I love to shop. We were at the presale, and I saw them--nine gorgeous, vintage, hand-blown glass ornaments, in their original boxes. Price $2. I resisted at the presale, thought about them all week, and when they were still there at the half price sale, they had to be mine! $1 for ornaments so similar to the ones I remember from my childhood--the ones my grandmother passed down to my mother, and my mother guarded as carefully as possible from little hands--that I couldn't stop thinking about them.
But we're doing a handmade tree this year, right? We put the tree up, I made and Victor hung the Recycled Magazine Paper Chain, we've done several ornaments and have plans for more. What was I thinking!?
I brought my ornaments home and put them on the shelf near the tree, seeing the faded red boxes every time I glanced in that direction. I considered packing them away with my others, giving them to my mother, donating them to goodwill. And every time I saw that box, I had another memory--my mother gently covering my hand with hers as I hung one of those treasured ornaments, my grandmother and I picking strawberries (and eating them with heavy cream and sugar), each of my sons' faces the first time our eyes met, the first time they nursed, the first time they said 'mama'. A glance at the faded lettering on those boxes brought up the sound of my grandfather's laughter, the feel of my dad's hugs, the sound of my entire extended family singing Christmas carols. Somehow, these ornaments weren't discarded glass to me. They weren't even a nostalgic piece of my childhood. To me, these ornaments simply represented history, old and recent, holiday and every day. Little pieces of me, reflected by Christmas lights on glass ornaments.
I lasted almost a week, then I hung them on the tree. Not just ON the tree, IN the tree--nestled behind the branches, near the center of the tree, where they'll be less tempting to little hands. Even when I pulled them from the box, I was telling myself I just wanted to look at them, inspect them, make sure they hadn't been broken when Nathan accidentally knocked them to the floor. It wasn't until I pulled them from the box and held them up to the lights of the tree that I made the decision to hang them. If I had had to think about it, search for hooks (the previous owner had left hooks on them), or even had someone else been in the room and asked me about it, I wouldn't have hung them. But in that second, it was the right thing to do.
To be honest, I hung them so completely inside the tree that I can only find them by careful searching, but it doesn't matter--I know they're there. And these ornaments, somehow, are different from the ornaments I bought nine years ago, for our first married Christmas. Even though they're the same style, *I* am not the same. This was not an impassioned search through ebay, thrift stores, and antique stores, looking for the perfect ornaments to create the perfect tree for the start of our perfect life. No, this was a chance meeting. Not what I planned, not what I was searching for, not even what I thought I wanted, and yet the perfect thing. A perfect reflection of my life this past year.
So, my handmade tree will have (at least) nine vintage ornaments, that item per item probably cost less than some of the other handmade ornaments that will end up on there. Nine small pieces of glass that with each glance reflects to me a tiny piece of who I am, why I am, where I am. I don't know why these ornaments mean so much to me, why they called to me, why I am nearly obsessed with them. But at five thirty this morning, when Nathan & I were sitting in the floor reading "Llama Llama Holday Drama" because he couldn't sleep again, his eyes roamed across the tree, and just for a second, I saw one of the ornaments reflected in his eyes. I don't know if he saw it, or if he was busy staring at the lights, or if he was simply lost in his own Nathan world, but for just a moment I saw the man he might become, roaming through a thrift store, and smiling as his eyes land on a box of vintage holiday ornaments.