The tree is of course finally up, and today one of our neighbors stopped by to ask about it. I felt kind of bad having to tell her it’s a pre-lit artificial one, but it makes sense in Arizona, rather than paying $80 a year for a real one trucked in from northern states. The only thing I miss is the pine smell, which I try (and fail) to replicate via candles.
On the right side of the picture above,you can see a horrific-looking monstrosity of an ornament that caught our neighbor’s eye. “There’s got to be a story behind that,” she said, which I think was a very polite way of saying that it is indeed a monstrosity of an ornament.
In broad daylight it looks even worse but it remains testament to fortitude — its, mine and my mom’s. Its, because the third-grade me created it in “art” class by badly splashing watercolor paint onto some sort of plaster of paris template. Mine, because for years growing up, the horrified adolescent me would surreptiously seek out and destroy these artifacts — sort of like the Terminator of ornaments. My mom’s, because somehow or another there are still survivors of my rampage. (She’s just like Linda Hamilton!) Eventually she was even brave enough to mail one to grown-up me.
My parents also mailed an ornament to each child every year — not those pre-marked Hallmark-y things, but creations picked up here and there (I suspect church bazaars were a common source). And I tried to find a different one each year too, with varying success.
So far at least three of my parents’ ornaments have featured various permutations of St. Nick. These are from 1994, 2005 and 2006, left to right. (They’re marked on the back with marker.)
Some have a bit more work involved — the one for 1999 has about a billion beads stuck into a ball to commemorate the new millennium; the wolf one was hand-painted by a Montana artist who signed the back; the hand-painted porcelain egg is … well, a hand-painted porcelain egg.
There are also quite a few that still make me question the selection process. The miniature wooden carousel broke pretty much instantly — the roof separated from the rest of it — and I just stuck the two pieces in a wee box and left them unattended until last year. And I am equally worried about crushing the musician — I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s a lute — made of dried corn husks. There are two that look like someone wrapped a doily around a satin bulb (one yellow, one blue) and I’m not sure how those got transferred down here. There are also two reindeer heads made of an upside-down light bulb, googly eyes and pipe cleaners. For some reason I believe they were made by developmentally disabled kids; if not, I hope they were at least the creation of a third-grader much more coordinated than I was.
I found the mirrored disco ball at Urban Outfitters one year (the same year I found 3-D Christmas cards that came with their own glasses). That’s what inspired the idea of getting one funky ornament a year of my own. The next year I headed back to UO and could only find the feathered one — it molts a little each year, which makes me feel sad for it but also gives it a downright Seussian vibe. Last year I found the heavy pewter astrological signs at Restoration Hardware — I bought Mr. Brooks an Aquarius one to commemorate his moving back to Phoenix last year, but I don’t know where he stored it after I took the tree down last year. I also bought a buttload of spiky glitter stars in silvers and blues on postholiday clearance from Crate & Barrel, which was kind enough to ship them in a ginormous box with lots of packaging — and all 33 of them were individually wrapped in plastic bags that had been punctured through somewhere by at least one of the points. Extracting them all this year was an exercise in patience — much like peeling a pomegranate (which remains one of my favorite ways to gauge a person’s tolerance and concentration). I haven’t found this year’s ornament yet. Maybe a trip to Crate & Barrel is in order.
A few of the ornaments are mysteries– the metal candy cane cutout is one of a set of three that came in its own box (green, cover says “Jolly”), but I don’t know where they came from. Same with the trumpet, which doesn’t have any fellow musical instruments that look anything like it.
And a few are presents from other people, like the gift tag/ornament my sister Tina made for me one year. Another time, my friend Shannon had found herself so broke she moved home with her parents in Glen, Montana, for the holidays. Undeterred, she made our friend Karen a series of ornaments using Elvis Presley cards and crafty stuff her mom had around the house. My ornaments were based around the theme “A Supermodel Christmas,” and most of them are pages cut out of magazines and similarly adorned. The man above is from an ad for the designer-imposters version of Cool Water (why do I remember this?), which she has attached a string of faux pearls as the hang tag and two crystals on his nipples. My favorite part is that they’re placed in perspective — big one closer, smaller crystal further away.
The blue ornaments are still around, playing a supporting role as background (take another peek at the banner up top). And another two dozen are in a big bowl that was a present from my friend CJ (click on the full-tree thumbnail at right, and they’re on the table on the left). Elsewhere on the tree: 50 red miniature hearts, stars and bulbs I picked up at the register after wandering through an entire Ikea store without buying anything; and a ton of vintage-inspired glitter ornaments Mr. Brooks collected by camping out at Last Chance for a week straight.
Every year when I’m putting up the tree, I can hear my parents: Mom telling me that large ornaments go at the bottom of the tree, while smaller ones go higher. Dad reminding me to nestle some inside the branches toward the trunk — it’s particularly effective if they’re shiny and reflect the light, because they make the tree look fuller. So even if I don’t go home for the holidays, at least I have a little bit of home here with me.
|WHAT SAM WORE: 12-6-09|
|The T-shirt: A promo item from the movie “Lake Placid” — there’s a gator
and the words “Wanna race?” on the back. We gave them away to readers
when I worked at Get Out, and I coveted one so much that Jess called the
movie PR company and asked for one for me.
|The second shirt: Long-sleeved waffle-weave tee from Gap.|
|The pants: Jeans by Five Four, from the now-defunct
Vivi’s Boutique in Chandler.
|The shoes: Custom-made slip-on Project (Red) Converse All-Stars.
(You can still make your own here.)