Sunday, December 18, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For

The tinsel may be tarnished and the wings slightly bent but this little
angel holds a special place in my heart. My daughter made it over 20 years
ago - and groans every time I dust it off for another Christmas!

Live ones, dead ones, silver tinsel ones and snowy flocked ones – I think we have had every type of Christmas tree over the years.

Ready to celebrate my first Christmas in my own house I was determined to have a real tree. Just one small problem. I didn’t have a car and there was nowhere to buy a tree within 5 miles of where I lived. So I elbowed my way onto a bus, jostling shoppers and children with my less than perfectly bound Noble fir. I finally wrangled it into the house and released the corset of string. As it sprung outwards in relief a fair portion of needles scattered across the floor, embedding themselves nicely into the deep pile carpet. I had a glimpse of understanding at my parents’ insistence upon an artificial tree….

Determined to persevere I set about decorating it. New house, new job, first tree – no ornaments (and little cash). In lieu of glass baubles I bought a bag of toffees in jewel toned wrappers and strung those onto the tree. For tinsel I made paper chains and paper lanterns. I was proud that I had listened so well in kindergarten! Colorful if not sophisticated.

As the years progressed, so did my Christmas decorating. The trees got bigger (and thankfully could be transported by car) and the ornaments included some ‘special’ ones purchased at craft fairs, supplemented by fluffy tinsel in assorted gaudy colors.

Each special gift has been handmade with  love

Then the children were born. Sophistication went out of the window as reindeers made from light bulbs appeared as well as numerous other unidentifiable but lovingly made decorations held together with copious amounts of Elmer’s glue. To augment these I took it upon myself to start painting a special wooden ornament for the children and my husband each year, to be presented on Christmas Eve. The theme would vary from year to year, being a rustic Santa one year or something more sparkly the next. Even my husband got in on the act, turning the most exquisite wooden snowmen, bells and ornaments on his lathe.

Note how Father Christmas has his
pudding with him!

Before we knew it the children had grown up. Our oldest – Katie (23), now has a place of her own so I sadly boxed up all her special treasures made over the years and passed them over to use on her first tree. (Well almost all of them; I've hung onto a little angel made in Sunday School when she was three and the Father Christmas that you see here!) Paul is 19 so comes home from University for the holidays. It was obviously time to set his ornaments aside also – they are stored safely until he wants them for his own home in a few years.

Will I ever be able to create something
this stunning? Probably not! The designer
Beverley Boyce, is a retired florist whose
artistic talents are evident.
Photo credit; Alyson Ross-Markley
“At last” I said, “we can have a grown-up tree!” I had visions of a color coordinated Martha-style extravaganza. I could have red and gold – or maybe teal and copper. What about monochromatic silver and white? Or purple and chartreuse? And I could just have ‘select’ decorations – silk poinsettias and gold tulle, or oversized mirrored balls with red velvet ribbons perhaps? I was so excited! (I had been secretly envious of my friend’s ‘designer tree’ for years).

Last year was my first grown up tree. Katie decorated it for me (she is more artistic than I am) and it was lovely. She showed an elegant restraint in her selection; just what I had asked for. Yet it wasn’t quite right. As Katie stepped away, her job complete, I hunted through the boxes. Out came the little Father Christmas made from tiny plant pots that was one of my first painting attempts, and the ‘tool Santa’ that I had surprised my  ultra-handy husband with,  although I did draw the line at the popsicle stick creations – at my son’s pleading!

Our days are now busier than ever and my paints and other craft supplies are still ‘somewhere’ in the barn, waiting to be unpacked. So this year’s gifts will be purchased rather than handmade but still selected with great care and much love. And added to the tree.

I suppose it all depends upon your definition of ‘grown up’.

Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.  
~Chili Davis

PS.I realize that this post is a diversion from my usual 'garden design' features but it was a little story which begged to be told. I'll get back on track next time!


  1. Hi Karen, There is more to me than my garden, and though I consider my blog to focus on gardening, I sometimes like to stray off the garden path to touch on subjects that are near and dear to my heart. So don't worry about apologizing to me for writing a post on another subject. I am sure your other readers will feel the same.
    Our first tree had paper chains as well. Though they are a little worse for wear, I still have them all these years later.
    I have worked as an artist/designer for most of my career and yet have never had a "designer" tree. My favourite ornaments are the homemade ones from my husband and the grade school treasures my son brought home (he is 22 now).
    Happy holidays Karen to you and your family! All the best for the new year!

  2. Thank you Jennifer - I don't feel so guilty if at least one person enjoyed the little detour! It was also lovely to hear that you also have special treasures like these.
    Merry Christmas to you also and may 2012 be a wonderful year.

  3. Lovely Karen and as Jennifer said there is nothing wrong with posting a little personal item. I think it brings us all closer together and makes our internet experience so much more personal and rewarding. I no longer do a tree but have recollections of the many beautiful ones over the years. My Mom ( now gone ) and I had a tradition of tying a special ornament on our gift to each other and every year as we decorated our trees unwrapping those ornaments was so special as each one evoked a special memory. I also remember a beautiful tree at the Brandywine Museum in PA_it was enormous and completely decorated with handmade items crafted from natural seeds, pods, etc. Your post has taken me down memory lane_Thanks.

  4. Hahah how did I know the angel would be making an appearance? :) I'm glad you still enjoy it, and can display a few of them without embarrassment after all these years xxx

  5. Elaine, what a lovely idea. I have used them as table settings too.

    Katie - you always were artistic!

  6. Karen, I'll echo Jennifer and Elaine. The personal detours now and then are what help make us a community--besides, they're fun to read! My mom used to teach piano, and every year at the Christmas recital she'd give all of her students (including me) a hand-made ornament. Many of my favorites came from those recitals.

    No tree would be complete without at least one ornament made by a pair of very small hands.

  7. Stacy - what a perfect Xmas gift from your Mom to her students.


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