By MAUREEN SMITH, Commentary | Published December 26, 2019
There is an angel, a snowman, a small present, clothespin Santas. Hardly an explosion of blinking, glowing Christmas cheer, but this collection of simple wooden ornaments is both my connection to Christmas past and a measure of the passage of time.
My parents love Christmas. Growing up in a Victorian house made it easy to go all-out. Fresh garland all along the porch railing, a huge tree procured from the Georgia State Farmer’s Market, Santa statues everywhere, Dad’s record of classic Christmas songs hissing and crackling in the background. One year, they even had a second tree in the kitchen to accommodate all the homemade ornaments my siblings and I would bring home from school.
They wanted their love of Christmas to be contagious so they loved to give Christmas-y things to others. We even went through a phase of making our own fruitcake for the neighbors. Sometimes, the mail carrier and sanitation crews would get plates of cookies. No matter if you were family, friend or foe, when you sat down to Christmas dinner at my house, you would find an ornament on your plate. My Dad made them—sometimes out of scrap wood—and painted them by hand. He spent weeks researching shapes and ideas and making prototypes. He used a router saw, a Tupperware container full of old paints, a good dollop of imagination and more love than you can imagine in the creation of these decorations. Still, it always came down to the wire. Sometimes the paint was still wet as he delivered them.
We can measure loss and gain in our collection. I can tell the first year my now-husband came to our house—we have two of those ornaments. As my daughters were born the collection grew. I suppose someday my girls will take their ornaments with them and I will have to do with just two of each. The year my Dad got sick my sister stepped up and crocheted us all angels. Then came the year our plates were empty—a gap that’s been hard to fill. I tried to give a store-bought ornament one year, but it just wasn’t the same.
When Mom moved out of the old house, I found a bin of half-finished ornaments and toys. I closed it before the tears came and placed it in storage. I can face the finished ornaments, but the unfinished were too heavy for me at the time.
This year, decorating the tree brought back more happy memories than sad ones and I started thinking about that box. It’s time to rekindle this tradition. I may not have ornaments for our guests this Christmas Day, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll be ready to add to the collection again next year.
Maureen Smith is Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Her late father, Deacon Wayne Smith, served at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Atlanta for 25 years.