Day 11, Story 11: Vintage Ornament Catalog
#1943 – Tree topper, silver with green accents, 30cm
I remember my first Christmas in existence. The postal service was bogged down by a snowstorm. By the time I arrived, the tree was already decorated.
He lifted me from the box and held me up for all to see. Then, atop the ladder as he stretched to the highest bough, I snagged. My spear-like tine scraped the ceiling, causing him to cringe and leaving a gouge in the plaster.
I was too tall.
He darted away. I’d been abandoned. Crestfallen and reeling, I began to doubt myself. I’d come all that way, and there was no point. How ironic!
But soon enough, he returned with a saw. Ornaments shook, needles flew, and tinsel shimmied. I saw a couple of pretty glass bells and a fallen angel on the shag carpet, no worse for wear. He cut slices from the top of the tree, not once but twice so that I would fit just right.
His family clapped and cheered. I’d found my place at the top of the world.
#1773 – Parakeet clip ornament, 5cm (body) + 6cm (tail)
Jenny had begged for a pet budgie, but the family just couldn’t take it on that year. Dad had recently lost his job.
And Jenny could tell when her mom was Mom worried. An indent would form between her eyebrows, when she thought Jenny wasn’t looking.
Besides, they already had a dog and a cat and both could be real jerks. The dog thought he owned the place, but the cat really did—and came dangerously close to taking me out on several occasions over the years.
Anyway, when her mother saw me in a catalog, she got the idea. Jenny opened my box on Christmas morning and smiled. The card read, “One day, I’ll become a real bird.”
Yeah, we’ll see about that.
#363 – Silver spherical ornament, houses with snow and sunset, 7cm
I was a housewarming gift, and unexpected kindness, for a family of five that had just moved to a new neighborhood. The winter move was stressful, and they didn’t know anyone in the area.
The elderly couple next door also had three daughters, long since grown. They remembered being in the young couple’s shoes when they themselves moved in many years ago.
Seeing the Christmas lights that the family managed to hang soon after the work of moving in, the couple figured a special ornament might be a fitting housewarming gift and welcome.
All the couple really knew was that, at the very least, it was a nice thought and that it’s the thought that counts. They didn’t know how right they were.
The young mother was pregnant again, and had been feeling tired and alone. The move made it all worse. So when the couple came by to introduce themselves, it was a bright spot in her day.
After thanking them for their gift and seeing them out, she set me down and finished making dinner. I was sure she’d hang me on the tree after that, but she did not. She picked me up and walked right past the tree and into the kitchen.
That year, I never found my way to a branch. I wound up hanging in the window by the sink, where she could more easily admire me throughout the day.
#744 – Golden rose ornament, red and green detail, 5cm
I now hang on Pip’s tree. But years ago, Pip chose me for her dear grandmother Adeline, whose carefully tended rose garden was its own fantastical, sorbet-hued world when in bloom.
I was the last ornament Adeline ever collected, and the favorite of her long lifetime.
#483 – Red-capped acorn ornament, 3½cm
I was a loving nudge, in the form of an early Christmas gift from a mother to her daughter Emma, then a young woman. Emma was an aspiring writer, but since graduating she had not succeeded in publishing a single word.
Nor had she found a creative job to replace the administrative assistant role she’d adamantly insisted would be temporary.
As she opened the tiny box and laid eyes on my charming form, her mother said, “Don’t give up before your roots have a chance to grow.” Emma kept me, and her mother’s words, on her desk until she published her first short story.
Now a successful author, Emma has as many published books to her name as ornaments on her Christmas tree. Now as old as her mother was then, Emma still carries that spark of encouragement. And I’m as shiny as ever.
#976 – Green pinecone ornament, 9cm
Judging from all the stories, I wouldn’t be here if not for a golden retriever named Buster.
Apparently, there was no one he didn’t love. Buster was genuinely excited to meet, see, sniff, visit, and generally be around every human he encountered. When it came to energy and enthusiasm, he had a lot.
But he was always getting into trouble, mainly gastrointestinal, because there was nothing he wouldn’t eat. Dubious mushrooms, rolls of toilet paper, dropped movie night popcorn before it even hit the ground, a twenty-dollar bill, entire chicken wings, a cooling pan of brownies. It was a lot.
He mellowed as he aged but pinecones remained a weak spot. The two boys would try to keep the yard clear of them, but Buster always seemed to find one, as if he had a secret stash.
This unkickable pinecone habit drove the family absolutely mad. The resulting digestive issues led to expensive vet visits and gag-inducing messes, inevitably deposited on rugs. They wished so much that Buster could just learn from his mistakes. But he never did.
Buster was 11 when he became seriously ill, and not from pinecones. If only it were that simple. His condition dramatically deteriorated over the course of just a couple of months. He lost interest in eating altogether. Pinecones lay in the yard, untouched. Visitors, ungreeted. That’s how his family knew that Buster had found all the joy he would find in this life, though it had been a lot. The time had come to say goodbye.
The parents and sons all surrounded the very good boy. They thanked and held Buster as he took a contented last breath.
The rock that marks his grave is etched with a pinecone and his name.
It is an honor to witness how Buster’s spirit bounces back to life when the family sees me each year. Of course, his memory must also be lovingly recalled at the sight of his favorite “snacks,” and there were a lot.
#1733 – Peacock clip ornament, 7cm (body) + 8cm (tail)
My first time around, I was flying high. Marcy ordered me and eleven others destined to become the decorative stars of the annual tree that towered over the great room at about 15 feet tall. Minimum.
I was proud of my role, and certainly well cared for. Each holiday season, the staff diligently dusted and buffed to ensure we all sparkled in preparation for display.
Marcy had a passion for over-the-top holiday decorating, which she would direct while cradling a martini between two long fingers.
Several children and many grandchildren later, however, things changed. It seemed we’d fallen from favor. The fabulous Marcy had faded away, along with her glamour. Christmas came and went. We stayed in a dark box on the cold floor.
Time is so hard to gauge in the absence of light and traditions. But eventually, I wound up in a Seattle thrift shop. It felt good to be admired again. I soon caught the eye of a young man named Theo. Next thing I know, I’m back in a box.
I’d guess it was just a day or two later when I was suddenly jostled and heard a familiar song: “Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!” A little girl’s face peered down at me, and her hand pulled me back into the world.
She jumped up while holding me carefully in both hands, and ran around to show me to her grandparents, baby nephew, aunts, uncles, cousins, everyone. “It’s the peacock from the Nutcracker!” she said over and over. “Isn’t she pretty?”
They all replied, “Yes, Mallory!” or “Wow, Mallory!”
It was a tradition for Theo to take her to the ballet each Christmas in Seattle, where the production always featured a peacock dancer. Far and away Mallory’s favorite part of the show.
Once again, I found myself front and center on a Christmas tree. A small tree, but as merry and festive as any I can remember.
(Note: Remaining holiday stories can be found here as they are released each day through 12/24, and available ever after.)