In last night’s entry we shared pics of our geek-intensive Christmas decorations, including our collections of Star Wars and super-hero ornaments, a few Christmas-based action figures, and our li’l Charlie Brown tree. Longtime MCC readers were united in their complete lack of surprise at the characters who stand on Christmas watch around our house, bringing festivity and joy and smiles and repulsing any Scrooges or Grinches or ACLU lawyers who would dare darken our doorstep.
Pictured at left is our primary tree, which from a distance looks like any other. To the untrained eye it fits the minimum flair requirements, but you’d never know by looking that this isn’t our normal setup. Compared to the household customs exemplified in the previous entry, this year’s tree theme was, for us, an unusual approach.
As we hunted and pecked through our numerous plastic tubs full of Christmas decor, knickknacks, and Hallmark mini-sculptures, my wife and I had only hung a few familiar licensed merchandising faces in their regular positions before we found ourselves sharing the same line of thought as we looked at the smaller boxes at the bottom of one tub filled with unremarkable public domain figures. When your family is gathered around the tree and taking turns hanging their favorites one by one, the ornaments I’m talking about are the kind of generic Santas and non-trademarked winter critters that kids bypass until they’re all out of cartoon idols but are still dying to add anything to the tree. These are the misfit ornaments, the less beloved ones that sometimes stay in the box if the tree runs out of hanging space.
A lot of these aren’t misfits to my wife. Many of them have fond memories attached. Take, for example, Eeyore. Yes, he’s a Disney marketing superstar for depressed kids, but this version was hand-sewn by her little sister way back when.
Can this be McDonald’s, the corporate scourge that taints the holidays with alternative chemical milkshake flavors, crass movie tie-ins, and gift certificates designed to lure others into their grasp after they’re done with you? Well, maybe, but my wife and I worked for the same franchisee for over a decade. These itty-bitty McDonald’s stores were a gift to all employees one year (sometime between ’90 and ’92), and they had a button on the bottom connected to a sound chip that played “Jingle Bells” until the battery died. We each had one, but when we married and combined all our collections, I think I tossed mine because its battery died first, whereas hers had a faint pulse with just enough power to play a slurred version, as if its teensy lobby contained a drunken, one-inch keyboardist. Alas, at some point mini-Jerry Lee Lewis left this building too, but the foundation is still solid. The owner who hired us for our first jobs, and who passed away a year ago last Saturday, was a key figure in both our lives.
And yes, that’s the Abominable Snowman in the background, the designated representative of every Rudolph-related ornament my mom has ever given me. That collection could festoon a separate wreath of its own, come to think of it. Maybe another year.
When you think “Christmas animals”, it’s unlikely your brainstorming list will include a bluebird with binoculars, looking for a flying sleigh or an approaching magic snowman or a doorbuster deal at the electronics store across the street. This was my wife’s first-ever Hallmark ornament, a gift from her other sister. Every Christmas tradition has a beginning.
Another gift from the same sister: a souvenir bulb from the original Christmas lights used to turn Indianapolis’ Monument Circle into the World’s Largest Christmas Tree every year. We showed off the current version in an MCC Christmas entry last year, but this was one of many bulbs that used to bring downtown Indy to life every December for many generations.
When nine reindeer are slacking on their jobs and the sleigh is in dire need of repairs, that doesn’t matter because Christmas must go through. That’s when Santa takes the elevator up to the secret attic in his workshop and fires up his backup plan: his action helicopter! On, windshield! On, rotors! On, pedals and motors!
…so my wife’s grandmother, now age 89, has a long-standing habit of buying affordable, oddball gifts for loved ones. She scrimps and saves from her Social Security checks, and sometimes she even saves up money that was given to her as a gift so she can use it to buy gifts for others in future holidays. Telling her not to give you anything is a waste of your breath. As long as she lives there’ll be no stopping her from doing her own Christmas shopping, and that’s how you end up with Santa’s Fabulous Airwolf in your stocking. You’re puzzled by the concept, but you’re touched by a certain persistent, stubborn kind of grandmotherly love.
I have no idea what the story is with this marshmallow snowman, but I found him hiding at the back of our tree and decided his soul must be mine. This year he’s cooler than all our Simpsons ornaments combined.
I look at ornaments like this one and try hard to remember if it’s the one my son got free with a 64-pack of Crayolas. My wife looks at this and remembers it’s one of several ornaments her mom gave to her after her first husband left her and took all the Christmas decorations with him.
The star on our tree was from that same Christmas and the same origin story.
Sebastian from The Little Mermaid is mine. Another McDonald’s memento from 1989.
It would be easy for me to look at the star, think of that guy, and seethe. I choose instead to think of her mom’s kind and loving act that brought light into a time of darkness.
The cast and spaceships of Star Trek are taking another year off from our tree. The Simpsons remain tucked away in their shoeboxes, hoping we’ll forgive them for the show’s failures. The Peanuts gang and our vast army of Snoopy clones are represented in our Christmas diorama, but we need time away from the rest of them. It was tough to suppress the perennial urge for famous-character favoritism, save a select few imbued with personal meaning beyond our viewing habits, but this is where we felt led.
This year we decorated our tree with memories of family, stories of kindness, and legacies of love.