O Tannenbaum…

My Christmas tree is coming down for another year. I really enjoy having it up, but I get twitchy after Christmas and want my living room “back to normal.” I’ve never minded people who put up their decorations early. The ones that drive me a little nuts are those who cling to their tree and outside lights through January, sometimes February. Time to move on folks. This is about my fascination with ornament collections, and growing to love my Christmas tree. (A favorite, my Lladro collection. Kinda pricey which is why there’s only 3)



I didn’t think my relationship with trees was that complicated. Gee, I rarely thought about them. Until I moved to Michigan almost 30 years ago. Suddenly they were pushed to the forefront. Trees, who knew? I don’t dislike trees. There’s not much that compares to the spectacular colors that nature offers when it comes to trees during the fall. One of Mom’s favorite saying’s was the first couple lines of Joyce Kilmer’s poem, Trees. “I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree.” (A little copse of birch trees I watch daily from “my nest.”)


Neighbor’s Birch trees


It all started when we bought our first house in Michigan. A rambling ranch on an acre plot. Overflowing with trees. This was disturbing because I was born and raised for 36 years as an Iowan who loved the sun, and could see for miles. (Iowa is and will always be my home, no matter how long I live in Michigan) Michigan has trees everywhere. I had trouble finding a spot of sunshine in the yard to plop my chaise lounge. Wound up moving my chair every few minutes. (Part of my Lenox collection)




To me it’s just such a closed-in, cooped-up feeling. Almost like I couldn’t catch my breath. Or breathe deeply. I still get that feeling. Looking at Lake Michigan helps. I can see for a long ways when I’m at the big lake. Our house is on Muskegon Lake which flows into Lake Michigan. Looking across our lake is ok, but there’s a drab city across the water. And it feels like I’m not very far from the city when I look out. But that “ben-out” (Dutch word for stuffy) feeling does not totally go away until I cross the Mississippi, heading west. It’s like my constantly constricted chest that’s been in spasms since I left Iowa, finally lets go and is loosey-goosey, free at last. (Homemade ornaments from the kids and grandkids. Truly priceless).


Priceless ornaments from kids and grands


Trees were just never a big part of my life or thoughts. Not even Christmas trees. I barely remember having a tree for Christmas when I was very young. I’m pretty sure my brother Larry brought them home from Koster’s Market. After he died in 1958 there were no more Christmas trees or celebrating in our house. I had just turned 8. Years later when John and I were dating, I realized Christmas trees were still a big deal in most homes. For the first 2 decades of our marriage, we bought real Christmas trees. Sometimes John took the kids out to chop down our own, for the whole “Griswold family Christmas tree experience.”

Elly’s magnificent tree. Has about 450 ornaments, honest…

Elly’s magnificent tree. Has about 450 ornaments, honest…

Elly’s magnificent tree. Has about 450 ornaments, honest…
John’s sister Elly has had an artificial tree for at least 50 years. Yes, the SAME one. I noticed her tree held and displayed ornaments much nicer than real trees. They handle the heavy ones better. She has the most beautifully decorated tree I’ve ever seen. Not one of these “theme” or only stick to one color ornament either. She’s been collecting special one-of-a-kind-ornaments for over 60 years. She wanted me to love Christmas trees the way she does. When we were living in Spencer she made me this adorable tree skirt. Depicts different scenes of Santa. That was about 35 years ago. Doesn’t seem possible. (Elly’s gift to me in 1980. I bunched it together so you can see 2 of the 4 Santa’s).
Elly’s magnificent tree. Has about 450 ornaments, honest…


We got our first artificial tree about 25 years ago. I did miss the smell of pine at first. But we had 2 kids with allergies and asthma, and a dog who liked to lap the water out of the tree stand. Plus John was forever hacking off the trunk until it fit in those old tree stands. In and out of the house until it fit properly and was level. Then about a week later, the needles would start dropping off by the thousands. There’s not much about a real tree I miss.

My first Christmas ornament collection started by accident. Maybe most collections happen like that. Adam, who was about 6 bought me a Precious Moment upside down clown ornament for Christmas in the mid-80’s. A couple days later I had my Christmas party with my bowling/Euchre/Secret Sister gang and got another PM ornament. This one was a gal carrying a pie. (I Had 150 Precious Moments at one time. Got them down to about 50 now).


Precious Moments faves


The rest is history. At one time I had so many in certain collections I had to get a second and third tree to hold them. Then I started searching for unusual, one-of-a-kind ornaments. Hand blown ones that were very fancy. I bought several small wrought iron shelves/hangers so I could keep them up all year long. Hand painted ones, too pretty for only displaying a couple weeks a year. (Rhyne-Rivet collection, all hand painted)



My friend Diane had an oddly-freaky, felt Mr. and Mrs. Claus with hand painted faces. She rescued them from the trash collectors one year when her mom was throwing them out after Christmas. They each stood about 3 feet tall and Diane nestled them standing near her tree. My whole family thinks they’re homely. But I thought they were cute, and had to get some ornaments. (My Anna Lee’s. They’re different, but I like them)



Once we moved to the west side of Michigan and shopped at the Dutch Village in Holland, I discovered Blue Delft ornaments. I’ve collected Blue Delft since I was a teen, but not ornaments. Soon Lenox and Waterford ornaments were added to the mix. I had to stop. Decorating started feeling like a chore. Most the pricier ones have their own boxes. Takes a long time to get them unwrapped. At least when I’m decorating the tree, it’s fun to reminisce when I got it and who it’s from. Taking them down after Christmas is not nearly as much fun. So I started paring down the collections. Kept only the ones from each collection that really meant something to me. Went back down to one nice tree with multi-colored lights. (My gorgeous Blue Delft ornaments)



But it’s the family hand me downs, and the ones the kids made in school that mean the most to me. Now the grandkids are making ornaments. I really love getting those out each year. The smeared dried glue, with yarn hangers that are a foot long to hang on a branch. Those are the ones that get the prime spots on the tree each year. It’s not the Waterford’s or Lladro’s that give me a lump in my throat when I unpack them. It’s the little laminated yellow star with Adam’s school picture. The back of it that reads; 1986, Adam. I am 7. Those are the ones that make me cry (but in a good way) every December when it’s time to decorate my tree…







One thought on “O Tannenbaum…

  1. Years ago I knocked a Lenox heart-shaped jewelry holder off an end table and it broke in pieces. My wife cried like a baby scaring our teen-age daughter who wondered \”what in-the-world\” I had done – geez-Louise !! We took a ride to the Albany, NY area to a big Lenox outlet but, alas, that particular item was out-of-circulation. Think I've been forgiven but not sure.Holland, MI: Dutch Village and a Federal Institution. My Dad worked for 39 years for the Bureau of Prisons. Always though it would've been neat if we had been transferred there.


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