You know, George, I feel that in a small way we are doing something important. Satisfying a fundamental urge. It’s deep in the race for a man to want his own roof and walls and fireplace, and we’re helping him get those things in our shabby little office.
~ Pa Bailey
The Dorothy ornament is the first I remember loving. Before Annie, before The Baby-Sitters Club, before “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer,” “The Wizard of Oz” was my obsession. When I was very little, we had IIRC, all of the OG “Wizard” Christmas ornaments, but of course, Dorothy was my favorite. Long after the others had been lost somewhere, I held onto her. Long after her plastic face had started to melt and her cheaply ‘70s-made “clothes” had started to morph with her body, Dorothy was My Christmas Moment – when I pulled her out of the ornament box, even when I was 32, I was five again.
There was the Annie ornament as well, the one I’d gotten on St. Nick’s Day in 1982. She was plastic too, and holding a snowman. That ornament probably cost a dollar to make, but she meant so much to me, for 29 years.
And then there were the balls with the years on them, like my round Holly Hobbie ornament. Its fragility and age made the ornament stamped with “1979” feel as though it were made of gossamer.
As the years went on, there were other ornaments. They didn’t hold the age status of the aforementioned ones, but they meant everything to me, all the same. Like the handwritten/homemade one from Shannon when we lived together in my first apartment, that she and I shared.
There were ornaments from vacations and cruises, that I’d gathered as I grew up, knowing that each one would transform the annual ornament box into an even more magical place. One that no matter how old I got, would hold time in a bottle.
As I got older, there were other Christmas-y things I acquired, that helped me transform into An Adult. When I read A Day Late, and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan, I was inspired by the sister who always decorated every inch of her place with seasonal cheer. She reminded me of my Nanny Posch, who always had the same Santa soaps in the bathroom, and filled her home with crafts and gifts, accumulated through the years.
I lost all of my personal Christmas accumulation in Hurricane Sandy. Not to act as though I was one of the many from my home who lost so much more. By that time, the CO fires were over, and my friends from my home state were getting devastated, while I watched helplessly, via the news and personal accounts from friends, family, and neighbors I’d left behind.
When I moved out of New York, it was May 2011. I knew my Christmas stuff (what a mild word, for such intense memories) was back in boxes, in a side room. Because my ex and I parted as friends, I knew it would be there waiting, when I needed it again.
Until it wasn’t. Last Christmas, I was boycotting the holiday. Everything felt just too sad. Loved ones across the country were hurting, and I felt set adrift, minus the memory bliss.
This year, I decided to try again. “I believe, I believe. It’s silly, but I believe.” I tried to channel Natalie Wood. Still, I was minus both money and memories.
Then my mother bought me an artificial tree – a really nice one, that already had the lights set up. She also got me a new Fontanini nativity set, just like she’d gotten when I moved in with Shannon, 12 years ago, that was lost in Sandy. It is missing the cat, and a couple of other aforementioned accumulations, but it has Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus that I hid away for Christmas Eve.
“Judith, it is my wish this Christmas, that if I can show you my love and help give you Christmas back, then you will believe in God’s love for you,” she said. I’m paraphrasing, as she said it better.
The night after she told me that, I went home, determined to transform all of these new Christmas belongings into new memories.
My mother had also given me a few ornaments, including THE ornaments. Even before Dorothy when I was alive, my mother had been a newlywed with my dad in 1974. They had very little, but my mother was an art major, and had handpainted all of these little wooden ornaments. She saw it just as a way of filling out a tree, but even when I was little, I recognized the glory in the art that she’d created, as a 22-year-old.
Some of those ornaments, my favorites, were also lost in the floods. But this year, that night that I was trying to believe though it was silly, in the Christmas spirit and in God Himself, I pulled out one ornament that I hadn’t seen in years. It was a little boy in a wagon, one that my mom had painstakingly created 39 years ago.
I pulled it out, alone in my apartment, and just lost it. I was wracked with sobs and ugly cried, because no one could see me, and because this was Christmas.
I will never get back the other ornaments, nor the Christmas stocking with the faded, multi-colored “Judith” glitter from when I was super little. But I have a Christmas tree that spins around, and that my cat loves to sleep under. I have a man who loves and comes home to me, and has added his own memories to our tree. And I have family just across town, including a mother who’d take time in such a busy season, to try and show me that God loves me so much, just because she does, too.
Maybe I will never stop crying at Christmas, about that which was lost in the flood. But I also know that thanks to my mother, I will never stop looking at what I do have, and in trying to believe in what she does.
Merry Christmas to all ❤