a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

No Austrian blown-glass ornaments for us

By Scott Beveridge

Looking back I can't help but think my parents were insane for the way in which they orchestrated Christmas for their three kids in the early 1960s.

And it’s a wonder we kids even survived into adulthood, given the way in which we celebrated the holiday.

Dad, a steelworker, always selected the tree in advance of the big day and it would remain on our front porch until we were sent to bed on Christmas Eve.

He and mom, who worked full time then as an office clerk, would decorate the tree -its needles already falling by then - while we slept to fool us into believing in the morning it had been decorated and laced with gifts by Santa Claus.

It had to be a struggle for our beered-up dad to untangle those strands of electric lights, which were already old with frayed wires by the time they were passed down to us. Each socket held a blue bulb that became sizzling hot when illuminated.

The traditional red and green Christmas would never become our style.

Mom insisted on draping the tree with silver tinsel one strand at a time while dad likely popped another nerve or six until he exploded over the stress of assembling that new bicycle or mini tool bench.

She would finish the tree by hanging on its branches a bunch of cheap white Styrofoam ornaments. Our budget could not afford German blown-glass ornaments.

In short order the blue lights would smolder and melt into many of the her while Santas, snowmen, stars and balls.

It gave our living room the scent of burning plastic for the holidays. It was a miracle the tree didn’t catch fire and destroy our house and its dry-rotted wooden clapboards.

The destruction of the ornaments didn't matter so much to mom because they were cheap and easily replaced at the local five-and-dime store.

Under the tree went a miniature village we all helped to create using milk cartons cut in half to resemble the shapes of houses with pitched roofs.

We’d cover them with a layer of “stucco” made from whipped hot wax “snow icing” spread with butter knifes. Then we’d cut plastic in the shape of doors and windows and attach them to the buildings, which also were dusted with glitter before the wax dried.

Yes, mom even found a way to burn her fingers and those of her children with hot wax in advance of December 25th.

Yet, to mom’s children, nephews and nieces, her holiday trees were astoundingly beautiful, unlike any other in our circle of friends, neighbors and relatives.

How one of her Frosty the Snowman ornaments, shown above, survived such torture is anyone's guess.

But I'm glad it did because that's my favorite holiday decoration, something priceless to me, despite its odd red belly button.

1 comment:

Amanda Blu said...

Loved it, Scooter. Awesome piece.