December 12, 2010
My Christmas Addiction
My name is Corinne and I am a Christmas Ornamentaholic.
Over two decades, I have amassed hundreds of Christmas baubles. My addiction began with a couple boxes of red balls, then gold, but quickly escalated. I indulged not only at the holidays, but all year round, whenever and wherever a pretty thing made me weak. I frequented department stores, craft bazaars, art galleries, gift shops, museums, garden centers, on-line sites, and direct mail catalogues to satisfy my Christmas ornament jones..
Unlike women who are satisfied with one theme, like Victorian or Americana or Goth, my taste when selecting a treasure was cosmopolitan. Color ran the rainbow spectrum: red, gold, purple, blue, pink, raspberry, white, green, orange, harlequin plaid, yellow with black polka dots.
Size made no difference: from simple dime-sized red orbs to a lustrous mercury-glass moon as big as one of those gourmet grapefruits that come in a Harry and David fruit basket, with every dimension and shape in between. Chemical composition wasn’t limited either: paper, porcelain, pottery; machine-made and mouth-blown glass; Swarovski crystal; wood; enamel; cloth; feathers; and candy canes. Nor was I restricted in my choice of metal. Silver, gilded, brass, copper, and aluminum were all embraced.
If an ornament spoke to me, it became a part of my life.
At the beginning of my mania, selecting was too easy. The white globes from my Mom, my Grandma’s fragile antique, the sleighs, the Santas, jingle bells, and chrome-colored balls joined the red and gold balls in the storage box. But the artisan glass icicles and luminous globes with their swirls of parfait hues were too tempting to pass on. The raindrops from Smith and Hawken were so unique, as were the 12 days of Christmas from the Metropolitan Opera. A couple of Neiman Marcus annuals. Two bicycles, mementos from a Salvation Army luncheon. And, of course, I needed to support UNICEF with a yearly purchase.
My compulsion turned personal. Two clay snails, made by a Cleveland Institute of Art student, represent Bill and me. My mom is both an angel and a sterling crucifix; my dad is a Canada goose and another crucifix. Both crosses were added after they passed. Bill’s sons are an enameled ornament of little boys in a boat from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Every cat that has graced our lives has at least one fandangle that resembles him or her.
Our love of the outdoors appears as a flock of birds perched on the branch tips, two bird houses with tiny blue eggs, a duo of bird nests, a bird bath, a butterfly and a dragonfly, reindeer, tulips and daffodils. A tomato, a bell pepper, two pears, a bunch of carrots, a dozen plums, numerous apples, ten strawberries (two have broken) and about 100 gold-leafed walnuts, pecans and almonds testify to our greenish thumbs.
Holiday cards became adornments, especially the dimensional greetings from the Museum of Modern Art. Vintage gift tags, written on by my parents, were recycled into tree trimmings.
This large collection of Christmas gewgaws is not all my fault. Bill enabled me. He even contributed to the cache with a gift of four navy blue paper mâché rounds embossed with sun, moon and stars. Two vacations in the Outer Banks, he walked the beach in search of perfect scallop shells, which he drilled, shellacked and to which he attached gold braid for hanging. We bought a starfish together. These complement the shell star that tops the tree.
My obsession now fills ten storage boxes. Add two more for stocking holders, snow globes, a Virgin and Child icon, and assorted mantle decorations, another for 1,000 lights, two boxes for the Italian-crafted Nativity scene my Mom bought at Higbee’s in the ‘50s, a bag for the ribbon swags, a second for the tree skirt, and four wreaths, and the result is a 3-day Holiday Home Decorating Marathon.
I don’t know why collecting Christmas whimsies became an all-consuming preoccupation, but I do know when it began — when we bought the house we live in now, with its 8-foot ceilings and bay window.
For 10 years, Bill and I lived in an Ohio City apartment so small it could only comfortably accommodate a spindly three-foot Norfolk pine. Eventually we graduated to a five-foot spruce, tucked under the stairs going to the bedrooms. It wasn’t much of anything but it smelled Christmasy.
So when we moved here and Christmas came around, we bought our first, real, grown-up tree — an 8-foot Fraser Fir, and we’ve purchased one every Christmas since 1987. With their short needles, natural “holes,” and strong branches, Frasers allow for weighty and big ornaments to be tucked toward the interior, and multiple hangings on a limb.
Searching for our first Frasers meant a 30-mile round trip to Sunnybrook Farm in Chesterland or to Dugan’s Garden Center in Olmsted Falls, 50 miles back and forth, but now they’re available at every corner tree lot. I don’t know if the increase in their popularity is the result of folks discovering how accommodating they are to decorate, or if it’s due to growers just growing more.
The only problem with an eight-foot tree is that it is heavy to haul into the living room. Or maybe the weight is due to our getting older. We’ve discussed the alternatives: smaller tree? (Would it look puny? Would it hold all the ornaments?) Do we go faux? (Natural-looking fake trees are expensive, like $600+ expensive.)
We have a couple of years (I hope) to decide or life will decide for us.
While we ponder, I will not submit to buying more ornaments. I did the inventory and we have enough. I went cold turkey. Got the monkey off my back. Quit. I have not purchased an ornament in six years. I don’t think I’ll buy another ornament ever.
OK, I take that back. If I could just find the right barred owl....