Ornaments and Words

December 1, 2014

It was my aunt who first pointed out the differences in family Christmas trees. She loved to visit with people and took great delight in observing her friends’ prized pieces. I remember her telling met that a decorated Christmas tree often mimicked personalities. I think she was on to something.

My best friend’s husband didn’t have much of a warm and fuzzy childhood. Their Christmas tree is a pre-lit silver beauty with shiny, new ornaments. In an act of great compromise, my friend has taken to adorning a second tree in the basement with their kids’ homemade ornaments and her vintage collection that she’s collected over time.

As a kid I had a friend across the street who’s family decorated with flair, style, and perfection. Their tree was covered with homemade, purchased, posh ornaments. I thought it was beautiful, much nicer than our not-so-so perfect tree which was covered in homemade ornaments made from Styrofoam, glitter, and toothpicks. My aunt’s tree was overloaded, stuffed with ornaments, resembling her high energy and nonstop chatter. As an adult my brother had a tree trimmed with thrift store retro ornaments— nothing was ordinary. Nor was he.

A decorated tree gives insight to peoples’ lives. Writers take note of details, like ornaments, and carefully place them into the novel.

As a parent my tastes have changed, just as my character has over time. I now cherish the tinfoil stars framing the face of my six-year-old. I no longer mind an ornament made from toothpicks. I’ve purchased posh pieces on occasion, do have a few vintage ornaments from my best friend, and I fondly hang retro thrift store charmers in honor of my brother. I also love Victorian beads, glass icicles that reflect the white lights, and ski-themed wooden ornaments. I’ve even consented to my teen’s love of tinsel and my husband’s cheesy golfing Santa.

In the end a tree reflects family, history, and the ways in which people have grown over time. A novel should do some of the same things.