In the house I grew up in, we had an attic with a pull-down staircase. From our tiny hall, we would make our pilgrimage up and down the steps to gather unused items and decorations we had stored up above. In fact, the older house we live in now has one. The only difference is our attic is bigger than my entire childhood home.
My sister and I were often called upon to climb up and down the steps. We weighed less and were much more agile than our parents. We thought it was a very special privilege to be able to assist. But I found out later, after raising my own children, that the only thing special about the chore was parents didnt have to do it.
During the oppressive hot and humid summer months, we hated to visit the attic. It was so hot up there that I always wondered why things didnt melt. The way sweat poured from our bodies, I always thought I might be melting. I certainly remember watching The Wizard of Oz and saw what happened to the Wicked Witch of the West.
Every year about this time, we were summoned to go up to the attic to gather our Christmas ornaments. Back then, Christmas decorations didnt begin to come out until Thanksgiving was over and the month of December had begun. I remember this because my birthday is Dec. 19, and we never put up our tree until then.
I always knew exactly where to look for the boxes of decorations. In one corner of the attic they lived from one Christmas to another. The boxes were always covered with dust, just as I was after handing each box off to my sister who met me half-way up the creaking steps.
Box after box we passed until the corner was empty. Then the steps were folded up and the door closed. More times than not, we had to go back up because we almost always forgot to turn off the light.
Each year when we started opening the larger boxes and then the smaller ones they held, we were greeted with glimmering ornaments that appeared happy to be on our level of the house.
We didnt have much money -- or that many ornaments for that matter. I guess thats why we appreciated them so much. Like welcoming home old friends, we carefully unpacked and greeted each one of ornaments.
The ornaments we had were glass blown, colorful and very fragile. Because of how easily they would break, special boxes were fashioned with dividers to hold each ornament carefully in place.
Most of the boxes had once had a cellophane window on the top so you could see the ornaments all snuggled together without having to take the lid off.
Time had taken a toll on the boxes, leaving them faded, while our fingers had punched through most of the cellophane windows.
As sort of a prehistoric form of monogramming on the ornaments that were purchased especially for me, I used white school glue to carefully write my name sprinkling it with a contrasting color of glitter to accentuate its reflective quality. Sometimes, I even went a little further by adding another design to make them even more festive.
We always hated when one of these special ornaments met an early demise by breaking. The glass was so thin you could almost see through it. Even the glue and glitter adornments couldnt save them.
Only a very few of my original ornaments survived, but my wife, Debra, ended up with a couple of boxes of hers. They were even stored in their original packaging.
Ive always loved the patina time left on the ornaments. They certainly werent as bright but I almost liked them better. They were antiqued!
Back then, it cost less than a dollar for an entire box of ornaments -- that is certainly not the case now. My wife and I started collecting them at antique stores, flea markets and garage sales. During Debras travels all across the nation on business, she purchased some from just about every state she visited.
They now cost between $5 and $25 each. As a result, it took years and a chunk of change for us to collect enough for me to create a small tabletop topiary.
I started with a Styrofoam cone and carefully glued each and every one of them together to form a breathtaking tree. Debra even came upon a small antique tree topper in one state to crown the top. When I finished, its beauty took my breath away.
As I held each one during the gluing process while attempting to fit them together perfectly like a puzzle, I wondered how many different trees this group of ornaments, some with their original now-rusted hangers, had graced? How many smiles had they evoked? How many family gatherings and parties had they attended? The whole process from years of collecting the old ornaments to actually creating the topiary had given me joy. The topiary still does each year as I get it back out.
Sometimes our memories have the power to not only take us back to a certain time but also to make us smile and feel the warmth of a time gone by. Thats exactly what mine did for me as I carefully placed the glass ornament topiary on a small cabinet in our dining room. Relieved that in was safely in place, I stood back to gaze upon its beauty.
All these years later these inexpensive ornaments looked so grandiose and elegant as they proudly gleamed. I know they must be thrilled not to be in a cardboard box in an attic.
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