You know how some people have fabulously expensive Christmas ornaments with carefully coordinated bulbs and perfect bows to decorate their tree (micromanaging placement of each individual bobble), and they carefully pack each ornament away every year in its own special box? Well, I’m NOT one of those people. We refer to our Christmas tree decorations as “Christmas Tree Flotsam”…
Flotsam: The wreckage of a ship and its cargo found floating on or washed up by the sea.
Imagine the stuff that’s left behind on the surface of the ocean after a recent ship wreck — that’s rather like our Christmas tree decorations! — But how I cherish and unapologetically love the random, bizaar, and exceedingly quirky items that we feel oh-so-nostalgic over year after year.
Our Christmas tree flotsam includes lots of vintage ornaments that have graced our trees over the years, both artificial and real. They’re admittedly a bit beat up, but they retain their charm and sparkle.
Then we have our traditional “plastic green cow” which is always placed in a prime place on the tree, prominently, in the front, and somewhere about eye level. The plastic green cow goes back to before I was born and was hung on the tree many years ago — during the hard years, when my mother was young and newly immigrated from New Zealand to Los Angeles with her family. Times were lean, and they had to make due with what humble means they had. There was no extra money to spend on fancy Christmas decorations. They would cover walnut shell halves in tin foil to hang on the tree as something sparkly, and any random item was a candidate to be a Christmas tree ornament especially plastic toys from inside cereal boxes….Hence, our green cow! “Hang it up on the tree!” My mom said they used to hang it on the tree with a thread around its neck. Hanging by the neck seems so barbaric (haha!), so we opt instead to just lean it gently on the branch. But specifically, when I put up this ornament, I am reminded to be thankful for all my blessings; to remember those less fortunate; to be humble and generous; and to reflect with gratitude on the inginuity of my loving family members who have passed on.
Back to the flotsam: Let’s not overlook the random little oddity ornaments, like the miniature wooden penguins (WHERE did THEY come from?…not sure), repurposed curly ribbon from previous presents, vintage tinsel ballie-things (which must be thrown from six feet away and wherever they stick on the tree, they must remain!), some VERRRY old plastic icicles that back-in-the-day used to glow in the dark, and some large star-trek-esque bulbous science-fiction inspired bulbs that you’d better hang near the trunk of the tree or you’ll break the tree branch…they’re so heavy.
There is a whole slew of handmade quirky decorations — these are my favorite I think, including a collection of glitter-covered seashells (Lianna, Val and I made years ago) complete with hot-glued ribbon to hang; woven raffia swirls; hand painted wooden ones; grandma’s crocheted white cross; a blue paper ornament from Val’s fifth grade art class; and many colored stars and snowflakes made out of faceted beads.
Being the lover of glass, let’s not overlook the beautiful crystal angel ornaments in each of the girls’ birthstone colors — Lianna’s angel is sapphire blue, and Valory’s angel is emerald green. There is a set of glass heart ornaments that I actually did buy from a “real” store, back when I was a teenager — I still enjoy them. And one year, Frank’s sister Cindy gave us a pickle ornament that we have fun hiding on the tree every year!
As we came across the 3 shiny red bulbs with gold metallic sharpie writing of each of the kids’ names…with a lump in our throats, we hung up Lucas’ bulb. How sad that he’s no longer with us this Christmas.
So after all is said and done, I think our flotsam-covered Christmas tree this year actually looks exceptionally beautiful with tons of multicolored lights and plenty of sparkly lusciousness.
My wish for each and every one of you is to enjoy your own personal Christmas tree decorating traditions, and emotionally connect to your own personal flotsam and the memories you hang on your Christmas tree this year — and be brave; don’t be afraid to break from the boring decorating norm! Add some unique random, homemade, vintage and nostalgic flotsam to your tree this year! Merry Christmas!!!