Every one of these ornaments has a precious memory attached to it, down to the red plastic boot at centre. Photo: Barbara Roden.

Every one of these ornaments has a precious memory attached to it, down to the red plastic boot at centre. Photo: Barbara Roden.

The Editor’s Desk: Christmas memories

Every ornament on the tree has a story to tell.

The Christmas tree in the Roden household has been up for some time; a real one, because as convenient and beautiful as artificial trees can be, there’s something to be said for the venerable traditions of arguing about whether the tree is straight (“More to the right … the right … no, my right, not your right”), trimming a few branches a bit too much (“That side can go at the back”), getting sap all over your hands (boy, that stuff is hard to get off), and finding pine needles in unlikely spots for months to come.

Quite apart from all this merriment, I enjoy my decidedly non-designer, non-symmetrical tree; and the best part is decorating it, because I love seeing each beloved ornament emerge from its box, every one bringing back a host of memories.

Here is the wooden violin my maternal grandparents gave me, acknowledging my love of Sherlock Holmes; and here are the seven walnuts that I painstakingly split apart in perfect halves, cleaned out, then glued back together with a piece of thread securely in place (heaven knows how many walnuts I had to crack to get seven that split just so; a lot, in my memory).

Here is a small clay bird’s nest with three tiny, opalescent blue eggs nestled within it, and instantly I am back at The Country Mouse in Steveston with my mother as we enjoy a Saturday checking out the charming little shops there and having a bite of lunch. And here are strings of white beads with white icicles, purchased at Woodwards in Richmond, where I spent many happy hours in the bookstore chatting with its manager, the lovely Ellen Sacre.

I move on to another stage in my life as I pull out a set of brass snowflakes purchased at a small shop on Lower Bridge Street in Chester, England, where I lived for five years in the 1990s. Here is a set of small brass bells with red-and-green braid and bows, purchased across the street at Past Times; and atop the tree goes an angel, which I found in a tiny shop in Chester’s famous medieval Rows, a place which—especially at night—always looked like somewhere one was more likely to encounter a character from Dickens than a flesh-and-blood person. Three sets of burgundy-and-gold balls are a reminder of the Grosvenor Garden Centre outside Chester. The centre is owned by the Duke of Westminster, currently the ninth richest person in England (judging by the centre’s prices, it’s not hard to see why).

Back to Canada, and I pull out two boxes of small, sparkling glass birds which clip to the branches, and were purchased at Nature’s Gifts in Ashcroft one cold and frosty Christmas Parade night. The most recent ornament—adorning the tree for the first time—is one which sports the crest of the RCMP, a gift from my son.

From the newest to the oldest: a small red plastic boot on a fraying red cord that always twists the wrong way. It has adorned every Christmas tree I have ever known, and thus it is given pride of place, bringing with it the happy ghosts of Christmases past.

So there is my tree: defiantly non-designer, but a thing of beauty to me. I hope that your Christmas is a good and merry one, with happy memories that you can take with you down the years.


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