Rudolf the Smooth-Nosed Reindeer

11 Dec
Our tree in all its glory.

Our tree in all its glory.

A few of my favorites.  The bird was my grandmother's, I believe.  I made the polka-dotted ball a few years ago...

A few of my favorites. The bird was my grandmother’s, I believe. I made the polka-dotted ball a few years ago…

My grandmother's Lifesaver clown.  I'm guessing the candy is...oh...about 35 years old!

My grandmother’s Lifesaver clown. I’m guessing the candy is…oh…about 35 years old!

I love unpacking our Christmas things. I don’t even mind the mess, when, for a few days, boxes and storage tubs fill the living room and I can’t get the tree sap off of my elbow. I love unwrapping the tissue from each special ornament – and, truly, each one is precious to me. The ones I’ve had since childhood, the ones my grandmother or mother or sisters made, the ones my children created, the ones that carry memories of places and people – some who are no longer with us – that speak to me of family and friends and love…

The tree was a Grandma creation - the fabulous gingerbread man was made by my niece, years ago.  My five year old daughter said, "This is kind of a weird ornament." I said, "I love it.  Hang it up."

The tree was a Grandma creation – the fabulous gingerbread man was made by my niece, years ago. My five year old daughter said, “This is kind of a weird ornament.” I said, “I love it. Hang it up.”

Okay, enough schmaltz. But, really, I do love them. I just am not usually so gushy about it. I’ve told my husband – more than once – that if we ever have a fire, getting out the Christmas boxes is his number one priority. After the kids, that is. And my computer. And my Cutco knives.

Boo made the white "bell" this year.  She was attempting to make a snowflake and then decided that it was actually a bell.

Boo made the white “bell” this year. She was attempting to make a snowflake and then decided that it was actually a bell.

I love taking every day things and making them ornaments...like this antique cookie cutter!

I love taking every day things and making them ornaments…like this antique cookie cutter!

My son has picked up my tendency to use non-ornaments as ornaments.  Though, to be sure, I wasn't aware that the Death Star from Star Wars was very Christmasy...still, it's quite marvelous!

My son has picked up my tendency to use non-ornaments as ornaments. Though, to be sure, I wasn’t aware that the Death Star from Star Wars was very Christmasy…still, it’s quite marvelous!

Well, the knives can be replaced. But not so the Christmas decorations. There are some which should be replaced, probably. Like the Rudolf which came as a gift tie-on when I was a kid from one of those cheese-sausage-and-petit-four companies. I loved that Rudolf. I played with him so long that his fuzzy, sprayed-on red nose rubbed off and even my kids think he’s hideous but I won’t ditch him. “Mom, why don’t you throw him away?”

“Because he’s part of my history!” I replied, shocked, as I held him gently the other day. And then I put him back in the box rather than in the “to be put on the tree” pile.

Okay, now do you see why he's not on the tree?

Okay, now do you see why he’s not on the tree?

“Aren’t you going to hang him up?” the kids asked.

“Nope,” I said. “I’ve seen him. That’s enough.” They shook their heads at the unexplainable ways of their mother. I smiled to myself as I remembered making Rudolf run across piano keys and the branches of the 15 foot Christmas trees my dad would cut down from up the mountain behind our house. Those trees – so tall that they had to be tied to the beams across our cathedral ceilings – were part of my childhood too. Tossing Rudolf would be like tossing the memories. And, really, how much room does one four-inch Rudolf take up in the box? Please don’t answer that question.

This is Oscar.  I've had him since I was wee.  I've had to replace his shell a few times...

This is Oscar. I’ve had him since I was wee. I’ve had to replace his shell a few times…

My husband's aunt recently gave us this - it was his grandmothers.  A lovely reminder of a lovely woman.

My husband’s aunt recently gave us this – it was his grandmothers. A lovely reminder of a lovely woman.

So many of our ornaments were made by loved-ones. My grandmother would make us all a felt, sequined ornament each year. As she aged, they became increasingly less fancy and also increasingly…odd…but that was okay. I love the tassel octopus just as much as the others. Though, admittedly, if I’m hanging the ornaments it will possibly be placed strategically at the back of the tree. The back needs covering, too!

Two of my grandmother's creations, made in her prime.

Two of my grandmother’s creations, made in her prime.

The stocking was made by my aunt years ago.  I made ones for my family to match.  The marvelous snowman is one of my favorites made by my mother.

The stocking was made by my aunt years ago. The marvelous snowman is one of my favorites made by my mother.

My kids, of course, have been notorious for hanging ornaments on one branch. I think I counted 13 on one tiny twig one year. The older two don’t really do that anymore, but Boo, at age five, still does a little bit. I love it, though. But, yes, I admit that I tend to spread the love a bit after they go to bed. 13 is just a few too many for two inches of twig to handle. But I’m not nuts about moving their stuff. I want it to be their tree…not some magazine-perfect, untouchable thing.

A couple of my newer Swedish finds.  I love these, too!

A couple of my newer Swedish finds. I love these, too!

I always thought our tree was beautiful. Then I looked back at photos from previous years and suddenly it occurred to me that, possibly, it wasn’t as gorgeous as I thought it was. But who cares? I love it as it is and that’s what matters, yes?

The snowflake my middle sister made, the heart our oldest sister made.  The blue ball is my son's work of art, the girl on the swing is from Okinawa in the 60's and the wonderful candycane rocking horse was another of my grandmother's amazing creations.

The snowflake my middle sister made, the heart our oldest sister made. The blue ball is my son’s work of art, the girl on the swing is from Okinawa in the 60’s and the wonderful candycane rocking horse was another of my grandmother’s amazing creations.

More of my sister's handiwork.

More of my sister’s handiwork.

My oldest sister's work again.  Oh, to have her sewing machine!

My oldest sister’s work again. Oh, to have her sewing machine!

And my kids love it, too. All three of them. They corrected me several times when I mistakenly identified certain ornaments as belonging to so-and-so but really they belong to someone else entirely. They know. And someday, when they head off to homes of their own, they’ll have a stash of their very own ornaments to decorate their trees with and I’ll be stuck with the tassel octopus.

Oh, and Rudolf of the rubbed-off nose.

This was from 2009 - looks pretty much the same!

This was from 2009 – looks pretty much the same from year to year, only with a few new ornaments hanging from its evergreen branches.

The obligatory night shot.

The obligatory night shot.

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13 Responses to “Rudolf the Smooth-Nosed Reindeer”

  1. Jenny December 11, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    I love your memories! I don’t remember that Rudolf at all. May have been after I moved out. I love your kids comments and reactions! Enjoy their helping as that seems to go away, with boys at least! Our tree this year is the top 9 feet of a 50 foot tree my husband cut down in our yard!! You know our trees cut from the woods around here tend to be very natural looking, but this one is probably the strangest! Though it most certainly gives you something to talk about when people see it! And this year I put my favorite clear lights on it! If I have to have a tree that looks like that, it will have the lights on it that I want!!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 11, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

      Rudolf never was too memorable…and yes, could be he came after you. You’ll have to take a photo of your tree for us to see! I’ll never forget Dad’s pick that one year with two feet of trunk between each level of branches. So weird! But memorable! I’ll need to blog about that if I can ever get a photo of it from Dad! I actually debated buying colored lights this year…but nope, didn’t do it!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 11, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

      PS – somehow I didn’t put on the photo of your bead snowflakes that I meant to – sorry!

      • Gretchen O'Donnell December 11, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

        PS again – you seem to be under-represented on here, in fact! Goodness. You and Kris both do such marvelous ornaments. You can’t imagine how many photos I could have had!

  2. SKL New York December 11, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    I enjoyed your post! We, too, have a collection of handmade ornaments, creating a few more each year. Some of the ornaments are from my childhood, many moons ago. I wanted to share our funny twist on the traditional tree. Hope you enjoy it! http://sklnewyork.wordpress.com/2012/12/09/traditional-with-a-twist/

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 11, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

      I can’t wait to check it out! Yes, I always feel sad for people who buy new ornaments each year – where’s the memories in that?! So fun. And anyone can make ornaments – no matter the age. Or the skill level!

      • SKL New York December 11, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

        Completely agree! It’s wonderful to see how the ornaments progress as the years pass! And a great way to spend quality time together :-)

  3. Lee Anne December 11, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    I recognize some of those ornaments! I also hang the octopus on the back… But I do love them all.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 11, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

      I know! I wish I had more of Grandma’s – My mom sent us some last year, though, which was great. I covet her set of Grandma’s felt wisemen! And yes, I love them, too!

      • Lee Anne December 11, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

        We just decorated our tree and I see that one of the boys hung the octopus right in the very front!

  4. bitsandbreadcrumbs December 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    A fabulous looking tree and some equally wonderful keepsake ornaments. Remembering the history of the ornaments is one of my most favorite things about having and decorating a tree.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 11, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

      Yes, you understand! They’re so wonderful. I love just sitting at looking at it. And playing “hide and seek” with ornaments…”Where is that __?” Oh! There it is!”

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