By Craig Hastings
So in the closing remarks of my column last week I told you I was going to share with you some of my memory attachments I have with a few of the ornaments that adorn my Christmas tree. Guys, this may not be the column for you. No fast car wish list, no incredible custom built cars, nor a car that I just have to have some day from my past. Nope, Christmas ornaments. Probably a story for the female half of your household. This story comes from the “mom” side of me.
First, all of you that have children have those paper ornaments our children made in the early grades of school. Well, as basic as they were I still have them, and they still have first class space reserved on my tree. Front and center in the living room and hanging just at average eyesight level. Probably not the most magnificent of my collection but by far the ones most important to me. And, after all who really sees my tree but Shannon, the boys, and me. My fellow police officers tease me that no one ever passes my front door threshold when they come calling. I meet everyone outside.
It doesn’t matter, my Christmas tree is about me and how I express myself to my children when they’re here. I have Lukas’ third grade paper candle and Payton’s creation of a picture of him as a baby and me holding him high framed in a plastic heart frame ornament, two of my favorites. I have too many of my German Shepherd Dogs displayed in various ornament creations hanging in my tree. These are some of my favorites that I will sit in the dark and stare. They still bring tears to eyes remembering their time together with me.
Why at Christmas? Because Christmas is the only time I will look at pictures of my dogs while they were still with me alive and well. Sometimes I think they are the only living things that understood me. Do any of you have your pets configured into Christmas ornaments or am I weirder than I think I am? I’ve gone beyond just pictures of these dogs. Shannon knows an incredible artist, Ticia Kresin, and commissioned her to paint not only my dogs but a couple of the cats that have freeloaded off me over the years. Please, cat lovers no offense here, but the cats just don’t “do it” for me like my GSDs.
I’ve told you before here, I have two cats currently living here. Both of them drug home by Shannon for one feeble excuse or another, but still, they’re here. And because they’re here I’m somewhat attached to them both, but beats me why. And if they pass before me I’m sure I will shell out the coin to have an ornament painting created of each of them. If I live too much longer my Christmas tree will look like a zoo hanging, mostly animals and just a few real Christmas ornaments.
I guess it’s only a given that since about 1992 when I first started a real effort to establish my own life’s traditional Christmas tree display in my own home that any ornament that was a police related creation would end up in my possession. Mostly as a gift or something I felt compelled to purchase because I was eaten up with the whole cop thing back then. I was proud then and even more so today, but I’ve been doing this so long that I certainly don’t need to be reminded by novelty nic nacs. This career turned into my life many years ago.
There are seven of the police ornaments and by who and when they were given to me as gifts are what is important to me. This is what I remember each year I re-hang them on the tree. I look well past what they portray and instead remember the whens and whys. I have some of those 1970’s round clear glass ornaments with the thin paintings on the outside that have glitter stuck to them. You’re laughing…but I do, and I really like them so stop. I make sure there is always one of the colored miniature lights directly behind each of them so they’re backlit through the clear glass.
I have several ornaments of sleighs with various characters aboard. My boys liked these because they actually have a base that allowed them to stand up by themselves without having to be hung. Therefore they could also be used as a common toy to be played with on the presents around the tree. Of course many of my ornaments are of various Santa caricatures and snowmen. All of you remember when Star Wars was the one and only in the eyes of children and…me. Well I have the top seven characters recreated into Christmas ornaments that also doubled as my boys’ around-the-tree toys. These were my boys’ favorites to hang themselves. Of course if asked today; they play dumb and don’t remember any of this.
I also have the M&M guys. They are of the same style and mold as the Star Wars people, but I don’t remember where they came from. I remember well my boys playing with them year after year but not where they came from. I have stars, snowflakes, bells, and even a glass ballerina. Of course the glass ballerina has a colored light behind her, need you wonder?! But none of this is about what any of these ornaments portray as a Christmas décor. These all are about the how and why memories I have attached to each one. They represent my life’s chronology for the past 25 years and most importantly to me the last 16 years.
It was when my own children became mesmerized with the lights, the colors, the music, snow, stockings, and the crazy joy of seeing presents mysteriously appear under my tree with their names on them. I lived the very moments and enjoyed similar physical representations of the holiday, but those memories pale in comparison to watching my own living the spirit of the holiday. Not saying mom and dad didn’t do an incredible job making Christmas for five of us fantastic, but when you watch your own do it….nothing compares.
I envy all of you with little ones under three years old. Kayleigh Rahn comes to my mind not only because we work together but also because of her own column last week. Nora was born while Kayleigh worked for my mom and me, so Nora’s presence at The Journal with us was common place. In her column Kayleigh told of the struggles we all have experienced during public outings with our children under three. However, the Christmas time experiences from now forward should be the most rewarding of her and William’s adult lives.
Parents embrace this time of year. You have to trust me when I tell you my most memorable moments came from now, the Christmas season. Not a sporting victory moment, not a best dance recital, not a best grade in school, not any earned achievement. If you can’t see it on their faces and deep into their eyes around your house at Christmas, you’re not looking. Everything you’ve ever read or heard about Christmas refers to a magical time of the year. This magical reference was about little kids, children, the next generation that will take the place of the current.
I’m a simpleton of average intelligence, and even I figured it out the first time I held my first born in my arms in front of his first fully lit Christmas tree on a dark Thanksgiving night. His eyes lit up and his grin overtook the rest of his face. I laughed when I lived it 16 years ago; I tear up when I think about 16 years later. Merry Christmas, everyone.