Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Christmas Tree of Memories

As you can see, I've added a few lights on the inside that add to the holiday look outside.  I put some white lights in the sidelights at the front door and a single candle in each of the upstairs windows.  I'd love to put one up in the attic but the attic freaks me out.  Maybe I'll try to work up the guts tomorrow.  As you can see I also have a tree.

I don't do a lot of decorating inside...

...but a little Currier and Ives print comes out... well as my collection of wooden Santas but a Christmas tree is the one thing I do faithfully. 

Growing up, picking out and decorating the Christmas tree is one of the few things that I can remember doing as a family.  My great uncle, Uncle Gus, had a small nursery with two or three greenhouses and about an acre of trees and evergreens.  All of us would go after church in early December to Uncle Gus' field to pick out and cut down the tree.  Even if the first tree we saw was great, we'd reject it so we could keep looking for the perfect one.  I miss those "real" trees that were never meticulously trimmed into perfect cones.   

Now that I live in the city, the closest thing I get to cutting down my own tree is driving 15 minutes to the country--okay, work with me here!--to Wilson Farms in Lexington, Mass.  

It's just a short ride but you really do feel like you're in the country.

The parking lot overlooks their greenhouses and this time of year there are poinsettias as far as you can see.  Uncle Gus would have loved to have seen this.

I can only imagine what this looks like from the farmhouses up on the hill.

They have wreaths in all shapes and sizes...


...traditional garland, swags...

...and even some unusual things I've never seen before like this red ruscus.

I picked my tree, which is trimmed perfectly into an unnatural form.  800 lights later, I'm ready to decorate.

I don't know if my mother had some incredible foresight or if she was just trying to get rid of junk in the house but at one point she split up all of the Christmas ornaments and presented me with a box on one of my vacations home.  Each year  at Christmas, I unwrap my treasures and I'm immediately connected to memories of Christmases past.  I love these mercury glass beads to start the tree trimming.

These little angels hung on fishing line over my mother's nativity.

These are from the year my mother wanted to have an all green and white tree.  I remember going to the store to buy a few boxes of these ornaments.  I was lucky enough to get a whole box of these.  The price on the box is marked 88 cents.

Some of these were on my grandmother's tree.

This ornament is one of the earliest ones I can remember.  I remember staring into this beautiful blue ball at Santa Claus and dreaming of what he might bring me that year.

This bird ornament is one of several we made as a craft project with my mother when we were kids.  A small nest is glued on a clothes pin and spray painted gold.  A few pearl "eggs" were glued in the nest and a red velvet cardinal was added.  I love these because they clip to a branch and look very natural sitting in the tree.

I bought a bunch of partridges last year to make a more of these but I never got around to it.  I was hoping to find a single tiny pear to put in each nest.

The clip-on candle holders were my great grandmother's from Germany.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to know all of my grandparents and great grandparents.  I have a million questions I'd like to ask them today that I never would have thought of as a kid, but having that connection to three older generations of my family now gives me the interest in researching who they were and where they came from.

This is another one of my favorite ornaments even though it's from not so long ago.  It reminds me of a short time I lived in New York City.  I thought if I could make it there, I could make it anywhere.  And I couldn't.  I love New York but I couldn't live there.  I lived there for one Christmas season and I bought this ornament.  This ornament reminds me that  I should try to happy with what I have. 

This beaded bell was made by my grandmother.  She was very talented with this kind of thing.  She was always knitting, crocheting, beading, tatting something.  She taught me that hard work and patience pays off. 

Here's the cardinal clothespin ornament sitting among my other Christmas memories.  

The beaded star.

Seeing these ornaments each year helps keep fresh the memories of Christmas past and those loved ones who are no longer with us.

Although these ornaments don't have the same meaning to my friends, they always love to come over to sit in the light of the Christmas tree and become almost hypnotized by all of the ornaments.

Do you have ornaments that have been passed down through your family?  If not, I hope you'll consider starting this tradition so your children and grandchildren, decades from now, fondly remember you and the Christmases of their past.

Merry Christmas, everyone!


  1. Your house looks lovely! I love seeing the tree through the window. I think we share a similar taste in tree decor. I have some beautiful (to me)old ornaments that belonged to my parents and I love remembering them on our trees growing up.
    Have a great Christmas!

  2. I love your tree (and the title you gave to your post - much better than the one I used, but they have similar sentiments). Our tree is all filled with ornaments that we have bought the kids each year often on our travels. My parent's tree, though, has many of the vintage ornaments that you showed. They are simply gorgeous. Here's the link to the post I did about their tree: Thanks for showing us your tree - it's so pretty. I'd be mesmerized by it too.

  3. hey steve,

    i'd like to know if you hung the moon in that first pic. the exterior is gorgeous.

    i just have to say that i love this post. i love that you have such a connection with all the ornaments that have been passed down to you.

    i have a big box of ornaments waiting for my sons to mature to the point of wanting them. no such luck this year. maybe next?

    merry christmas my friend,


  4. These ornaments are treasures! What a gift to have all of these reminders of your family. These eclectic, meaningful trees are my favorites!

  5. Ok. I think we're related. And, if not, I want to be! I've also been the keeper of the ornaments; but, in my family I was the only one who wanted them! The same was true on my husband's side of the family, so we have many old ornaments from both sides, but primarily from mine.

    I love your tree and the memories you keep alive when decorating it. Love your Santa collection, too. This is the first year I didn't put mine out; but, there's still time!

  6. Steve,
    I'm so glad the outside of your house got done so you could dress her up so elegantly for the holidays. I love the tree shining throught the window.
    I think it's precious that you have so many memories attached to your tree - that's exactly what the holiday spirit should be about. My favorite part is to turn the lights off and see the ornaments through the white sparkly lights. You've done a wonderful job this year with your home and I've really enjoy following along on your cottage journey ~
    Have the merriest Chrismtas, my friend!

  7. Your home and tree are beautiful! Your tree, and the stories of the ornaments touched my heart. My tree is also decorated with memories. I wouldn't want it any other way.

  8. The house looks wonderful! The memories are the most important part of our tradition...that is why we do it, non?
    Merry Christmas to you. I hope you are sharing it with someone very special.
    xoxo Dianne

  9. Dear Steve, How I love that first photo of your house, surely destined to be next years Christmas card! Our tree decorations, like yours, are awash with memories, many of them handmade by family and friends, not necessarily the most elegant of objects but definitely made with love. Such a heartwarming post.

  10. Hi Steve, I've read every word of your post deliberately -- it is so lovely. I see so many gorgeous themed trees in magazines and other blogs, and while they are pretty, they totally lack sentimentality. Which is why I love your tree and your story behind everything. There is nothing better than remembering the past when my husband and I take out our ornaments from our childhood, and we having been giving our girls ornaments from birth. It adds so much to the tradition. You know those candle holders you have? I remember those on my aunt and uncle's tree, lit every year when I was little. Lots of German in my dad's family. Anyway, long-winded, but just wanted to say I love this post! Merry Christmas, and enjoy the light of your tree!

  11. Steve I loved this post...just realized you are a local guy, as I instantly recognized the fabulous Wilson Farm. I love that place! Your tree is picture perfect. Its everything a tree should be, in my opinion. I love all of your ornaments and the stories that go with them. Your house is beautiful too!

  12. Love the tree, but your stories are even better!

    we always travel back to my mom's for the holidays, so for years i didn't do any decorating. it's just been within the past couple of years that i felt drawn to create some holiday magic in my own home.

    i love the dresser your santas are standing on.

    merry christmas!

  13. What a beautiful tree! Wishing you a great Christmas and more great memories!

  14. Steve, everything is beautiful and I love the story you have strung for us to tie it all together. I knew all my grandparents and two great grandparents and spent a lot of time with all of them, so I too am very tied to my past and its traditions and gifts. Such a precious tree.

    And I am WICKEDly envious of that garden center. We do not have selection like that here (just two kinds of wreath not 40) and we are the Land o' Trees.

    Beautiful job and I love the outside of the house. I would not put the creepy attic light up...

    xo Terri

  15. What a beautiful tree.There really is nothing like treasured family ornaments. Looking at them brings back such a flood of lovely cherished memories. Again, your tree and home are just lovely.

  16. Steve -
    First of all it cracks me up that you are afraid of your attic. I would be too. But a candle would look great up there. Second...that green house full of poinsettias looks just like the greenhouse of poinsettias in "Frosty the Snowman" doesn't it. The one where he almost melted away!

    I love your tree. You know I love all the vintage ornaments dripping on the tree.

    All your house needs now is a little snow and it would be Christmas card ready.

  17. Beautiful house, beautiful tree! You are so lucky to have inherited all those lovely ornaments! When I was a child we moved a LOT, and my mother never was a "saver" of anything, so everything I have on my tree is what I bought myself. I think it would be so wonderful to have some old family ornaments.

  18. p.s. You can be sure my children will have plenty of handed-down ornaments!

  19. I adore this post! Your home looks absolutely Gorgeous in all of her finery! Love all your memories and connections to the ornaments. I think you are very lucky to have the ornaments, and the sweet memories!
    We have that same C&I print- it was in Dan's grandparents house. I'm making a note to hit Wilson's next year- looks like an amazing selection of wreaths.
    Do I need to come over and put that light in the attic for you? You would love our attic- it's filled with boxes of antiques! It's actually fun to go up there!

    Wishing you a very Merry Christmas Steve!


  20. Merry Christmas Steve! I am truly jealous of your tree...I mean like big time green jealous!

    The house looks amazing too!

    xoxo kelley

  21. Steve, I'm still laughing at the idea that your attic window has no candle because the attic freaks you out. The rest of your home is so ablaze with light! The poor attic must feel very lonely.

    I hope you had a grand Christmas!

  22. I love this post! We have many old ornaments from my husbands family and I adore them! I've been giving my nieces and nephews ornaments since they were born, the oldest has 25 ornaments and the youngest has 11 ornaments - (hence their ages) they look forward to them every year! Needless to say, my tree is dripping in ornaments. When you have a moment stop by and visit.