Memories in a plastic box

old stuff

This time each year I pull down a plastic storage box which holds my most precious memories.  The contents of this box masquerade as Christmas decorations, but if truth be told, I never put up a single item from that box.


This particular depository contains the remnants of Christmases past which are either broken or so badly dated I would be embarrassed to let anyone see them.

I sit cross legged on the floor and plunder through the items and remember the days when Daddy would go out a few days before Christmas and cut a cedar tree from the banks of the Tombigbee River.  It would be dead as a doornail by Christmas Eve and pose a very real fire hazard with those huge lights we used in the 50s.  Oh, but the smell…when are the Chinese going to come up with an artificial tree that smells like cedar?

There’s the big ole man-sized gray woolen sock from my grandmother’s general store which served as my Christmas stocking for the first 18 years of my life.  That sock would stretch so wide and long, it could practically  hold a bicycle. It was replaced in the 1960s with a spiffy mass-produced  facsimile, all sewn up with sequins. It wouldn’t hold half as much of Santa’s surprises, but I guess it was more socially acceptable.

There’s the tiny wooden rocking horse which was part of a set I purchased from a woodworker in the 1970s when my boys were small.  The horse is the only surviving piece, but in my mind I can see our tree that year.  It was a hodge-podge of mismatched decorations which included the plaster handprint my youngest son made at kindergarten.  Of course, it’s in the box, chipped and dented, but  it doesn’t work on my matchy, matchy Christmas tree of the new millennium.

For the past few years I’ve shoved the tree in a closet after Christmas, pulled it out the following year and plugged it up.  Voila. Instant Christmas. (That is the bah-humbugiest thing I do, and I’m ashamed to admit it.)

There are several hand-painted candy cane ornaments we made out of cookie dough while watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special in 1975.  No wonder I had a problem with roaches the following spring.

There’s the hideous Christmas tree topper we used on our Christmas trees during the late 1950s.  It resembles Sputnik and would blink blue and white.

There’s a string of chili-pepper lights we used when we lived in New Orleans.  They don’t work anymore, but hey, how can you throw those away?

apron Everything in the box is tangled in tinsel.  My job was to place the tinsel (we called them icicles) on the tree after it had been completely decorated.  We would vacuum up tinsel until the 4th of July.

At the very bottom I found the apron my mother used at Christmas time.  Maybe if I wear it this year, I won’t have so many kitchen disasters.  But then, I remembered the last year my mother cooked Christmas dinner.  The cat ate half of the turkey, so she turned it around and we got what was left.

6 thoughts on “Memories in a plastic box

  1. Emily, loved this story. The nostalga comes through loud and clear. Wish I had a spare closet large enough to hold my tree complete with lights and decorations from year to year. Think of all the money I could save not having to pay someone to get out the tree, assemble it, put the lights, decorations on and then take everything down and pack it away until next year. My brother had a board built with rollers. Their tree was attached and each year we kid them asking if they have “rolled out” the tree yet. Sounds like a great idea to me.

  2. It’s worse than I told it Pat. For my syndicated column I down played the phony me. I have four trees – they are all pencil post trees I bought at a local hardware store several years ago – tall and skinny – all different themes to fit the decor of the room where they go. – I can stuff all four in an armoire and bring them out to be fluffed and returned to active duty, like little soldiers. When artificial trees hit the market – I remember saying I would NEVER have an artificial tree in my home. Never say never. I still go out in the woods and cut cedar to stuff into the branches of the cheap chinese trees. Is that okay?

  3. Neat idea about adding fresh cedar to your tree. Years ago, when I bought my first artificial tree, I bought cans of spray that smelled like fresh cut evergreens. Don’t know if they even still make that. I would spray the tree really good, then turn on the tree lights and the heat from the lights would really make the tree smell fresh cut.

  4. George and I really enjoyed this one. I had just talked about how his mother had always had such pretty Christmas decorations! I think about her especially at Christmastime.I learned so much from her and George has great memories of his childhood Christmases.

  5. Emily, I just put a Charlie Brown lime green tinsel tree on my bar and decorated it with the remains of ornaments from my very early years. I think it’s my favorite tree ever and it’s on about 18″ tall. I still don’t do matchy ornaments because I can’t stand the idea of leaving the old ones in a box… some on my tree have been chewed by animals. I loved you story and think you should get a tiny memory tree even it is has to sit on the back porch.

  6. Donna, I have fond memories of Dot too. She was the first to offer me an alcoholic beverage. It was a purple passion and I was fascinated. She also took me with her to Oxford to get John when the campus was integrated and the troops came in. She sailed through all the roadblocks – she was a woman on a mission. We got John and took him home when no one else was allowed on campus. I guess you never knew Dr. Abbott – he was the kindest man and always made you feel so important even if you were just a kid of nine or 10.

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