My father would do his Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve. Included amongst his purchases would be our small Christmas tree and gifts for my mother and grandmother.
The tree had to be small in order to fit in our living room which also served as my parents sleeping quarters for much of my youth. We lived in a four room apartment upstairs from my grandparents. My two sisters and I shared one bedroom, my two brothers shared the other. There was a kitchen that barely fit a table big enough for all of us and the living room with the pull-out couch.
The tree would be set up before our Christmas Eve dinner downstairs at my grandparents, the decorating to be left for after dinner. Coincidentally Santa Claus always seemed to arrive downstairs just about the time we were finishing up the tree decorating.
He, Santa, always made such a ruckous. We didn't have a chimney so he came in through the cellar door on the side of the house. My grandparents and uncle would be so busy cleaning up the dinner dishes that they would always just miss seeing him run out the door to the next house.
We opened our gifts on Christmas Eve. There were ten of us altogether and it didn't take long but it took forever taking turns opening up the few presents we each had. I remember looking forward to getting another Nancy Drew book that I could read over the school break. I can still picture the yellow spines of those books lined up on the bookshelf.
I also looked forward to seeing the gifts that my father gave my mother and grandmother. Each year, on Christmas Eve as I said, he would go down to the local drug store - Ruzycki's Pharmacy where they had a jewelry counter - and pick out a Christmas pin for each of them. I seem to forget whether they were Monet or Trifari, but I do remember that they were the most beautiful costume jewelry and my mother and grandmother would wear them proudly to church the next day.
When my grandmother died in 1986, my parents still lived upstairs in that house with my two brothers. It was in early December that she passed. (My grandfather had passed away about three years before that.) I remember the day because it was the day that we, our little family of four, were going with our neighbors on the annual Santa Claus steam train ride, only Christopher was sick so HWNSNBP stayed home with him and I went with Rachel who was just about three.
After the funeral we still went on with our usual Christmas celebrations and had our Christmas Eve dinner downstairs in my grandparent's house, which now was my parent's house. My mother had one of her creative moments and set up a little 2-foot artificial Christmas tree on the telephone table in the corner of the dining room. She decorated it with my grandmother's Christmas pins and some of her more flashy clip on earrings. It was beautiful and unique and I wish I had taken a picture though it's as clear as ever in my mind.
Over the years, and more frequently lately, I have seen people using old costume jewelry to create wonderful framed pieces of art. Keeping this in mind, along with the memory of my grandmother's jeweled tree, I found that I couldn't resist this summer, picking up a box full of clip on Christmas earrings at a church bazaar. There were 10 pairs in a box marked 25 cents each. What a start that would be for a tree of my own.
I put that box away and almost forgot about it until a teacher that I work with brought in a bag of some Christmas decorations that she was discarding. Some people know that I have the crafting bug and like to offer me their cast-offs before they toss them. I was thrilled to find a small, 12 inch tree in the bag. I knew exactly what I was going to do with it.
(pictures include TP Star ornaments made by one of our 4th grade classes, tea light ornaments made for our district office personnel, and a bookmark and candy made for the school staff)