My Ghosts of Christmas Past

Well, I decorated the tree on Friday.  It wasn’t an easy feat because half the lights we had for the tree were no longer working so I ended up having to get out of my pajamas, getting dressed and driving to Walmart to purchase new lights.  I love the lights on the tree. It’s so weird but when the lights are turned on I love to squint my eyes and look at the tree out of focus—it looks dreamy that way.

The decorated tree.  It’s not themed. It isn’t fancy. It is simply a tree filled with memories in the form of ornaments!

Anyway, our decorated tree is not a fancy one.  There is no “theme” nor is there anything fancy or elegant about it.  Some years I wrap ribbon around the tree like garland.  Other years I adorn the tree with garland of little gold balls—that’s what’s I did this year.  There is really no rhyme or reason in the way the tree is decorated.

The tree is embellished with ornaments that I’ve had since my first Christmas in NYC at the apartment on Riverside Drive.  It was the first Christmas my ex-husband and I spent together. He wasn’t big on having a tree but I insisted.  I found our tree in the form of a beautiful fir that was sold down in the East Village.  The vendor was willing to sell a full, and very tall tree to me for $15.00.  But he was also quite cynical in the fact that I would have to drag the tree from the village up to the West Side.

Suffice it to say,  I looked pretty ridiculous dragging a huge Christmas tree on the NYC subway but it was well-worth it!

No problem—where there was a will, there was a way, and I dragged that tree down to the subway, and the huge tree rode the subway from 14th street up to 94th Street with me. The tree was ridiculously huge and heavy. But I didn’t care. I wanted the tree.  And I got it!

We had a “tree trimming party” that year and I still have a few of the ornaments.  One ornament, in particular, stands out to me and always brings fond memories when I hang it.  It’s a little golf ball with the image of Santa painted on the face.  Our friend, Steve Hartnack, gave it to us.  And the reason that I have fond memories with this ornament is that at the beginning of every Holiday Season, back when all of us were in our twenties, Steve hosted, right before Thanksgiving, a “Friendsgiving” dinner.  Hmmmm I think he may have actually invented Friendsgiving!  But it was a ton of fun.  I’ve lost touch with most of that group but the great thing is that I have wonderful memories. And those memories surface once a year as I go through the ritual of hanging the ornaments on the tree.

The infamous Santa Golf Ball Ornament from Steve.  This little nugget is almost 40 years old! Wow!  I can’t believe it!!

These ornamental memories are my ghosts of Christmas past—and they are happy ghosts that always bring a smile to my face, and also a sentimental tear or so.

Here are some of my ghosts!

I’ve always gotten ornaments that say something about my kids.  This guitar is for Roman. He’s my musician and has been playing guitar since he was in high school.  I think of him every year I hang this on the tree..

This ornament was  purchased at the 2007 Oireachtas, when Oona was 18. It was supposed to be her last Oireachtas.  She took a hiatus and went back as a Senior in College. But with each year when I hang his up, it brings back fun memories of her Irish Dance days!

Jake was our all-star baseball player!  He lived, breathed and ate baseball when he was younger.  I always think of him when this is hung up!

Oona was in 4th grade when she made this.  How pathetic am I that I still hang this torn, broken pretzel ornament?  Actually, I’m not pathetic.  I’ll hang this until the pretzels turn into crumbs!

It isn’t a tree ornament, but this was purchased way back in 1990 when Jake was 7 years old and Roman was 4.  I couldn’t resist because it looked like a cross between both boys.  It’s one of the ornaments I look forward to displaying each year!

Here’s another throwback to the ’90’s.  It’s an homage to my roots! 

This Polish Blessing I think was given to us from one of my ex-husband’s relatives.  I really should give it to him but I’m too selfish.  I think of Kielbasa, Pierogis and Texas Chocolate cake when I hang this up!

Barbie.  I HAD this Barbie doll back in 1959. I remember the day I got her. It was at Green Acres Shopping Center and I loved this first, of many Barbie’s so much and I think of the day I got this doll when I hang this ornament!

Statue of Liberty Claus!  You know what memories I have when I hang him!

And there are new ones too.

This was new last year, but it is already making memories of our trips to Paris and throughout France!!

This is a new one.  I love this little red truck. I have this red truck on a bowl too. But the memory this will give me is that it pays to discount shop.  I got this at Walmart for $1.97.  The same ornament is being sold at Ballard Designs for $12.95.  Yeah.  You read that right!

It’s funny how a simple action such as placing an ornament on a tree can evoke so many memories.  I think back of past Christmases and the history of family trees that we had.

All of these ornaments make for pause when decorating because of the memories I have–it takes me FOREVER to decorate the tree!

My mother, when she was in better days, always placed the “good” tree, the real one, in the living room upstairs.  That was the tree she would admire in the evening with a cup of tea. It was the one we were allowed to stand near as we had our photos taken.  Immediately upon unwrapping the gifts, and with five kids, there was a ton of paper floating around the house along with the toys Santa delivered, she would carry, in about ten trips, the presents we received and place them around the other tree. The one in the finished basement.

When we had a real tree….Can you spot the snowman ornament?  It was my all-time favorite as I was growing up!  

Is it any wonder that I love the color red and plaid?  This is how I grew up!  Check out the tinsel on the tree. My father was so particular about tinsel placement. I swear he spent at least three hours doing this–and none of us kids were allowed to assist!

This was the first fake UPSTAIRS tree that my parents got.  To me, it’s a sign that my parents not only were getting older, but that they weren’t well.  My mother was becoming ill and my dad suffered his first heart attack.  The tinsel placement isn’t good at all.  Funny how a tree can talk…

Now, this tree in the basement was a rather sad looking tree. It was spindly and thin and the branches were sparse—it was the saddest of all fake trees.  Next to the fake tree was a fake fireplace—in all its cardboard beauty.  I don’t remember any fake logs but I do remember a little multicolored foil spinner, so that when the spinner was plugged into an outlet, the foil reflected to appear as though a fake fire was burning in the cardboard fireplace.

Atop of the fake fireplace stood four felt and wire angels.  Each of the angels had a letter and when placed properly “NOEL” was spelled out.  I loved those angels and would play with them for hours.  The thing is, when I think back of that basement scene, it was kitschy and tacky—but as a child, I adored it.  And looked forward to every Christmas because it was like having my own little Christmas wonderland!

The Christmas Basement. So very 1960’s!!!  Note the drawing of the snowman ornament.  

With the kids all grown and living away from home–Roman in NYC, Jake in Los Angeles and Oona in Cincinnati, Christmas memories are different.  The memories are more about our time together and not about the gifts we receive.  Santa passes by without stopping these days.  Christmas morning isn’t an early wake up and a run downstairs to the tree.  It’s a sleep-in morning with a late breakfast and then the meal preparations.

But it’s all good.  Because when you get older you realize that Christmas is not about the presents but is about the present.  Our ghost of Christmas present makes sure we enjoy our time together.

What will the ghost of Christmas future bring?  Hopefully what the present brings—and will leave us with the gift of a strong memory of the great times we’ve had over the years!

For now, I’ll sit back and admire the tree–I’ll also have Bonaparte fix the crooked angel.  On second thought, I’ll keep her the way she is—it makes for a better memory!

I got this great pair of  fancy pants at Old Navy!  I’m wearing them on Christmas. Aren’t they great?  I’ve never worn anything this flashy in my life!!  But I couldn’t help it–and the price was great too!  What do you think?

From my Instagram feed!  These pants–I love them so much. They go so well with the Dulci suede shoes from J. Crew and a black Tippi Sweater!  The hair I’m wearing is Samala from Janet Collection!  Isn’t she pretty??

Remember the video I posted the other day?  John Roberts’ The Tree?  Here’s an even funnier one from him–and Debbie Harry is a riot! Last Year/Next Year/This Year



About Catherine

Far from perfect, but enjoying life as a non-perfect and flawed individual at 60 years young. I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up! The characters in my life's screenplay include my better half. He is a refined Frenchman who grew up in Paris and summered in St. Tropez. I grew up in Long Island and summered in Long Island. I am not refined. My three grown children are also a big part of my life. For their sake, they happily live where their careers have taken them! But I can still mother them from a distance! I write about the mundane. I write about deeply shallow issues. But whatever I write or muse about--it'll always be a bit on the humorous and positive side! It's all good!
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to My Ghosts of Christmas Past

  1. Q.D says:

    I come from a family who celebrates the tacky side of Christmas. If you can’t see the house from space, it doesn’t have enough lights on it, there is no such thing as too much tinsel, etc. etc.

  2. June says:

    Oh Catherine – so much about this post fits my life!! Memories in each of the ornaments!! And I too remember the tinsel having to be hung by my Father and it had to be just so so straight!! I kept a box of tinsel and still have it stored among my decorations!! I have never used it as it is so finicky!! Thanks for the walk down memory lane!! June

    • Catherine says:

      Hi June! That tinsel!! Oh boy, I haven’t even seen it sold in the stores recently. I think it’s great that you still have a box of it–and is finicky. I certainly would give up on trying to be as fussy as our dads!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  3. Debe says:

    Awesome tree some year take baby’s breath and stick in esp with your ornaments being classics! It would look awesome!!

    Tree looks great!

  4. Liz Cherewan says:

    Hi Catherine,

    I love your Christmas ornaments and the memories they represent. I think that is the most wonderful way to pick out special decorations. The themed ones look so “staged” as compared to your amazing tree. Merry Christmas!


    • Catherine says:

      Thanks Liz. Yeah…I kind of shy away from the “staged” trees. I like my tree to be a bit on the funky side–it looks more old school. Merry Christmas to you too!!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  5. I so get this post. I still have some copper kitchen ware ornaments that I bought from Sears when I was pregnant with Michelle because I just knew I was having a girl. That was 43 years ago.

  6. 3C Style says:

    Say what? You drag this huge Christmas tree on the subway! You must be joking. Nothing will ever stop you? Catherine, you are a nut case. I love you!!!!! Also like to put ornaments that bring memories in my tree. You and I are so different and yet so much alike in many ways. But I admit I would never of thought to put my first Barbie in the Christmas tree… So cool! Best wishes. -Dominique

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Dominique! Yeah…that tree on the subway was one of my more “creative” hauls!! The tree is much lovelier when we can stop and admire the memories that are adorning it!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

      • 3C Style says:

        Well Catherine, you have one big lovely memory to add to that tree that’s for sure! Ha, ha… I really like your Christmas ornements. xoxo

  7. Amelia says:

    I love your memories and the sweet nostalgia tied to the ornaments decorating your Christmas tree.
    All about love of family and home and isn’t that what Christmas is all about. What a very lovely tree. I like your fancy pants they look beautiful in the pictures. Perfect for Christmas and other occasions. My family’s Christmas tradition is similar to yours. The kids are grown and spread out all over the country including a daughter who lives close to Santa at the North Pole…lol. Maybe not quite that close but I think Alaska is close enough. They do come home for Christmas and we talk, eat, sleep and do a lot of reminiscing about the old days when they were growing up. We try to fill up on the love while we are together soon enough everyone departs to carry on with their lives far away from each other. Have a great upcoming week Catherine. XO Amelia

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Amelia. Isn’t it funny how quickly that time flies by–it’s like one Christmas the kids are all waking up at the crack of dawn and you turn around and they are scattered about and you are the one who is more excited because the kids are home! Have a lovely Christmas my dear!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  8. fiona says:

    Great to see your tree and to hear about the memories each decoration brings. I’m wondering what Wayne Goss would think of 1959 Barbie’s eye makeup and it’s lovely that Oona’s pretzel is still adorning the tree, that’s such a mum thing.
    Hey did you see Johnny’s funeral on the news? I was amazed at the scale of it, I didn’t know he was once married to Nathalie Baye.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Fiona! Ohhh Wayne would perhaps not be too thrilled!! LOL…that ornament–the pretzels are in such bad shape. I’m surprised insects aren’t crawling around in them!
      We did see the funeral on the French news. It was crazy!!! Even Bonaparte was shocked at the sheer numbers. It was a beautiful homage though!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  9. Jeanne says:

    Hi Catherine…I found an ornament that you just might have to get for this year’s tree…
    So fun. 🙂

    • Catherine says:

      Jeanne! How did you ever find that site? OMG. I will be ordering that ornament. It’s great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you so much!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  10. Gillian says:

    John Roberts is hysterical–love Debbie Harry! Your broken pretzel ornament reminds me of a ric rack and glitter covered light bulb “ornament” that I made for my mother in second grade–every year it had to come out!

  11. Catherine says:

    Hi Gillian. Is John Roberts not the greatest????? And Debbie Harry is a riot as Fran!!! LOL…I made a macaroni ornament. My mother trashed it–she was very particular. Tee hee!!! XOXOXO!!!!

  12. bluetulips says:

    What a beautiful post Catherine, so very special to have those ornaments each with great memories. Love how the tree looks. My mum still has the original Christmas lights we had growing up. They were santas in different colours made of glass. Those lights don’t work but I don’t want to throw them out and I know she still has the ornaments as well. As for your gorgeous pants, if it was winter here I would get you to ship me a pair over, I would totally wear them. They look so festive and wintery.
    Love the whole outfit xxx

  13. Gastradamus says:

    Your Christmas tree is amazing. It’s been far too long Catherine. Your presents is missed. I’ve got a lot of new material and my latest is called The Writers Block. Your thoughts are needed my friend

  14. Juliet says:

    Love the tree and love your ethos, if we have a tree this year the daughter will decorate it – sadly the 22yr old thinks it should look “nice” and she also thinks a tree should be “tasteful” and … pretty much everything that I and my wee tacky festive alligators are not. The one concession she makes is to stick the angel on top – the angel she used to claim was “that’s me – me the angel” which made everyone laugh given the little horror she was. We are a long way from any organisation at the moment – I have had three (yup three) weeks of cold virus thing, and now the husband has decided HE has the bigger, more manful cold, he is a total nuisance and completely in the way

  15. Oh! I just loved your ornaments! They are an extension of you.

Leave a Reply