Once Upon a Time in the West: the new tradition

We have a tree this year, the first one in almost *thirty years, because it was free!  We chose a lacy looking Cedar from the Mountain Farmlet.   The tree is a natural shape which means that it is a bit sparse in places, but that’s OK, we think it looks traditional or old-fashioned.

Setting it up the day after cutting it down, we decorated it and pronounced it lovely.    Later that night we went to bed and when just falling asleep, we were awakened by a terrible crashing and tinkling; the tree had fallen!

Jumping out of bed we went in to clean up the broken glass and mop up the two quarts of water that was now pooled onto the floor.  The little tree’s trunk is just too small for the stand.  Now this is our little secret, to protect the tree from falling again, I have tied a bit of thin, black ribbon to the top of the trunk and up to the massive curtain rod above.  You won’t even notice it unless you are looking for it.


When I was growing up I often liked to be alone which wasn’t so easy with three younger siblings.  However, from time to time I managed it, and sometimes right in the thick of it!  The day after Christmas of 1966 was just such an occasion.

Carefully sliding between the wall and the Christmas tree I got myself into the corner.   The space was just big enough for me, and sitting in my pine scented privacy I began to examine the collection of ornaments placed onto the back of the tree.

You know the ones.  They are the ancients.   The relics of Christmas past.  Those who’s mercury glass has begun to bubble and fall off on the inside, and although they have lost their glitter they are the ones you keep, because they have the most memory attached to them.  Perhaps they are from a friend or a relative long passed, or a gift in honor of baby’s first Christmas.  They’re the ones that get hung where only you can see them, because you know they are there.

Sitting alone behind the tree I looked at the one ornament that had survived from my first Christmas, and suddenly had an idea!  Quietly and carefully I extracted myself from my hiding place. I went about the house and collected some paper, a pencil, and scissors, and returning to my secret space I set to work.

Knowing that on any Christmas in our family an ornament or two will perish I thought it would be fun to put a little memory inside.  A surprise for the person who’d broken it.   Something to make them smile!  Messages written, I carefully removed the little cap hangers.  Rolling the messages tightly, I slid them down through the tiny openings.  Then, replacing their caps, I hung them back onto the tree.

Sadly, I never heard back from anyone about the messages in the ornaments, but I remember **the one I wrote to myself:

I’m sitting alone behind the tree watching the sun going down.  It reminds me of my favorite song, “Red Rubber Ball”.  Christmas 1966.

The message is inside my first ornament, and amazingly it didn’t get broken when the tree fell this year, nor did Bob’s!  I will be reviving my tradition in honor of our first tree in so many years, and also the fact that our childhood ornaments remain unbroken.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat’s Bob’s on the left and mine on the right.

Merry Christmas!


Do you have a special holiday tradition?



*We gave up the tradition of a Christmas tree when they began to cost the better part of $100.  That first Christmas without one was hilarious!  My niece came in, looked around the room, and then  proceeded to go from room to room looking for something.  Finally she turned to me and stomping her foot down, crossed her arms demanding to know:

“Where’s your Christmas tree?”

To which I countered:

“Which would you rather have?  A Christmas tree, or presents?”

Her response was presents of course. 😉


**Yeah, I know, my message wasn’t really meaningful, but hey, I was thirteen at the time.  😀

Here is the Cyrkle’s Red Rubber Ball  :

47 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time in the West: the new tradition

  1. Cindy Kilpatrick says:

    That’s a wonderful story and I think your personal message was absolutely delightful – totally in the moment as 13-year-olds are so good at and we should be so much more. You’ve inspired me to start that wonderful tradition…now, what to say?

    Wishing you, Lynda and Bob a lovely, lovely Christmas and all the very best for 2014.

    • Lynda says:

      Cindy, it has been a long time since I have seen you here. How lovely you came by for Christmas!

      You won’t have any trouble with messages in ornaments. Just tell them why you love them, or about a special moment you’ve shared in the past year. 😀

  2. Animalcouriers says:

    Perhaps none of the other decorations have been broken yet either? A lovely idea. We have to have solid, unbreakable baubles in our house as the cats have broken all our glass ones as kittens over the years. Never mind, we just laugh now when they play with the tree 😉 Happy Christmas and all the very best for 2014!

  3. katechiconi says:

    When I was a child, we rarely had a tree. What we did have was loads of green garlands, tinsel, a door wreath and a huge, elaborate nativity scene. This last item was always my job – I was the ‘creative’ one. Every year was different. I built a huge landscape a yard and a half wide, on the raised hearth in our living room, which ran from one side of the room to the other. I imported rocks, moss, branches, straw, from outside – whatever was needed for that year’s epic. One year it was sand – I made the holy family desert nomads. When my mother died and my father moved overseas and the family home was sold, all this stopped. My sister got the nativity figures and I’ve spent every other year until now in someone else’s home, unable to create my nativities again. Until now. I’ve promised myself I’ll buy new nativity figures this coming year and the tradition will begin again…

    • Lynda says:

      Kate, your description of Christmas when you were young sounds so beautiful, and how wonderful that you will be continuing your tradition in the coming year. Your Christmas countdown to company is coming to a close… are you ready? 😉

      • katechiconi says:

        I’m ready! All that’s left to do is assemble my sherry trifle and carve the meats. Others are bringing salads and nibbles, the cooler is waiting for a bag of ice, the fridge is jammed, and I’ve done rushing about for the day. Tomorrow morning I don’t even need to make breakfast, John’s mother traditionally does that for the Tribe. I hope you have a wonderful (cold) Christmas. I shall take some photos of our tropical lunch setting and post so you can see how the other half lives! Looking forward to reading more in the New Year, Kate 🙂

  4. evilsquirrel13 says:

    What an interesting and creative idea! I’d hate to think of the kinds of messages me and my sisters would have slipped into ornaments back in the day… they probably wouldn’t have been in the holiday spirit! 😉

    Merry Christmas, Lynda!

  5. shoreacres says:

    I had to sweep glass this year myself. It wasn’t the tree that tipped, it was a vase filled with branches that I’d hung tiny glass balls and stars from. It just went over. No one was walking around, the cat wasn’t bothering it – it just tipped. There went a third of the little glass ornaments! Ah, well.

    As for traditions – I suppose it would be the foods. It just isn’t Christmas unless I’ve made my Swedish grandma’s cookies, laid in some limpa bread and herring, and gotten oysters for stew on Christmas eve. How that oyster stew made the mix up in Iowa I’ll never know, but I was eating the stuff by the time I was out of my high chair – and only on Christmas eve! I sure do wish my folks were around so I could ask about that!

    Merry Christmas to you – it’s almost here!

  6. Littlesundog says:

    Lynda, I remember that “Silent Night” bulb! We had one of those on our tree growing up. Seems like there were others with other sayings. What a sweet idea putting the little messages inside the bulb! My what an active mind you’ve always had… surprising us at every turn! You made my annual holiday letter this year! I’ll email you a copy. With love, my friend ~ Lori

    • Lynda says:

      Funny how we have so very much in common, Lori, and with just enough differences to keep it interesting!
      Yes, there probably were others with different sayings, but I surely don’t remember them. In our house with the two boys and the dogs, they generally never survived more than a few Christmases. I do remember that my little ornament used to be a pretty, light blue! Over the years it has faded to a dull grey with a hint of its blue left in it. The little thing is 60 years old! Do you realize that now-a-days that would garner it the status of “Vintage” on E-Bay! LOL!

      How quaint to think that I have obtained vintage status. 😉

      Love to you too, Lori, and I look forward to your Holiday letter!

  7. LB says:

    What a lovely idea – I just wish someone had found your note! Here’s to reviving traditions! And YAY for the tree! My son loves to tell the story(s) of me using choice words to get the tree into the stand, to pick the tree back up, AND to nail the whole darn thing to the wall (I was not near as subtle as you! Merry Christmas to you and Bob!!

    • Lynda says:

      The vision in my head of you nailing a tree to the wall is hysterical! I loved your story about your Crackers for Christmas. I have only ever seen them for New Years day here, and it was Bob’s folks that used to have them!

      BTW, I am not always so subtle… and think I may have uttered a few of those “choice” words myself yesterday in the early AM, when the tree began listing again. Guess I should have waited for Bob to get home to help me. Though I am thankful for that little black ribbon, because this time I only lost one ornament. 😉

      Thank you, Laurie, and Merry Christmas to you!

  8. cecilia says:

    What a wonderful tradition and what a delightful little girl you were, still are I think! Hope your tree stayed up through christmas at least.. have a wonderful day.. c

    • Lynda says:

      It did, and we did! It is a little bendy at the tips this morning, so we will be taking it down later today. Hope you found the alone time you needed too, Celi.

  9. Playamart - Zeebra Designs says:

    that is so clever of you to tuck a note in the ornaments! you were highly creative even at a young age! you had three younger siblings, and i had three older ones, but i pulled away to myself as often as possible as well!

    i loved the possum photos.. such a pretty possum! at least it wasn’t a skunk!

    • Lynda says:

      Lisa, thank you! Did you celebrate the holiday with friends, or luxuriate in seclusion? 😉

      I’m sure the opossum looked much better after a bath and three squares…

      AND, if it had been a skunk, I think Bob would have been shopping for a new smoker!!! He loves to cook in his smoker and has a very low tolerance for eau de skunk, LOL!

  10. George Weaver says:

    Lynda, what a heartwarming story! You were a sweet, sensitive and creative child, of course. 🙂 Putting the note in the ornament absolutely delighted me. I’m glad it survived the years and your latest misadventure! I’ve been delinquent here so I’m off to catch up! Have a great New Year!
    🙂 George

  11. LB says:

    Hi Lynda,
    So … did you get that tree taken down (mine is still up)
    And is the new year treating you well?
    Just thinking about you!

    • Lynda says:

      Laurie, no, the tree is still standing, and I am not. 😦

      I have racked up my knee and can barely get around! I will be calling my Dr to (hopefully) get an appointment to find out what I have done. If I stand on it too long (cooking/cleaning) it all swells up inside and aches. If I stay off of it too long (computer/TV recliner time) and then try to stand up, I am positively crippled and can’t walk without Bob’s hiking pole!!! I’m skunked. Other than that I can’t complain. 😉

  12. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    SO glad they both made it through intact and what a great idea to add the secret message! I remember my parents having SPIRITED discussions on how best to display the tree and whether it was “straight” or not. The large bucket containing pieces of a broken concrete block would be resurrected from some corner of the basement, arranged so as to render the tree trunk immobile; then loose sand would cement the whole works and, once wetted down, help water the tree as well

  13. Steve Schwartzman says:

    Yes, I’d wondered about your disappearance, and I’m sorry to learn the cause. Hope you recover soon.

    I hadn’t heard or even thought about “Red Rubber Ball” in ages, probably decades, but your mention of it brought it right back. For me December of 1966 fell between the summer I’d spent in Portugal and the two years I would close out the ’60s with in Honduras. You could say I did some bouncing around in those days.

    • Lynda says:

      Thank you, Steve, there will be x rays tomorrow and physical therapy soon after.

      You have mentioned your travels before, but I don’t believe you ever said why. Work, Peace Corps, education, just because? NOMB? 😉

      • Steve Schwartzman says:

        I was a language major in college. In 1965 I went to summer school and took first-year Portuguese, which led to spending the following summer in Lisbon (with an intersession jaunt over to the south of France). The two years that followed in Honduras were as a Peace Corps math teacher. That’s when I discovered that I had a knack for creative teaching (we didn’t have much in the way of books or other materials, so I had to improvise).

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