Christmas decorating sentimental time

By Helena Rodriguez: Local Columnist

This is the time of year when my living room starts to look like the Island of Misfit Toys.

Please don’t hate me because I’m organized, but I’ve already got my Christmas tree up and ready to plug in tonight as the Christmas season officially gets into full swing. However, I’ve also got some disfigured nutcrackers, reindeer and a Santa in need of serious medical attention.

One of the nutcrackers from my daughter Laura’s cherished collection needs new feet. Then there’s the Crayola reindeer Laura made in first grade, which needs new eyeballs and, of course, there’s the other reindeer made from a spoon and a lollipop that needs surgery.

So we’ll go to Wal-Mart this weekend to find new shoes for the nutcracker, a pair of eyeballs to hot glue onto Mr. Crayola Santa and something to put the spoon reindeer back into place.

Decorating for Christmas is always an exciting time at our house. Just ask Laura. (”Ah Mom, why do we have to do this now? Are we going to put up everything tonight?”) As we dragged our Christmas decorations out of storage the other night and unpacked our collection of ornaments we’ve gathered over the years, I thought about how each one holds special memories.

Laura carefully unpacked her huge reindeer ball ornament, which we always put near the top of the tree. This has been one of our favorites since Laura made it in third grade and every year I’m terrified that it’s going to break, so we handle it with extra care. This special piece is a huge red glass ball ornament with rubber ears, eyeballs and a plaid bow hot glued to it.

Another of my favorite ornaments is the sequin Santa Claus Laura made for me with her big sister Joann when we lived in Abilene, Texas. Laura doesn’t actually have a real sister. She took part in a Big Brothers/Big Sisters program there.

After we trimmed the tree, Laura unwrapped her nutcracker collection and placed them underneath the tree. Laura has collected nutcrackers since the year I took her to see The Nutcracker in Abilene and I buy her a new nutcracker every year.

When we trim the tree, I also think of the cherished Christmas ornaments Mom still has, a few of which go back to our elementary school days. It’s amazing the memories they bring back. What’s even more amazing is how some of these handmade school ornaments, sometimes made out of nothing more than paper and glue, can outlast some of the commercial decorations. I guess it has to do with the care you put into preserving these memories.

Besides rediscovering old treasures, I also get excited over the new Christmas decorations we add to our collection each year. I always buy my Christmas decorations during the after-Christmas sales, so when Christmas comes around again, these things are still wrapped in their original packaging and I get excited like a child opening their stocking on Christmas morning, often because I’ve forgotten what I bought the year before.

As I unwrapped my new treasures the other night, Laura could hear me screaming, “A table cloth! A table cloth! I forgot I bought a Christmas table cloth, and place mats! We have Christmas place mats!”

Then I started getting sentimental as I looked at the disfigured Mr. Crayon and Mr. Nutcracker. Come to think of it, Mr. Crayon needs some fixing up every year, and that reminded me of myself. Every Christmas, I have to do a self-inventory for Santa Claus, trying to figure out in what ways I’ve been naughty or nice, and like those broken ornaments, there’s usually some area of my life that needs constant maintenance, repairs, or, to say the least, an annual checkup.

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: helena_rodriguez@link.freedom.com