My Grandpa John was born in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin in 1898.  This was his baby shoe.  Pretty fancy and impractical, huh?  When my Grandpa was an adolescent, his older brother George, a very promising and brilliant young man, fell from a racing ice boat, hit his head on the frozen lake, and died.  It was before CPR was invented, and the situation was deemed hopeless.  My great-grandmother was shopping, in the midst of selecting Christmas candy for her family, when she was told the horrifying news that her firstborn child was dead.

Chris and I bought this baby blue leather Mary Jane shoe, and its mate, in Paris in 1986.  It was a gift for a newborn in Philadelphia named Seth.  When I was pregnant in 1994, Seth’s mother gave me back the shoes.  Our baby Hugh wore them at his christening, where, despite their newborn size, they fell off his absurdly tiny feet.

I bought the golden-painted walnut on a stretchy cord at Old Pine Presbyterian Church’s flea market back in the 1980s for a nickel.  It is perhaps my favorite ornament.  In 1987, Chris and I were married at this church.  Just a few years ago, I found the squirrel made of feedsack.  And of course I had to have it, and of course it has to hang right next to the nut.

This lamb I inherited from my mother, who inherited it from her mother, who inherited it from her mother.  From all my years of eBaying, I know that it was made by a German company, it’s called a Putz lamb, and it’s very valuable, fetching up to $200.  I would never sell it.

In the foreground, a preschool craft project starring Hugh, and behind that, a big San Francisco globe from my friend Lindsay, who has lived in SF since 1986.  We used to have a tradition of giving each other Christmas ornaments, back when we had not accumulated much stuff.

Hand-crafted ornaments are the most precious of all.  The yellow globe with leaping cat is a portrait of our first pet, Ween, who was part of the package when Chris became my boyfriend.  Our amazingly creative friend Jim Fryer painted this ornament for us nearly 20 years ago.   Every Christmas, Chris gets to hang it.  And every New Year, it is carefully packed away in its own special box, surrounded by clouds of tissue paper.  The boats were made for our boys by our neighbor Scott, a talented woodworker.  He also made our bed, radiator covers, endtables, and dining room trestle table (visible in the background).  Scott is quite old now, in poor health, and no longer able to craft things in  his workshop.  The tiny monkey was a gift from my great friend Lisa back when we were young teenagers.  I lost this wonderful, whimsical friend stupidly, by making a tactless blunder in the 1970s that I still regret to this day, and yet I cling to this toy monkey.  And it clings to my tree.

Ornaments are not just ornaments.  They’re symbols.  Artifacts.  Memories.  Stories.  Love. 

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