Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Preservation of Fire

Next Friday, my aunt is moving out of her home of nearly 60 years. Since my family moved around a lot when I was growing up, that house is as close to a childhood home as I have, so yesterday I made the hour drive over there both to offer my help and to see the place one more time. They were very well-organized, and I didn't actually do very much at all in the three hours I spent.

I did take some family photos to add to the archive that my brother and sister and I are organizing and caring for, pictures of my mom and grandparents that I had never seen before. I also got a box of Christmas ornaments that belonged to my grandparents.

The last time they put up a tree was 1971, and we lived far enough away that it wasn't every year we spent the holidays with them. Even so, I recognized a few of the decorations. Most of them were from the 1940s and 50s, vintage glass with metallic paint and glitter designs, and several were in the original boxes, safely resting on a little nest of yellowed tissue paper and the odd sparkling strand of tinsel.

There was also a separate set of round turquoise ornaments, some faded glass and others still vibrantly wrapped in bright silk thread. I remembered the story my mother used to tell about how, when she was nineteen, she decided that their tree should be white-flocked with all blue ornaments. With her sister married and in a home of her own, her busy parents allowed her to execute her mod, mid-century vision. "But you know what?" the story always ended. "I hated it!"

And although we always had one or two blue ornaments hanging among the angels, santas, teddy bears, stars, snowmen, and everything else on our Christmas tree, I think they were only there to remind us that although change is unavoidable, and innovation has its place, some traditions are well kept.


  1. I have some beautiful old Christmas ornaments that were my Grandma's - they sound like the ones you have. I always put them in a special place at Christmas time - I am too afraid to put them up on the tree! Thanks for your slice of life!

  2. More evidence of your mom's sense of style. Even if she didn't like the results, I like that she had a mod vision of blue and white.

  3. Ellen.Yankoupe.Smith@gmail.comMarch 1, 2020 at 6:09 PM

    So visual - lovely. That last line is super.

  4. My mother loved the white-flocked tree back in the day. Like your mother, I'm glad it's a phase that has passed. Hopefully there's still a blue ornament or two around to remind you of your fashion-forward mom.

  5. In my storage room there is a box filled with ornaments from my grandparents. Reading this slice was like opening that box and taking each ornament out to admire and hang on the tree. Your lovely slice is a wonderful way to end my day!