04 January 2012

Forgotten Ornament

Yesterday being the tenth day of Christmas, I thought it was time to take down the Christmas decorations. Into the box went the Tyrolean carved Holy Family, the Swedish straw mobile, the raffia angel a friend made ten years ago, the ceramic church a neighbour gave me some years before that, the prosaically fake pine advent wreath, and all the Christmas tree ornaments. Lights, tinsel garlands, lots and lots of stars, a small wooden rocking horse - I thought I had got them all down. So I unscrewed the tree from the holder, pulled it out, and started dragging it out of the house.

I got as far as the hallway, when I suddenly saw that there was one I had missed. On the lowest branch, hiding behind the trunk of the tree, was one of the medallions I made sixteen years ago. There are three of them, made of cornstarch dough and painted with acrylic paints - I believe it was a project in an art class I was taking at the time. One has a snowy church on it, one poinsettias (or maybe holly, it's not terribly clear which), and this one is a little snow man, grinning cheerfully, sticking his twig arms out into the chilly December air.

So I parked the trunk of the tree on the hallway floor, shedding some more pine needles in the process, and fished Frosty off that branch. He might not be an amazing work of art, but that doesn't mean I want him getting rained on and ruined out in the backyard behind the garage, where the spent Christmas tree will live out the next few months before it gets turned into fireplace fodder sometime next winter. And so the medallion went and joined its siblings in the decorations box, where it will live out the year inside the garage on the shelf, safe and dry, until next year's Christmas.

And I was thinking, there is something rather poignant about that little forgotten ornament. Here it was, clinging onto the last branch, almost finding a soggy end to its decorative career merely because it was refusing to let go of a Christmas tree that had lived out its time. It's a bit like the fish in my aquarium: whenever I need to do a complete water change, get all the guppies out and into a bucket so I can rinse the gravel, scrub out the algae and put nice, sparkly fresh water in the tank, it's always the cautious fish that give me the most trouble. The dumb ones, the ones that want to check out every new thing that comes along (such as a fish net), are the most easily caught, gently netted out and put in the bucket to await their newly cleaned home. It's the ones that want to cling to the old, that hide behind the rocks, and, when I take out all the rocks and plants, vanish into the murky water in the corners, that force me to chase them around the tank, probably traumatizing them horribly, before I get them out of that murk and into the situation that is, ultimately, so much better for them.

Of course, this bears no parallel to my life whatsoever. I never cling to old ideas, whinge and whine about change, hide in the murk of the old water or hang onto pine branches that are dropping needles in the hallway. Oh no, of course not.

(Incidentally, if you're wondering about that cornstarch dough the snowman medallion is made from, it's like Baker's Clay or Salt Dough, but bright white, much more finely textured, and it sparkles! It's very pretty, and makes lovely little ornaments, even without paint. Here's how:
2 c Baking Soda, 1 c Cornstarch, 1 1/4 c Water; mix soda and cornstarch, stir in water, bring to boil over medium heat, stir until it begins to thicken, remove from burner, cover with damp cloth, cool, knead. Make whatever you like out of it; dry on foil-covered cookie sheet in warm oven for 1 hr, or at room temp. for 2-3 days or longer.
Do keep whatever part you're not using covered with a dampish cloth; it surface-dries much faster than Baker's Clay. It's so finely textured it can almost pick up the pattern of your finger prints! For the medallions, I just rolled it out 1/4" [about 5mm] thick, cut out circles, dried them [or baked them, I can't remember], then painted them with ordinary acrylic paints and added a bit of glitter.)

Life, the Universe, and Forgotten Ornaments. Let's not cling to what is over.


  1. Like you said, "Yey for new beginnings." So what are you going to do that's new. I'll be watching....

  2. It really CAN pick up fingerprints. I know this because I have one that I pressed my baby boy's hand into about the same time you were making your ornament. ;-) And it has been living broken in a box for years but I can't bear to part with it because...well Baby Handprint...seems like maybe I also cling? ;-)

    Actually I've been learning the last few years that if you have loads of change foisted on you then you eventually just have to get better at accepting change and not clinging if only to maintain sanity. Good lessons.

    I recently read (maybe in an Alexandra Stoddard book) something about seeing change as "a well-lived chapter" and somehow I quite like it put that way. Perhaps the book lover in you might too?

  3. @Bonnie: what am I doing that's new? Wait and see... :)

    @Heather: I think there's a definite difference between clinging to what's past and fondly remembering it. Your saving your boy's handprint comes under the latter.
    "A well-lived chapter"... I like that.

  4. Here Here, or is it Hear Hear...:-) In with the new! I think I need to check our poor tree sitting forlornly in the back yard now...I thought I heard a bell tinkling when Thomas took it out back...but couldn't see anything...need to double check...maybe it was the tree "speaking" to me! LOL

  5. Ah yes, the voice of the tree...
    And I never know if it's "hear, hear" or "here, here" either. Hmm.