Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas crafting through a crisis

I finished putting up all my Christmas decorations after three days, 16 Diet Cokes and only one emergency trip to Michael’s.

Putting all our ornaments on the tree was quite a feat and made me think about the fact that every ornament has a story. Probably the most interesting/pitiful/tragic story on my tree is the gaudy green felt bird decked in sequins and gold trim. It was my Grandma’s.

When my Grandma died several years after my Grandpa, the family had to clear out their house. Walking through during the clean out, I noticed that all of my Grandma’s ornate green felt birds had been thrown in the trash. These weren’t just any felt birds – these were the birds that had hung on my Grandma’s tree for as long as I could remember. Yes, the tree looked a bit odd covered in only strange green felt birds, but it is what I remember of their tree on so many Christmas Eves.

“Why are we throwing out all the green felt birds?” I asked my mom. She chuckled and went on to tell me that the tacky – but special – green felt birds that brought me warm memories of the family gathered around the piano on Christmas Eve at my grandparents’  house were made by my Grandma when she was extremely depressed – and in a psychiatric hospital.


So, she made them in art therapy at the psych ward and THEN HUNG THEM ON HER CHRISTMAS TREE EVERY YEAR?!?! How could decorating her tree every year have been anything but, well, depressing?

I did pull one of those birds out of the trash, and I hang it on my tree every year. We’re all kind of a mess, aren’t we? And our Christmas trees do kind of tell the story of our lives, warts and all.

Besides, haven’t most of us moms crafted our way through a crisis at one time or another? Scrapbooked when our littlest went off to first grade. Knitted frantically in a hospital waiting room. Made fancy door wreaths to sell to try to stave off an impending financial crisis. Painted a lovely landscape for the daughter who was failing art. Oh, wait. I meant helped a daughter who was failing art to paint a lovely landscape.

I myself Christmas-crafted my way through a depression once. It was year one of going through my divorce, and I worked like crazy on my son’s Christmas stocking.

I do laugh and roll my eyes when I hang it up every year. It’s too darn cute to throw away for the sake of not having an “oh-how-I-hated-my-life-back-then” flashback. And maybe those green felt birds meant more than a bad memory for my Grandma. Maybe she saw them as a turning point in her life. Maybe they reminded her that she, too, could fly.  Or, maybe her crafty self just thought they were too darn cute.

Laura Johnson is a single mom and freelance communicator who lives in East Dallas with her 12-year-old son.

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