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Memories in a plastic box

December 9, 2011

This time each year I pull down a plastic storage box which holds my most precious memories. The contents of this box masquerade as Christmas decorations, but if truth be told, I never put up a single item from that box. 
This particular depository contains the remnants of Christmases past which are either broken or so badly dated I would be embarrassed to let anyone see them.
I sit cross legged on the floor and plunder through the items and remember the days when Daddy would go out just before Christmas and cut a cedar tree from the banks of the Tombigbee River. It would be dead as a doornail by Christmas Eve and pose a very real fire hazard with those huge lights we used in the 50s. Oh, but the smell when are the Chinese going to come up with an artificial tree that smells like cedar? 
There’s the big ole man-sized gray woolen sock from my grandmother’s general store which served as my Christmas stocking for the first 18 years of my life. That sock would stretch so wide and long, it could practically to hold a bicycle. It was replaced in the 1960s with a spiffy mass-manufactured facsimile, all sewn up with sequins. It wouldn’t hold half as much of Santa’s surprises, but I guess it was more socially acceptable.
There’s the tiny wooden rocking horse which was part of a set I purchased from a woodworker in the 1970s when my boys were small. The horse is the only surviving piece, but in my mind I can see our tree that year. It was a hodge-podge of mismatched decorations which included the plaster handprint my youngest son made at kindergarten. Of course, it’s in the box, chipped and dented, but it doesn’t work on my matchy, matchy Christmas tree of the new millennium.
For the past few years I’ve shoved the tree in a closet after Christmas, pulled it out the following year and plugged it up. Voila. Instant Christmas. (That is the bah-humbugiest thing I do, and I’m ashamed to admit it.) 
There are several hand-painted candy cane ornaments we made out of cookie dough while watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special in 1975. No wonder I had a problem with roaches the following spring.
There’s the hideous Christmas tree topper we used on our Christmas trees during the late 1950s. It resembles Sputnik and would blink blue and white.
There’s a string of chili-pepper lights we used when we lived in New Orleans. They don’t work anymore, but hey, how can you throw those away? 
Everything in the box is tangled in tinsel. My job was to place the tinsel (we called them icicles) on the tree after it had been completely decorated. We would vacuum up tinsel until the 4th of July.
At the very bottom I found the apron my mother used at Christmas time. Maybe if I wear it this year, I won’t have so many kitchen disasters. But then, I remembered the last year my mother cooked Christmas dinner. The cat ate half of the turkey, so she turned it around and we got what was left.

Emily Jones is a retired journalist who edits a website for bouncing baby boomers. She welcomes comments at

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