On Retirement: Christmas ornaments a reminder of treasured memories

Our tree is up, laden with the seasonal bulbs, lights and, almost every year, more memories.

Or so it occurred to me as our son and granddaughter helped us trim the branches.

Ours has mementos from my husband’s many years performing in community theaters. A stuffed Winnie the Pooh returns to the tree each year, a memento the musical as performed in a 1960s by a Central Oregon group.

We have nothing from his role opposite the Virgin Queen with the same group, but I have memories of his arrival home after tryouts with a National Geographic magazine photo that I was to use to create Robert Dudley’s garment. The latter in a brocade was reasonably successful; I didn’t have plush fabric for Pooh, but it was brown. Truth to tell, costumes are not among my attainments, and in subsequent years more skilled seamstresses created his stage garments.

As his performing “career” was winding down after years on or behind stage with the Charleston Light Opera Guild and Kanawha Players, he finally had a opportunity for a role he coveted. We have a red and green “Bah Humbug” ball on the tree from a performance as Scrooge in Gallipolis, Ohio, at a theater across the river from our Mason County retirement home.

Tree mementos of mine reflect volunteer work with youth groups. The tiny, delicate bird egg — hand-painted with a chickadee — is nestled it its nest, a gift from a Girl Scout in a troop which met weekly at Sacred Heart Grade School. Every year I carefully return it to the original box, which has the note that came with it: “In olden times, people believed that happiness and good fortune would come to those who chose a Christmas tree with the bird’s nest in its branches.” Sad to say, I failed to add the date, late 1980s or early ’90s, and the Scout’s name.

An equally fragile glass bulb, hand-painted with Oregon’s Mt. Hood by a good friend and co-leader of a Girl Scout troop (school year) and 4-H club (summer) has survived even more years, four household moves and one tree collapse. It also has its own box to protect it from year to year.

Almost hidden in the branches are a miniature South American huaso — a cowboy — and female companion, actually a tourist souvenir, I suspect. But it was a gift for us from a college classmate of my husband, who served with our Peace Corps project in 1961-63 and his Chilean wife. While we returned to the United States, he eventually settled in Chile.

Another branch has the metal ornament, shaped like dog and with the name “Beethoven,” our long-time companion and one of a litter with a sibling Mozart. His mother, Trouble, belonged to the family of former Daily Mail editor and publisher Sam Hindman, and her pups were named by his daughter. We adopted Beethoven, and our then-teenage daughter endorsed keeping the name.

Years later, she had our first grandchild, now 21, and later that year she gave us the “Grandparents” Christmas bulb we hang every year.

This year, her second child, 18, gave us a couple more hand-painted balls.

Over the years, we have collected a variety of birds. Last year, the family gave me a tiny, fragile, glass hummingbird. This year, my husband received a ceramic cardinal. Need I add we have been bird watchers of varying enthusiasm and rue their reported worldwide decline.

That we hang an increasing number of memories each year likely is simply a factor of our age, I suspect.

Yet when I researched elderly Christmas tree memories online, I discovered only sites and blogs about crafts, gift ideas, books, picture frames ornaments for special photos and plenty of items to purchase.

We buy little new from year to year. Most of our ornaments are old, as are the memories.

I treasure both.

And wish a Happy Holiday to readers.

Contact Evadna Bartlett at evadnab07@gmail.com


Campbell, Virginia - 2 p.m., Wallace Funeral Home & Chapel, Barboursville.

Fisher, Helen - 6 p.m., Cunningham - Parker - Johnson Funeral Home, Charleston.

Johnson, Linda - 2 p.m., Highland Memory Gardens, Chapmanville.

Kessler, Carolyn - 5 p.m., Gatens-Harding Funeral Home Chapel, Poca.

King, Charles - Noon, Cooke Funeral Home Chapel, Nitro.

Pauley, Bernice - 11 a.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Sigman, Christopher - 2 p.m., Propps Family Cemetery, Summersville.

Williams, Archie - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.