9 December 2010
When The Prince Consort and I celebrated our first Christmas, we were pretty much busted. Luckily The Prince Consort was a restaurant manager for Walgreens. With his discount, we bought an artificial tree (which lasted for twenty years), a string of lights, glue, and construction paper. I may have graduated last in my nursery school class, but that Christmas I glued my fingers and a pretty good, pretty long paper chain garland for the tree.
But we needed ornaments. The back of the cornstarch box came to the rescue. Mixed with water and red food dye, the cornstarch made a great clay. I used cookie cutters, and we had ornaments. I even remembered to leave hangar holes for the pink stars. (Apparently the instructions were serious about how MUCH red dye to add to end up with actual red.)
While the paper chain didn’t survive to the next Christmas, the ornaments hung on. I still have one. It’s pretty close to a fossil now. Although I’m probably the only ‘archeologist’ who’d ever dig it out of the strata in the Christmas ornament suitcase. (a hard-sided Samsonite older than I am, if you can believe it.)
Every Christmas we’ve bought at least one ornament for our tree, along with more lights, and non-paper-chain garlands. I’ve never quite given up on hand-making things. One Christmas I made a felt tree skirt and matching stocking. On another I sewed Nativity sets: stuffed Mary, Joseph, Jesus, stable, donkey, angels, everything.
But just over three decades ago, we brought home the best Christmas ornament ever. Actually Our Daughter waited until three days after Christmas to be born. I don’t pretend to believe I perfectly mixed the ‘cornstarch’, water, and dye to produce this wonder, Our Daughter. The real Creator made her.
A year later, her first official Christmas, I don’t recall buying an ornament for the tree. But I do remember Our Daughter spending hours slowly opening the presents we’d spent more effort choosing than we ever put into a tree ornament. She delighted in everything, gift, wrapping, boxes, ribbons.
A Christmas later, Santa brought her a tool kit and a ‘doctor’s kit. She combined the two kits and directed The Prince Consort to lie on the couch and be the patient. I walked in as she was taking a hammer and screw driver to his chest. I turned and hot-footed it out of the room. He was on his own, and I was Not the next patient.
Too few wonderful Christmases later she was old enough for a car. She inherited her father’s car, a sturdy German make, red enough to be easily spotted. Not that I stalked her. Instead I called her cell phone hourly, leaving appropriately hysterical messages when she chose to keep studying rather than answering the phone. Because of course that’s all she did when she left the house. Always.
She escaped to Vanderbilt for undergrad, and Yale for her PhD. And now she has her own household in Texas, where she is a college professor.
We may not have fashioned her of cornstarch and construction paper, but no matter how many years have passed, or how far away those years have taken her, she is still the most perfect ornament in our lives. God’s creation on our tree of life. And a presence every day, not just Christmas.