Taking part in the Ann Dee Ellis 8-Minute Memoir Writing Challenge. This is Day Twenty.
The smell of salt-dough makes me feel like I am 8 years old again, sitting at my mom’s dining room table, pressing soft lumps of dough through a garlic press for angel hair. The dough tasted terrible—because of course we tasted it, even after mom said not to—and was dyed bright colors. We moulded and shaped reindeer, santas, tin soldiers, candy canes, angels and snowmen, carefully placed barn staples in the top for the Christmas hook later, and baked batch after batch in our oven. Once they were cool, mom would shellac them in the garage and we would add details with tiny brushes.
On another night, we could be found gluing pom-pom balls together into snowmen and teddy bears, hot-gluing old wooden clothespins into crazy looking reindeer, or making popsicle stick snowflakes. We made glassine-looking ornaments by puddling glue into golden strands of cord, then dragging food color through it. They dried clear and looked like tiny stained glass. We strung popcorn, cranberries, and poked cloves into oranges.
Our tree was always too big to fit in the house, and I don’t mean by just a little bit. It was usually four or five feet too tall, and my dad would be mumbling and cursing as he continued to lop off sections of trunk. Nearly everything on the tree was homemade. Except the lights and the tinsel. My mom loved the old, big lights, but because they got hot, somewhere she’d found small tin reflector dishes that surrounded each bulb. Each light would look like a flower, with the tin petals reflecting the individual bulb into dozens of sparkles.
My mother loved and adored tinsel. At the after-Christmas sales the previous year, she would buy all the tinsel she could find for ten cents a box, and store it for the next year. Tinsel was the final touch on her tree, and despite the natural, homemade and organic decorations, once the tree was done being decorated, it was a solid cone of silver tinsel. She would stand, tossing a few strands in the air, and blow it onto the branches, over and over, until every bough was dripping silver icicles. We never used the garlands- those had to be homemade- but the tinsel? Dozens of boxes. Every year.
From my bedroom, if I positioned myself just right, I could lay in bed and see our enormous, silver-coated, glittering, sparkly tree. It was the most beautiful thing I thought I had ever seen, and I would sometimes tear up, gazing at it while I fell asleep, loving Christmas so much.
If anyone ever finds some little tin Christmas light-reflectors in their antique-store travels, look me up. I’d be mighty grateful.