Friday, December 14, 2007

More Meaningful Material

I have bought more than my fair share of junk in the last twenty years. I have perused Target's neatly arrayed shelves on far too many occasions. This Christmas season, I vowed, would be different. And it has been. To date, I've bought a total of four new, non-consumable items: a shirt, an ornament, a book and a CD. It has not been enough, however, to stop shopping. As It Must Be the Vapors recently made clear, there is also the environmental impact of storing all of our stuff to consider. Therefore, I also needed to get rid of the junk I've accumulated - to pare down to what really mattered.


I culled through my boxes and boxes of Christmas decor and was, quite simply, overwhelmed. All said, I ended up freecycling 10+ grocery-sized bags full of Hallmark ornaments, stuffed penguins, plastic trees, plush Santas, incandescent lights, and resin snowmen.

Why did I stop? Why didn't I just ditch all the kitsch and have a quiet, peaceful Christmas enjoying nature's gifts? I have little kids for one so quiet and peaceful are not an option. ;-) More importantly, I believe material items have a place in our celebrations and traditions. We need to ensure, however, that the goods we retain or purchase have true meaning and value attached to them. After that giant purge of Christmas crap, I was left (mostly) with the stuff that really mattered. Most of it is either homemade or passed down.

This year, the place of honor on top of the tree was granted to this star, which my oldest made two years ago. It's predecessor - a cheap red metal star (made in China, bought at Target) - found new life (but undoubtedly no actual meaning) through freecycle. Our new star is homey, not at all trendy and means a heck of a lot to us - particularly the little boy who is proud to have his art project on the top of the family tree.


Decorations made by a family member or friend really do mean more. They carry a story and memories within them. Several years ago, I caught the crafter's bug and sewed stockings and a tree skirt for our family. When I unpacked those items this holiday, I fondly remembered the hours I spent creating them. I talked to my boys about why I picked which theme and what they meant to me. I also hastily replaced the decoration on one boy's stocking per his request. It meant so much more than saying, "Oh yeah, I ordered these off of Pottery Barn Kids last year. Aren't they fab?" or throwing the stocking out because it no longer fit my child's interests.






The best homemade items, however, are ones that have been cherished for years. They carry meaning both from the maker and from the years they have been treasured. My grandmother made me this lighted tree in the 1970's. She made one for each of her grandchildren. I've enjoyed this tree every Christmas since it was given to me and I remember, as a child, falling asleep as its festive lights warmed my bedroom. This year my crafty grandmother is 97 and won't be making anything but this tree is a physical reminder of the days she spent creating beauty for her family.



Even store-bought goods can be infused with meaning though. Five years ago, my parents surprised each of their children with a box full of favorite ornaments and music boxes (all store-bought) from our childhood Christmases. I've shared these with my boys and their eyes light up such as mine must have thirty years ago. More recently, a dear friend gave us a beautiful wooden train music box which - though new and store bought - will likely have a place in my home until I pass it along to my youngest when he's grown.

This holiday season and into the New Year - traditionally a time for renewal - I think it's important to assess our relationship to the stuff that inhabits our lives, to sift through it and decide what is really worth the price of keeping.

2 comments:

Wendy said...

Wow! My Grandmother did ceramics and we had a tree from her that was almost exactly like the one you have.

I have no idea where it is now, though. It must have gotten broken because we never would have thrown it out. I loved those little removable plastic lights (the original Light Bright).

Green Bean said...

I think these were pretty popular with grandmothers during that era. :)

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