I didn’t get a tree of my own until 2010, after an incredibly stressful year. I needed a lotta Christmas and got a dinky 6 ft tree from Walmart for $20. Because of having cats, I decided that first year to only decorate it with truly unbreakable ornament - metal sleigh bells, which happened to be very fashionable that year. I ended up buying out Walgreens when their Christmas decor went on clearance.
Over the next few years, I collected many ornaments from a variety of places that had significance for me - mostly angels and more bells.
I also began my journey towards madness by beginning to collect ornaments from Crate and Barrel during that time.
When I moved to Little Rock in 2013, I bought a 7.5 foot tree from Home Depot that was much nicer than my Walmart bush. During a clean-out of some containers in the storage locker I had for spillover books and other stuff, I found a metal angel ornament that my cast of Jose Rivera’s play Marisol had given me back in 1997 and which I had forgotten about. That ornament means so much to me because that production overlaps with the year I lost my guardian angel, my mom.
Now that angel is the first ornament on the tree every year. And it’s always front and center, positioned in the middle of the tree under the star.
When I moved back to St. Louis in 2014, one of the selling points of the apartment I rented was its bay windows that faced the street - the perfect place for my tree.
All of this led me to not just buy ornaments that meant a lot to me - like my World Market Neko cats - but I also began to personalize the tree in other ways. And just to show you how crazy I am, I asked my friend Tish in Dallas to go to a couple of World Market locations to buy me a replacement for a broken lime green one. And she did.
In 2016, I found a kit on eBay of some wooden decoupage ornaments that were the same as the ones we had on my tree in Snyder for most of my life. I even remember my mom bringing the same kit home from Kmart in 1974 (when we still lived in Virginia) and helping her as she cut out the appliqués and glued and sealed them to the wood shapes.
I missed those ornaments so much that when I found the set on eBay, I had to buy it and spent most of November and December in 2016 making those and many other personalized ornaments, including a set based off of Quentin Blake’s UK Christmas Carol stamps.
Christmas 2016, I went all out and overspent on the holidays by buying too many gifts and decorations and ornaments. I’m actually still paying for that overzealous overspending. I even bought a new 9.5” tree.
In addition to customizing ornaments, I also went in search of the perfect star for the top of the tree. I grew up with an antique angel tree topper on the tree in Texas. But I decided I wanted an unlit simple gold star. I think I finally settled on the best of the bunch, which is the one you see today at the top of the tree.
When my cat Moo passed away in 2019, I had taken an imprint of her paw in a homemade flour/salt mix ornament and I always put that on the tree right after the Marisol angel, along with a little vial of her fur and a pink mouse ornament positioned on the tree where she placed it on the branches in 2014.
Sadly, this year, Minnie - our Ma Otter cat - passed away, so we added her pawprint to the tree, along with some custom ceramic ornaments I made on Zazzle.
But this year, I have also added several ornaments that serve as a prelude to me and Justin moving to Rochester, NY, in 2024.
My tree today is mostly decorated with ornaments that have major significance for me. My angels, some bells, lots of pictures of the cats (including some custom commissioned painted ones Justin bought me over the course of three years), my various decoupaged ornaments, a porcelain Santa Kermit, some simple colored ball ornaments, Doctor Who ornaments, ornaments friends have gifted me, a Ganesha ornament (new this year - I’d love to find or make one of Akhilandesvari), lots of cat ornaments, and a lot that look like vintage wooden toys.
I can tell you when and where and why I got every one of the primary ornaments.
My tree isn’t just a decoration. It is my history.