Old Christmas Ornaments


How many Christmas ornaments does one family need?

An infinite amount come to find out,

if collecting the ornaments of the old,

they carelessly given away after death or divorce or downsize,

or maybe with love and sadness gifted to the world at large

from their safe nests in closets, basements, garages and attics

We love the Shiny Brites made in the USA,

but also cherish the slender stemmed delicate candy colors of Poland,

silver beads strung together with wire from Germany,

even Czech and Belgium and Japanese

More than just useless trinkets by their lineage,

a history of War and death,

 conquering and rebirth,

the history of rise and fall,

of the woes and joys of entire nations


I open each box or container with care,

I inspect each one,

blackened wires affixed for hanging by a mother no longer here

(yet her soft singing and maternal chiding still ringing in the crystal),

some of the hooks ridiculous and large,

bent by the clumsy hands of a child

(this child no longer a child but the memory remains)


Lift the pink and orange and green striped balls,

the silver and gold and pink and blue,

cosmic colors a manmade rainbow,

the snow crusted, the besparkled,

the finely felted nativity scenes,

the recessed reflector rainbow worlds,

teardrops, tassels, shapes the crowns of kings,

lift them delicately and inspect them,

each and every one a familial amulet


Once removed, in their empty container find fossils of past holidays:

silver tinsel, tufts of angel hair,

old strings, ribbons, receipts and price tags

gift tags, pine needles and the like,

these finds a gift to me every time


If you take your time in the ritual

of discovering these Christmas castaways,

you’ll see a reflection in their glass looking back,

a refracting back beyond yourself

Look now, don’t grasp at it, be mesmerized:

you can just make out the origin

of the crystal balls in their own surface,

their birth, the faces of their makers,

 now see people shifting in the murky swirl,

see mothers and fathers and laughing children,

momma cooing crying child,

grandpa hollering at grandchildren wild,

see distant relatives and once homes,

see sister and brothers, some lost, some found,

aunts and uncles, cousins and friends,

see loves and losses, sighing and dying,

abundance and lack, sickness and health,

see the scroll unfurling

            Now be still and listen:

you can hear the dull roar of war overtaken by a gentle song,

 a song of joy and hope and light,

you can hear songs from beyond the grave,

you can hear them singing in the Undying Lands


After this ritual of reverie and reverence,

these old Christmas ornaments

are given new memories,

they are given new life, new hope, new joys,

new songs and shouts and laughter

(Waylon crashing, Tennessee shouting,

Violet laughing, June chattering),

new children growing, new mother chiding and singing

as they are hung on the Mannan family Christmas tree

and put in clear vases on shelves and hutches by Jenny Anne

to sparkle and glow and watch us grow old