CLICK HERE FOR BLOGGER TEMPLATES AND MYSPACE LAYOUTS »

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Good Taste

It was one of the most beautiful things I had seen. It certainly was the most lovely of our Christmas tree ornaments. My mother’s visiting teacher had given her a handcrafted cardinal whose intricate detail shimmered in the light.

Mom and I established a new tradition as we argued over the placement of this gorgeous bird. I wanted to hang it front and center on the tree, at my eye level, for everyone to see and admire. Mom was generally very flexible in the tree-trimming ritual, letting us help with very little censure. But with the cardinal, she was insistent. It was a gift to HER, not me, and she would hang it where she wanted. She explained that the perfect location for her decoration was nearer the top of the tree and toward the rear, so that passers-by could see its beauty from the front window. I had to admit that this made sense. Sharing this ornament with as many people as possible was indeed charitable. Yet I was left discouraged with the lessened opportunity for my own enjoyment.

This continued for years. I was in high school still trying to convince my mother to hang the cardinal on the front of the tree. I came to understand at that time, however, that mothers are entitled to possessions as well as children, and that mine loved her cardinal as much as I did. It was therefore only fair to let her hang her treasure where she pleased, no matter how silly a place it seemed.

Christmas break, home from college my freshman year, was a turning point. The tree was decorated upon my arrival, but I helped take it down, as was the custom at our house, on New Year’s Day. Perhaps it was because I had been away from home, or maybe it was one of the first times that I had actually handled the bird, but as I put it away, I looked at this thing with fresh eyes. In truth, it must have been the first time I had done so since about age 9 or 10. It was with a great deal of shock and some disappointment, not only in the ornament, but also in myself, that I saw that cardinal for what it was.

It was one of the ugliest things I’d seen. It was a bright red piece of felt, edges pinked, trimmed with metallic cording, perched on a green pipe-cleaner, and covered with a gaudy pattern of glued-on sequins--blues and golds and greens and more reds, creating the bird’s features. “Mom,” I exclaimed, “this thing is hideous.”

“I know, Merinda, why do you think I always hung it on the back of the tree?”

Wow. She'd known. All that time. She didn’t hang it in back to be generous to our neighbors. She did it to hide it.

It was time for some serious self-evaluation. Was I that lacking in taste? My whole life I had believed I had great taste. Yes, it had certainly evolved, matured. But for some reason that I still can’t place, the cardinal had escaped the notice of the greater refinement of my eye. It was as if my 6-year-old self had dressed my 19-year-old self for a party and I hadn’t discovered that fact until half way through the evening. I felt exposed. I had loved and adored this horrendous, cheap, ugly bird. The previous year.

A few years back, my mother gave me the cardinal. It spends all year with my other tree ornaments in storage, but spends Christmas alone, still in the bottom of the box.

People with no relation to myself now frequently compliment me on my good taste and talent in decorating. Last summer my design for a decorative flag for the city was selected. A friend recently enlisted my help in choosing the color scheme for his new restaurant. My shameful past is safely concealed in a red and green Rubbermaid tub.

10 fishy comments:

M-Cat said...

Get brave, live life on the wild side, pull that ugly thing out and hang it proudly. Near the top, in the rear for ALL to see!

Lara said...

I got something out of this post that perhaps you never intended. And here it is...

I am a nazi about my beautiful tree. I will not hang anything on it that I do not deem fitting, matching, or beautiful. That means the ornaments my kids make and love do not get to go on that tree. I know I have hurt their feelings over not displaying them, and that has made me feel horrible when I realized it.

This year I bought a smaller tree just for their ornaments. They may be tacky, but they are so important to the kids that I must have them up.

Who knows where your bird came from, but for some reason it was important to you as a child and your mom was wonderful for so cleverly hanging it to hide it while still making you feel it had the place of honor on the tree. What a genius mother you have!

Kristina P. said...

I always wonder what will happen when I have kids. I love my perfectly matching ornaments and tree. I love Lara's idea of having two trees.

2busy said...

Beautifully written and very funny! I have a few of those ornaments still safely tucked away at the bottom of the box but not willing to part just yet. Look at the memories attached to that darn cardinal!

clan of the cave hair said...

That is hilarious!I don't think I have yet lived down the acrylic and glitter sliding glass door handle at our home in La Mesa that I have been told I called the most beautiful thing ever...

I let go of some perfectionism this year because I was invited to an ornament exchange. I knew that to really enjoy it, I would need to be willing to let go of my quasi-thematic tree and be open to whatever people made and offered as their gift. There are some items that are not my style in the tiniest little bit, but they are on my tree, because I had fun at the party and what was the point of participating if I would come home and put some in a box?

Heatherlyn said...

It was the sequins. Everything that sparkles is beautiful to a child. :)

CaJoh said...

Whereas your mother hid the cheesy ornaments, my parents had to put them in a spot where we could find them easily.

My sister had a picture of her from 5th grade inserted in a pink metallic flower, whereas I had my suicide gingerbread man. This was a cotton stuffed ornament that I made and wrapped a red piece of yarn around the neck (because I never figured out how to make a proper hanger for it). They proudly display it every year because they know that we would be asking about it.

rachel said...

I think my take on this post is kind of like Lara's. I thought about the purity and innocence of childhood where we see the beauty where no one else can and how wonderful that your mother kept that in tact for you. I would have questioned my "taste" too I believe, but there is a lesson here in the magic of Christmas for a child...be it Santa...be it gaudy decorations and that is that we lose a little something as we grow up and then have to work twice as hard to hold on to it and keep it shiny for the next generation. Oh my gosh, am I even making sense?? Thank you for sharing this. You really got me thinking.

Shauna said...

Hope you have a blessed and very Merry Christmas! ♥ HUGS ♥

Jenn said...

LOL!!! Isn't it hilarious to realize what we thought was beautiful when we were young? Basically, all it needed to be was bright and sparkly to be gorgeous - so different from the understated taste I came to have in adulthood.