CHRISTMAS FEATURE – Christmas for the Porter family was typically scant – mildly stated. The children, six daughters in all, were so accustomed to this, that they rarely expected anything at all, not even a Christmas tree. To their everlasting credit, they never made a fuss over these circumstances. They always found something to do that brought holiday cheer into our home.
Christmas of 1987 was no different – with one exception – someone kindly left a Christmas tree on our doorstep. It didn’t matter that we had no decorations to adorn it with, we were thrilled to have the tree and the lovely pine scent that filled our house. I stared at the tree for a couple of days. It was beautiful even in its plainness. But, the generosity of the person that left it caused a stirring within me. I could not let the gift simply stand there. It needed to be honored . . . decorated.
With no decorations on hand, I got a wild idea – a brilliant idea according to the children. Along the roadside in Dammeron Valley, are little vines with small gourds attached – precisely the size and roundness of an ornament. I loaded the girls up in the car and drove north to go collect as many of these as possible. We managed to fill the trunk. The next step was to decorate the gourds. We found some wrapping paper to cover them and some leftover lace to tie a bow around each “ornament”.
The finished product was exquisite. The weight of all the decorated gourds pulled on the Christmas tree branches, but it stood firm for as long as we needed it. We all felt so proud of that tree, and it was almost heartbreaking to take it down at the end of the holidays. We decided that the gourds were much too special to simply discard, so we loaded them into a box to save for the next year. We would purchase a tree, if nothing else, just to be able to use our homemade ornaments again.
The following Christmas, we found an inexpensive tree and excitedly set it up with the anticipation of hanging the beautiful gourds again. I found the box in the garage, opened it eagerly, and picked up the first gourd. Squish. Splat. Ewww. All the gourds had rotted. I did not know they should have been gutted first. What a mess. Not to be undone by such, I decided to buy little round styrofoam balls and decorate them as we had the gourds. When done, they looked just as lovely, and I spent less than $10. We ended up using those decorations for the next several years.
If anyone were to ask my children, now grown, what they remember about Christmas in their home, they would all most likely tell you of the homemade ornaments with a great deal of satisfaction and nostalgia. They might also add that “poverty” is a state of mind that they know nothing of.
Submitted by: Kathryn Porter Naron
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