Stories of the season: Nature’s gifts in Diamond Valley make for impromptu ornaments

Composite image. Inset photo shows gourds growing in Southern Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Kathryn Porter, St. George News

FEATURE — Christmas for the Porter family was typically scant, to put it mildly.

The children, six daughters at the time, 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 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; we were thrilled to have the tree along with the lovely pine scent that filled our home.

I stared at the tree for a couple of days. It was beautiful even in its plainness. However, the generosity of the person that left it caused a stirring within me.

Letting the gift simply stand there just would not do. It needed to be decorated — honored. With no decorations on hand, I got a wild idea; a very brilliant idea, according to the children.

Along the roadside in Diamond Valley just north of our home were little vines with small gourds attached, precisely the size and roundness of an ornament. I loaded the girls up in the car and went to 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 the decorated gourds pulled on the Christmas tree branches, but it stood firm for as long as we needed it.

Feeling so proud of that tree, the thought of taking it down at the end of the holidays was heartbreaking. We decided that the gourds were much too special to simply discard, so we carefully packed them in a box to save for the next year. We would purchase a tree, if nothing else, just so we could 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 of the gourds had rotted. I did not know they should have been gutted first. What a mess. What a stench.

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 cost 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 wouldn’t remember gifts, but they would most likely tell you, with a great deal of satisfaction and nostalgia, about those homemade ornaments — before and after the “Big Squish.”

Submitted by KATHRYN PORTER, St. George.

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