For each of the past twenty-three years I crafted a Christmas ornament for my wife, Robyn. Because of this, for twenty-three years I haven’t had to go to the mall and buy her a real gift (I bet you guys wish you had thought of this scam)! 😉 Let me tell you, she’s been waiting a long, long time for that set of diamond earrings.
I admit it, I also proposed to her on Valentine’s day and married her on an even decade (1990). One less anniversary to forget and an easy calculation to remember. So, there you have it.
The ornament is always a snowman – small (about the size of an egg), artistic and at times a bit off the wall. Typically, I craft it from wood, but occasionally metal or clay. The one shown above is a Santa snowman from a prior year.
Sometimes the ornament is locket-like with a picture inside. Sometimes it commemorates an important event or zeitgeist of the past year. Sometimes it is imbued with symbolic meaning, and sometimes it is SO DEEP the significance even escapes me. 😉 No worries though, I can usually come up with some cogent nonsense, after the fact, about how the inherent symbiotic prose creates a duo didactic metaphor for the tacit and disparate struggle between paradigms. Got that?
Anyway, some are just fun and elicit smiles. Some still cause me to tear up – like the one I made from the beads of a favorite necklace my mother wore before her passing.
This year’s snowman is old-school once again. Robyn prefers the timeless, handcrafted wood ornaments. Yet, this one is an experiment in minimalism, as well. With it, I was determined to resolve, once and for all, the question always on everyone’s mind when the snow falls, and the cause of too many sleepless nights, “What is the very essence of a snowman? How much can one strip away from a snowman and still HAVE a snowman? Conversely, and more importantly, what is the LAZIEST you can be when building a snowman?” Apparently, very lazy. Hat. Eyes. Buttons. Scarf. All gone. Listen up kids! Yep, a single ball with a carrot is still a snowman! You will thank me when you are older for all the time you saved in your youth. Now, go back inside to your video games.
Some would call this ornament simplistic, but I think it is cool! The real question is, will Robyn like it?
The anticipation was palpable on Christmas morning when Robyn began opening the snowman-sized present (it’s sort of a Pavlovian response after so many years). She was probably mumbling under her breath, “What did he do THIS year? PLEASE let it be… normal. Please. Please. Please…”
Pulling the ornament out of the box, she looked at me with eyebrows raised as if to say, “You surely can do better than THIS. I’d rather have a vacuum cleaner.” Of course, she didn’t actually say that, but we all know she was thinking it. She wasn’t mollified at all when I explained that this is what Apple would do if they designed a snowman ornament. You love your iPhone, right? Instead she asked, “so, where’s the body?” Good thing I made more than one ornament for her this year.
When my son, Beck, handed her the second snowman-sized box to open, she was relieved that she was getting another. “Is this the body?,” she asked before ripping open the package. Obviously, I have not done a good job managing her expectations over the years.
Turns out it was the second in a series of minimal snowman, except this time with a conical-shaped body. Snowmen don’t need to have round bodies, right?
“It looks like a chicken,” she said.
I replied somewhat stoically, “After 23 years, I’m evolving beyond my snowmen phase, right past my blue phase, and into my chicken phase. Nothing says Christmas like chickens.”
She was excited, though, when she turned it over to see the family picture. She loves those. “Why is there a bow between us in the picture?, ” she asked. “Seems a bit festive for a minimalist chicken.” To which I explained, the photo was taken at Santa’s Workshop and, as luck would have it, there was a giant donkey’s ass (or is that an ass’s ass?) right between us, so I thought a pretty bow would cover it up nicely. I guess I should have chosen a better place to take the photo.
The third ornament got her smiling. “Aw, that’s so cute! It has a propeller hat. You replicated our entire family with snowmen ornaments this year! This one is Beck, the conical-shaped one is me in a dress, of course, and the first one, the simple, tubby, round one is you.” “Yours looks like a chicken,” I said. O.k., that conversation never really happened, but you know we were all thinking it.
I consider the fourth snowman in my minimal series an abject failure, being neither minimal nor well ornamented. It falls in between and lacks the conviction of either. I call this soft contemporary. I will speak no more about it.
Upon unwrapping the final snowman, Robyn said, “Now, this is more like it! I love it!” She didn’t know why, but she instinctively knew there was meaning behind this one. Or, at least it didn’t look like a chicken! I couldn’t hold the tears back as I explained its significance. It is quite personal for me. You see, our son Beck turned nine this year, and for the first eight years of his life he was a fixture on my shoulders. We went everywhere together that way. This snowman represents his passage from a child to a boy who is rapidly becoming a man. Not much longer will his dad be able to carry him or will he even want me to. It probably won’t happen until he turns thirty, but I got a head start on the ornament, anyway.
The ornament begins with Beck on my shoulders, then the top portion spins around to show us on our own… alas, forever. I will miss those days, dearly.
See some photos in progress here: The Making of a Christmas Ornament
Read part 2 here: Snowman Ornament – Year 23 – Part 2