Christmas of 1956, we were with Cousin Mabel across Buzzard’s Bay from Cape Cod. Our usual ornaments stayed in Kansas. Mom and Dad told my brother and me it was up to us to improvise. Of course we could string popcorn and cranberries–and we did–and I’m sure we had lights.
My brother Malcolm and I collected shells at the beach; I bought gold paint, glue, and a dimestore doll. She was about Barbie size, but this was before Barbies. I found scraps of white satin and turned her into an angel with seagull feathers tucked into her jointed shoulders for wings. I glued shells on her dress and wrapped wire around her waist so she could fly at the top of our tree.
We found our tree in the pasture, a cedar tree–cedar has the best scent and open branches that display ornaments better than commercial Douglas Fir. We hung golden “tinkle shells”–named for the sound when they are shaken together–in singles and triples. Malcolm painted tiny sailing ships on “boat shells” with amazing detail for a 10-year-old. We glued tiny snail shells to larger clam, scallop, or conch shells.
Many of our creations have broken. I sent the boat shells to Malcolm– now a grandfather. The angel, with newer seagull feathers, tops our tree again this year.