Making Christmas tree decorations was a boring-day activity put into play by my mom, who worked tirelessly at keeping four restless kids occupied during wintry holidays What we made weren’t great, mind you, but they were originals.
Among the different creations, were hard-tack flour-and-salt cookie ornaments and garlands of chains made from glued rings of colorful strips of craft paper.
The Santa face, painted on a dried okra pod by Sherry Battista from Crystal Springs Mississippi, is a “must have” favorite of all who see it.
Did I mention this was way before the Internet, when we only got a handful of black-and-white TV channels?
Mom would have us forage for whatever materials we could scavenge from both our yard and across the street in my great-grandmother’s naturalistic garden. Think spiky round sweetgum balls, long thin trumpet creeper seedpods, little wild gourds, pecans, acorns, pine cones, colorful bits of lichens, shiny green magnolia leaves with their furry brown backs, and carefully-snipped bits of holly and berries.
Like Rumpelstiltskin weaving golden garments from common straw, we coaxed those materials into ornaments using rough jute string, craft paint, fast-drying white glue, and, in those pre-environmental days, colorful glitter. I suspect some of that glitter is still floating around.
Inspired, I set about making some nature-craft things along these lines, which involved a lot of suspicious-looking walking around the neighborhood looking for fodder, and risking my health trekking to a hobby store for supplies.
First thing up was a “gourdian angel” made angel wings cut from thin tin, with tabs inserted into slits opposite each other in a dried gourd. Later I built a gumball tree from a bit of thorny shrub – in my case a hardy citrus tree (Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’ to you hort geeks), though any twiggy branch (from a hopefully non-poisonous plant) will work – and stood it up in a clay pot, and festooned the stickers with red and green gumdrops. Cheesy, sure; but…yeah.
I made little trees and stars from twigs, wove mini-wreaths from vines and berries, sprinkled glitter over Elmer’s Glue designs squeezed onto magnolia leaves, and hot glue gunned acorns, tiny pinecones, and frilly lichens onto everything.
My inexperience with a hot glue gun led me to accidentally get molten glop on a finger, which I instinctively stuck in my mouth to cool off. And it stuck to my procheilon – that little fleshy bump some of us have on the bottom middle of our upper lip – which promptly stuck fast onto my glued fingertip.
I couldn’t sip hot coffee for days, but could still smile at my retro-rustic creations.