Hello fellow readers; While decorating for the holiday can be hectic, I hope you find comfort and joy in reflections on Christmas pasts.
You may remember the story of the replacement tree planted in memory of Miss Ellie Mae a year ago. The first tree, a ‘Baby Blue Eyes’ Blue Spruce, died. The roots were severely cut and crisscrossed with very few new fibrous roots, called a “bad dig” in the trades, but it wasn’t really bad. The tree gave us great joy as our Christmas tree, then the remarkable coincidence of a ‘Mary Holman’ American Holly arriving to replace it—representing Mary holding Ellie forever in my heart.
The Revival of Ellie’s American Holly
I adore the photo of Jolee sitting by the holly as I decorated her last year. And another when beautifully adorned with snow— the star a bit cockeyed atop, adding charm to the conical shape.
As the spring unfolded, the spikey dark green leaves began to turn brown. A heavy heart imagining two memorial trees may face the same fate. Slowly but surely, they all did despite treating it with Wilt-pruf, a natural pine oil that protects broadleaf evergreens from winter burn (drying from winter winds).
But Mary Holman began returning to life after a dose of organic fertilizer and ensuring she stayed damp during the drought. First, a few leaves emerged on one branch. Then as the summer unfolded, more joined them.
I let the brown leaves drop on their own, thinking perhaps they were protecting the new buds as they formed in the thick of the heat. And I kept the naked stems intact, hoping new shoots would sprout. They did! The recovery was a joy to watch. Though the plant was not beautiful through it, the miracle unfolding was.
Although lopsided, she’s still magnificent.
To prepare her for this year’s decorations, I pruned the remaining naked branches, no longer pliable. With the red and white star topper in place, I marvel over her revival. Although lopsided, she’s still magnificent. And she’ll even out over time. Or maybe not. There’s beauty in imperfection. Besides, there’s no such thing as perfection anyway.
Next comes the tradition of a softball-sized red ornament on the Weeping Hemlock planted to honor brother Bill who passed just before Christmas nine years ago; hard to believe so many years have gone by. It’s at the end of the rock garden next to a swath of graceful Hakone Grass (Hakonechloa) now in its beautiful dry golden state of glory. After the night of a deep freeze, the tree is frosted, and the Christmas ball glistens in the morning light, bringing happiness.
The Treasure of Christmas Pasts
After tending to the things outside, I began putting out the treasures of Christmas past. The child carolers that once graced the drop leaf table beside the piano where my folks lived in Florida. My friend Elsa gifted me a glass bowl on a circle of prancing bronze deer years ago. I fill it with sleigh bells and pinecones.
The felt characters with painted faces, some like my sister say are creepy, designating them as mine when divvying up Mom’s treasures came to pass. I hadn’t researched the history until writing you. “Analee Dolls are A New Hampshire Tradition Since 1934,” notes their website.
“The tale begins with a young woman meticulously dyeing felt fabric and the freehand painting of doll faces during the Depression” after their chicken farm failed. Her children’s activities inspired the mischievous, whimsical faces of the dolls. This year I placed them atop my piano next to a photo of my first couple of pups, Sara and Sadie.
A Milagro Tree of gifts.
I especially love the elf I place atop a tree with metal charms traditional in Hispanic cultures known as Milagros or “Miracles.” My college roomie Linda gave me the Milagro Tree a few years back. It stays standing all year, decorated with seasonal doodads—A ghost, a pumpkin, or an American flag plastic ring that once adorned cupcakes Curt’s Mom brings to holiday celebrations sit upon the star.
My favorite “miracle” charms are the crosses made of palms from Palm Sunday trimming the tree year-round. May we never forget or forsake the miracle.
The previous story of the arrival of Miss Ellie Mae’s replacement tree – Ball and Burlap versus Potted Trees
More about Analee Dolls
There’s much more to the story in Episode 86 of the Garden Dilemmas Podcast: