Among the many things I inherited a love of from my mother, such as books and weird medical cases, are Christmas ornaments and crafting. Every Christmas since I was little, we would get an ornament in our stocking, and when I moved out, I took my collection with me. It’s a lovely way to have a little nostalgia every December when we set up the tree. I have done the same for my kids, so when they are older they can survey their pile of Tow Mater and Barbie ornaments the way I look over my Garfield collection and have a smile.
I do the same for the pets, but they don’t get a new one every year. When I get a new pet, they get a stocking and an ornament that first Christmas. Each year I put it on the tree and I can be either reminded of how glad I am to have them in my life, or have a smile as I remember them fondly and reminisce about what Christmas decorations they destroyed.
Mulan died on New Year’s Eve, 2008, a couple of months before I started the blog. My mother, still coming down off her post-Christmas rush, spotted a Golden Retriever ornament at a post-Christmas sale and snatched it up, with a brilliant idea: I will glue feathers on it and make Jessica a Mulan-angel ornament. She painstakingly crafted this piece, then set it aside for the year.
As you know if you’re a regular reader, 2009 was a banner year for me in terms of “death, the gift that keeps on giving.” By the time the holiday season arrived, my mother retrieved the ornament from storage and realized geez, I had a whole lot of pets disapparate over the following months. Not wanting anyone to feel left out- glue and feathers are cheap, after all- she hit the stores.
So here is the scene: Christmas morning, 2009. Smiling expectantly, she hands me a beautifully wrapped box, which I assume to be my yearly ornament. I open it.
A Commemorative Death Ornament. I pick it up, examine the wings, and start crying. Mom pats my shoulder sympathetically, allowing my emotions to wash over me. Then I realize I STILL HAVE TWO BOXES TO OPEN.
Mom hands me the second one hesitatingly. I take it apprehensively.
A “Merry Christmas! Sure do wish I could be there to enjoy a big bone, but I can’t, because I got lymphoma” ornament. Then I cried even more. By this point I’m pretty sure I don’t want to open the last box unless it contains something happier, like a razor blade and a packet of salt. Mom is chewing her lip, thinking perhaps this wasn’t the best idea. The kids are starting to notice something is wrong.
And so I take the last one, against my better judgment. I am hoping against hope it is a new Brody ornament.
Let me remind you, at this point Callie had been missing for three months. I knew she was probably gone, but I was still hopeful that perhaps she was still alive. Mom, apparently, was not. This is the “Admit Defeat, your Cat Died” commemorative ornament.
I was not the only one laboring under such delusions. My kids, at the time 5 and 3, believed me when I said that Callie had probably run away and been taken in by kindly neighbors who just never saw the 500 fliers I stuck up around the neighborhood. So they saw this, saw me crying, put two and two together and said, “CALLIE’S DEAD??” And then they started crying too.
I had no answer for them, because I was in the kitchen, pouring Bailey’s into my morning coffee to offset the salty tears of my despair. I have no idea what my husband told them. My mother, by this point having realized the holes in her sentimental plan, had nothing to say except, “I also got you some chocolate.”
I laugh about it now, as I put them up next to my new Brody and Koa ornaments (sans feathers). But oh, that was a rough morning, down in infamy as the year my poor sweet, mortified mom realized the emotional impact of an ambush “sorry you lost 75% of your pets and oh yes, your cat did in fact die” on Christmas morning.
If you do the Christmas tree thing, do you have ornaments for your pets? What about special angel ones?