As far as grandmother’s go, my Grammy P was the best. She made chicken roll sandwiches on hamburger rolls, which I thought was the height of haute cuisine when I was a kid, and every Christmas she gave me a special ornament for the tree—a handmade doll.It was always the same: a hand-beaded Styrofoam ball gown topped by a mini-Barbie head with a sweeping bouffant, and pipe cleaner arms that ended in tiny plastic hands. Sometimes she sewed Lilliputian blouses for them. Several of them were brides. One, my absolute favorite, was covered in peacock-blue sequins and wore a matching bonnet. Sometimes she made extra ornaments from bits of leftover fabric, like the Rudolph with a red bead nose or the Santa head beaded with seed pearls and sequins.
My grandmother’s been gone for a decade, and she suffered a stroke a decade before that. The last doll she gave me was when I was eleven or twelve. I’m 41 now. Half a dozen of the dolls have survived, including my blue doll ornament—her name is Polly. Some of the felted ornaments have survived as well. Every year, I dutifully put them all on the holiday tree.It’s those ornaments that spurred my own tradition as an adult. My husband and I buy a new ornament every year. The only rule: it has to be something related to what we did during the last twelve months. A Flying Spaghetti Monster tree topper. A miniature Scooby Doo lunch box. A tiny The Nightmare Before Christmas snow globe.
Our favorite is the plush Henry the VIII. He always has a place of honor on the tree. It’s the first ornament that gets commented on when someone new visits. After all, Henry the VIII was essentially a serial killer by proxy. We don’t have Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees ornaments (although maybe we should think about it—they do exist. Maybe it’s de rigueur for horror novelists. Guess maybe I should check my Horror Writers Association handbook.). Why we love him so much as more to do with our very strange visit to the Tower of London many years ago. Let’s just say it was memorable and leave it at that.
Of course, if you ever visit my house and remark on the ornament, I might tell you the whole story. And you can see Polly, too. Sometimes I like to hang Polly and Henry the VIII next to each other and imagine she was one of the beheaded wives. I wonder if Grammy P would approve?
What’s your favorite holiday decoration?
Nicole Wolverton once gazed into the abyss, and the abyss also gazed into her. She writes horror and dark thrillers as a result. Her debut novel, The Trajectory of Dreams, was called a “wholly original and fearlessly dark novel” by The Millions. Wolverton’s short fiction has appeared in Black Heart Magazine, Five Quarterly, and Dark Eclipse, among others, and she writes a regular column at BLOOM Magazine. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Society for Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators. She is represented by Michelle Witte of Mansion Street Literary Management. Find Wolverton online at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.