Special Gifts


Did you ever get a really special Christmas ornament?

Now this can be a good or bad question.

For example, when our children were small they often made “special” ornaments in school. Like most parents we displayed them on the tree for a few years and then they were carefully stored away for the future. Actually, that is true as my wife saved almost everything that they made.   We had a friend who told her children that they should put their school made ornaments on the back of the tree near the window so the people outside could appreciate them. A pretty slick ploy if you think about it.

Some ornaments truly are good, I still have a large red ball that I got when I was 5, about 66 years ago, with my name on it. My wife has hand-painted snow scenes of Alaska on several balls that are on our tree. We also have many ornaments that are from areas where we lived: Alaska, California (San Francisco), Virginia (the White House), Colorado (AF Academy)… well you get the idea.

Then there are the ones that people give you.

My mother went through a series of Campbell Kids ornaments that she gave us each year. We finally had about 12 of them. Why she picked them is beyond me, but we graciously accepted them.  My wife thought it might have been a Campbell’s promotion, send in so many soup labels and get an ornament.   And of course we put them on the back of the tree near the window, so the people outside could appreciate them.

Actually this was not the first time my mother gave us many, many of the same items.   The first was “THE GREAT OWL CAPER.”

When we lived in Alaska, our friends had given us a small owl candle holder, which we had in our bathroom.  After my mother visited in 1975, she began to give us more owls.  We got owl lanterns, owl statues, big owls, small owls, owl towels, and even an owl toilet seat cover.  It went on and on for several years until she shifted gears.

And so we now had the famous OWL Bathroom which always amazed our visitors.   This was a dangerous thing.  They saw the owls and began to give us more owls.   Now I am not of the opinion that if one is good a million is better.   So we issued the great Owl Moratorium which prohibited the giving of Owls to us, our children, siblings, aunts and uncles,  and anyone we may have ever known, lest they come back to roost in our home.

So the ongoing Christmas ornament craze was nothing new to us.

Then mother turned to sending ones from Hershey Chocolate.  I am not sure where she found them.  I surmise in those pre QVC and Home Shopping Network days, she probably saw an ad in a Sunday paper magazine.   Parade often had ads for very special gifts such as elaborate nativity scenes featuring the peanuts gang or various pop culture items as Elvis dressed as Santa.   Now grant you, we probably weren’t easy to buy for — so to her this seemed like a nice gift.  We had after all taken the children several times to Hershey Park in Pennsylvania.  So a Hershey ornament or two or eight seemed to be a great gift.

I hate to sound like an ingrate, but after she passed on we felt that all these “Special Gifts” were too good for us to have alone.  So we decided to share them with others in yearly garage sales.  It was either that or continue to place them on the back of the tree for those outside to see.  That said we did keep one to remember her and all those other special things she did for us over the years.

After all in the words of my mother:  “You can never have too many Owls.”

Ho Ho Ho


About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
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