2019-10-17, 18 – ornament, misfit

10-17, 18 ornament, misfit
“Trim up the tree with Christmas stuff…”

I guess we’re to the “cheating” phase of Inktober. First I dig out a drawing from more than 30 years ago; now I’m wrapping two prompts into a single drawing. But given how perfectly these prompts worked together, I don’t feel particularly guilty.

We have boxes and boxes of Christmas ornaments in our attic. Some inherited, many given as gifts, some purchased, and others crafted into existence by one or the other of us.

The item on the left is from the “some purchased” category. It’s one of a series of small ceramic, surprisingly screen accurate, ornaments produced by CVS in the late 1990s to commemorate some anniversary of a well-loved animated Christmas show. I don’t know what prompted me to buy any of these—we didn’t have Maia yet, so I can’t offer up the excuse that it was for her (though she does love these ornaments, every year rerouting them from the family Christmas tree to the little tree she sets up in her room). Its tie-in to the 10-18 prompt is, I hope, obvious.

The ornament on the right, on the other hand, is an example of the “crafted into existence” category.

Made with only the finest aluminum foil, egg cartons, yarn, and staples, this happy little elf was part of a limited run of, oh, maybe 20 or 25, lovingly produced and hand numbered (not really) in 1971 by the 5-year-old craftsboys and craftsgirls of Wilma Bockelman’s Canton Elementary School kindergarten class. How many of these do you suppose are still around? Only two have been cataloged. And, no, don’t bother looking on eBay: they almost NEVER show up there.

But wait! On closer inspection, this specimen isn’t a Bockelman 1971 at ALL! If you look carefully, you can tell that the yarn doesn’t show the fraying and wear consistent with the yarns used in that period. The face is drawn not by crayon but by colored pencil, with cleverly crude strokes designed to SIMULATE crayon. (Also, if you look a lot less carefully, you can tell that the hands and feet are, in fact, crumpled up aluminum foil and not the small jingle bells characteristic of an authentic B’71.) What is the MEANING of this forgery‽

The answer is the story of the origins of my favorite Christmas ornament ever.

My mother kept my original B’71, and it adorned our family Christmas tree every year. Likewise, Carolyn, the mother of my friend Eric—a fellow B’71 creator and owner of the only other known specimen—hung HIS B’71 on THEIR tree every year. Inexplicably but entertainingly, this became a source of great pride and discussion over the years.

Somewhere along the line, my mother LOST a box of Christmas ornaments. And, of course, my prized B’71 was in that box. Thus ensued a new family Christmas tradition: The Chiding of Marty for Losing My B’71. After several years of this, Mom had had enough, so she borrowed Carolyn’s B’71 and duplicated it. Her plan, no doubt, had been to quietly add it to her tree that year with some absurd cover story of how my B’71 had been rediscovered in some distant corner of the attic.

What Marty didn’t realize, foolishly, is that one doesn’t manufacture a B’71 without becoming something of a connoisseur of the egg crate/aluminum foil/yarn arts. I could tell at a glance that this was not, in fact, my treasured B’71 but in fact an ersatz monstrosity. And thus we entered the annual Chiding of Marty for Perpetrating This Offensive Forgery years.

I hope it goes without saying that all of this was good family fun. Mom taking the time to borrow Eric’s original B’71 and re-create it was an inspired counter to my annual taunting of her for losing mine. Since Mom died in 2003 (ay), I’ve retold this tale a million times, and every year that I take out her forgery, I can’t help but laugh.