A friend and neighbor posted on her Facebook page what she described as being a potentially unattractive ornament on her Christmas tree. She went on to explain that her father had been a photographer and that as children she and her siblings were permitted to paint spent flash bulbs and suspend them from ribbons on their tree. What might appear as an unattractive bauble to the uninformed was a beautiful tribute to her father and fond childhood memory.
We have a tradition in my family on Christmas morning which we have come to call “table gifts”. It began with candy canes and an age appropriate trinket on the Christmas morning breakfast table at my Grandpa Roses’ house. My grandfather has been gone for forty years and my own father for a quarter century and it is an honored tradition to this day at our Rose Family Christmas Breakfast, a 9:00 a.m. affair that rotates between my home and those of my two brothers. Each family contributes to what has become a small pile of useful gadgets, odd trinkets and inside jokes.
One year my brother gave us each an item retrieved from the remnants of our childhood home. Another year found one of my brothers reading from a small book about the terrifying lives of Gnomes. Eventually we began placing things at the places on the “children’s table” too, which ironically has more adults than minors at it now.
Despite forays after college to a few different states, my two brothers and I have been living in the same metropolitan area where we grew up for over the past twenty years. During one of our gatherings when we were reminiscing about childhood and my propensity to spill my milk at the dinner table on a regular basis and other mundane topics of our evening meals I mentioned that as a kid I had no idea what conduit was. If you are thinking “I have no idea what conduit is.” don’t feel embarrassed. My father was an electrician and conduit (pictured above) is the flexible tube that wires are drawn through. My father would sometimes refer to the size of a job he was on by the yardage of conduit he had “pulled” that day. I was familiar with conduit, because there was always some in the back of the family station wagon, I simply had no idea what it was called. I mentioned that by the time I was about seven it just seemed too embarrassing to ask “what exactly is conduit?” because I had been hearing about it since back in the day where I was seated in a high chair for my meals and not at my fathers immediate right where I sat for all of my post-high chair meals, even when my brothers were away at college and their chairs remained vacant for months.
We all had a good laugh the following Christmas where one of my table gifts was a small gauge piece of conduit, about the size of my pinky finger. I later took a paper clip, unbent it and wound it around the middle of it and bent it around a branch on my Christmas tree. It has been placed on my tree each year since and as it is put on I ask the question “Why do we put a piece of conduit on the Christmas tree?” and my children respond with “Because Grandpa Rose was an electrician.”
We also place a star of yellow tongue depressors (with just a smidge of glitter remaining) on the tree, for many years on the back with the comment “so people driving by can enjoy it”. The silly, the peculiar and to what some may appear to be the most unattractive ornaments are often the most special and memory evoking. Such a great reminder at Christmas that there is no reason to get stressed out over high cost presents and unrealistic expectations because years later it is never the things we thought were important that ultimately were important.
When it comes to the modern-day version of Christmas in the United States, so much of what makes the season beautiful is Christmas lights. None of that would be possible were it not for the noble profession of the electrician and that is one of many reasons that I proudly display conduit on our family tree!