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Handmade Holiday Memories to Last a Lifetime – or Two

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By Bill Primavera

Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

Before I married, I had a roommate named Tom who was an excellent artist and craftsman, a fellow who added more taste and style to our place than one normally would expect to find in an apartment occupied by two bachelors.

We shared living space for little more than a year but when Christmas approached, he suggested that we have a tree, fully decorated. I was somewhat surprised, even resistant to such an idea – I was not what you would call domestic when I was young, certainly not a Home Guru in training – but he insisted. And, because he was really into crafts, he suggested that we make our own ornaments. I was definitely not interested in that prospect, so I suggested that he make the ornaments, and I offered to buy the tree.

Because he worked in the garment district, he had access to shops where he bought spools of ribbons, many kinds of different glass beads, sequins, buttons and feather plumes. With a supply of different sized Styrofoam balls and lots of straight pins, he had assembled all the makings of a home industry for ornaments. Artistic as he was, he crafted ornaments that were indeed sensational. Impressed by his artistry, I thought I’d try my hand at it and must confess, while I’m not at all crafts oriented, I enjoyed it, but hoped that I wouldn’t want to take up knitting next!

When I moved out, I didn’t get custody of the handmade Christmas balls, but soon after I was able to bring the concept to my wife and, as newlyweds, we had our first project to share.

In the days before A.C. Moore and Michael’s, not to mention Martha Stewart, the place to get the wildest stuff for ornamental projects was in the hat district of Manhattan, west of Fifth Avenue on 38th Street. On my way home from work each day, I’d pass through and buy interesting hat decorations from the time when women still wore hats.

Then, immediately following dinner, my wife and I would sit in the living room, spread out my finds on our large coffee table and get to work.

We came up with the idea of each making one elaborate tree ornament every year throughout our marriage. We got into our new hobby so much that it became an obsession the first year. The balls became more and more elaborate as we practiced our skills, and many were themed with their own names.

One ball, completely covered in pink ribbon ruching was named our Baby Girl ball, even though we didn’t have a baby yet. There was also the Grace Kelly ball with pale blue and yellow ribbons and pearls; the Swan Lake ball with white ribbons, white feathers and crystals; the Can-Can Girl ball with black and red ribbons, beads and a black feather plume on top; and our real piece de resistance, a large Faberge ball with semiprecious gems all over it, taken from old pieces of jewelry.

The tips of our thumbs had developed calluses from pushing in the pins until we got smart and used thimbles to aid our obsession.

We decided it would be safer to buy a large artificial tree so that there would be no threat of sap staining the balls. We kept producing our little gems until we ran out of space on the tree. We had become Christmas ball addicted.

During that first holiday season, we magnanimously allowed any visitor to select one of our creations for their own trees, and still the tree seemed overladen. The bottom line, however, is that we must have OD’d on our first year’s attempt because we haven’t made a single ball since then. We did, however, add antique and specialty ornaments over the years, as presents to each other.

As we have gotten older, our tree has become smaller, and our daughter, who was predated by that pink ribbon ball in her honor, is now the recipient, one by one, of our early Christmas ornament binge.

I guess that’s the kind of stuff newly-married couples do together, projects that can be appreciated later in life when there’s time to do so. And, that’s exactly what has happened.

While Bill Primavera has enjoyed careers as a journalist and publicist, he is now a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate, specializing in upper Westchester and Putnam Counties. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.


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