Tag Archives: holiday

The Schmoo and other Notable Warner Family Christmas Ornaments

Over many years we have accumulated enough Christmas ornaments to decorate at least two sizeable Christmas trees. We never use them all, but there are many that always make their way onto a branch. I learned as a child, from my own family experience, that a decorated Christmas tree is not only a central theme for your holiday celebration, but a piece of history, each ornament telling its own story or having its own personal meaning. My wife has taken to labeling many of our ornaments with any relevant information regarding year purchased, where and why or who gave it to us a gift.  Like so many families around the world, part of the holiday tradition is the annual experience of digging through the cartons and recounting the significance of each ornament. Some bring back happy memories, some bring back sad memories and some of course make us laugh.

So here’s a top 10 list of ornaments on the Warner Christmas tree that have special significance to me. They’re listed in a somewhat chronological order. My wife and kids could probably generate their own lists as well, but these are my favorites.

Here goes…


The Schmoo:  The Schmoo was once a proud snowman, happily hanging in our tree when I was a child, covered in a white felt-like material with painted black eyes and a smiling mouth.  I used to like to play with the snowman until one year I got him all dirty. In my efforts to get the snowman clean, I took him to the bathroom sink and washed him with soap and hot water… at which time the snowman’s felt outer layer disintegrated and washed away down the sink. I cried and cried and cried and cried… and then cried some more. My brothers renamed him “the Schmoo”… which I’m not really sure what a Schmoo is… and he hung on our tree for many more years. Sometime after moving to Michigan in 1993, my mother visited and gave me the Schmoo along with some other leftover memories from my home. He still hangs on our tree today!


The “Steve” Ornament: I made this when I was a kid back in the early 1970’s. Actually like many of the things my kids brought home as toddlers, I figure my teacher probably made it and gave it to me. I know this because to this day I still can’t write my name that clearly in cursive. Amazing it still survives!


The Stocking: Another of my childhood creations. Not sure where I was going with this… perhaps this is what I thought Santa looked like at the time, you know, sort of like a terrorist. On the other hand, I do think that perhaps I had some insight into the future popularity of the goatee beard that so many men wear these days. The Stocking usually goes on the back of the tree, sort of towards the bottom, where it’s not very visible.


The Scary Plastic Made in China Santa Claus: When Kim and I were in college, the first year we were together, we scraped together the little money we had, took a trip into town to the local drug store and bought enough ornaments to decorate a small tree we had in one of our dorm rooms. I vaguely remember even having to call a taxi to drive us there and back because we didn’t have a car. We bought some glass balls, a few plastic icicles and snowflakes and other odds and ends. Several still hang on our tree today, one of which was this fantastic Santa Clause head. My daughter thinks it’s scary… she’s got a point.


The Beeswax Moose: My Mom bought me this ornament in 1990 when I was in college. Probably from LL Bean or some other Maine retail store. I went through a stage where I was into Moose things and this added to the collection. It survives to this day, it hasn’t melted, it hasn’t cracked, and it hasn’t fallen apart. Give some credit to the bees for producing an amazing, durable, all-natural material that can withstand 22 years and counting.


The Russian Girl: My brother and his wife were having trouble conceiving a child. After years of fertility treatments and other unsuccessful attempts at a pregnancy, they decided to travel to Russia in 1997 to adopt a baby boy, an absolutely amazing young man who is now 16. This ornament came back with them from Russia… with Love!


The Honeymoon Bear: Kim and I got married in 1992. We just recently celebrated our 20th anniversary. For our honeymoon we spent a week in Hawaii. We had reserved a week on Kauai, but that year a hurricane tore through and devastated the island. We had to quickly change our plans and ended up spending most of our time on Oahu. Still a fabulous experience and a place we hope to return to someday.


The Amish Buggy: In 2002 my mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor, a glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive, dangerous and malignant brain tumor. That summer, knowing that her days were limited, several members of our family took a trip with her to the Amish country around Lancaster Pennsylvania. It was a week I will not ever forget. My Mom passed away on October 20, 2002.


The Bear:  No particular history here other than we bought this ornament the very first Christmas we spent in Michigan after moving from the East Coast. It’s one of our favorites… just because it’s so damn cute.


The Kids Ornaments: Of course history continues when kids are introduced into the Christmas ornament mix. We have dozens of ornaments that the kids have brought home from pre-school and elementary school. Unfortunately all the ornaments made from that petrified cookie product, that teachers sometimes make ornaments with, have since rotted away. The one’s pictured are made from fired clay. With any luck, someday when my kids have moved away and started their own families, I’ll be able to pass these on.

What ornaments hold special significance to your family?


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Five Reasons I Dislike Leap Days

If perhaps you haven’t already heard, via the twenty-four hour news coverage, today is a Leap Day.

Here’s five reasons I dislike Leap Days.

5.  A Leap Day screws up a perfectly good month with the perfect amount of days.  Seven days in a week + four weeks in a month = twenty-eight days.  See how precise and uncomplicated that is? And I don’t even have OCD.  I think all the months should have twenty-eight days, then the seasons wouldn’t always be in the same months.  And I don’t even have OCD. Some years Christmas would be cold and snowy, other years you could hang out on the beach in a speedo sipping a strawberry daiquiri.  Not that I wear speedos and drink strawberry daiquiris, but, you know, other people might. Each month would start on a Sunday and end on a Saturday. And I don’t even have OCD. Plus, then us people who don’t have OCD wouldn’t have to sing that stupid “30 days hath September” song just to remember whether we’re in a new month or not.

4. There’s a lot of talk about frogs on a Leap Day and I don’t particularly like frogs.  Well, except for Kermit, he was pretty cool the way he could belt out a tune as smooth as silk and make the ladies swoon… and Frog from the “Frog and Toad” books. I loved those books and Frog was always so organized and calm and collected and proper. Toad on the other  hand, a goddamn train wreck, always losing stuff and forgetting things… and I can’t forget Judy the Frog from H.R. Pufnstuf, sure she was a secondary character, but she was always so happy and dancing around and making little kids smile… oh yeah, and the frog in the Frogger video game, that dude was the bomb, running all around the video screen in the eighties arcades… and Michigan J. Frog with his tuxedo and great top-hat, dancing and singing like Frank Sinatra… oh, and how about Keroppi the Frog, from the Hello Kitty series, he was so damn cute… and I can’t leave out Froggy the Gremlin from the Buster Brown show, sure a little creepy, but another smashingly well dressed frog… yeah, but for the most part I really don’t like frogs.

3. Apparently Leap Day is a day when it is considered acceptable for women to romantically pursue men. Now believe me, I think that’s great, a day set aside just for women to romantically pursue men. In fact, I think women should have the right to romantically pursue men any day of the year, Leap Year or not.  But a lot of women choose to wait for a Leap Day, so I have to spend the entire day gently turning down the legions of women that think its acceptable to be romantically pursuing me.

2. Leap Day is just another one of the many holiday’s during the year that I have to remember to shower my wife with love and flowers and gifts and jewelry and candles and wine and chocolates… and frankly, it’s hard to remember all of those days.  Wait… what… other women aren’t getting showered with love and flowers and gifts and jewelry and candles and wine and chocolates on Leap Day?  Oh… ummm…  well, sorry I brought that up.

and the number one reason I dislike Leap Days…

1. It’s just one more day in the year that I have to be sorely disappointed that I haven’t become famous yet.



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The First Noel

The dirty, slushy, wet city snow soaked my black wingtip dress shoes and the cuffs of my suit pants as I walked through downtown Boston towards the subway station. I had left work a little early to finish some last-minute Christmas shopping, but was now headed home, towards a Red Line train that would take me from Park Street to the Harvard Square stop in Cambridge where I was living, just outside of the Harvard University campus with my fiance.

It had been another shit day in a job that I was starting to hate. Christmas was on the doorstep and I was struggling to find any semblance of holiday spirit. I have always been a person who finds it difficult to compartmentalize my life, to shut one part off, while enjoying the others, and animosity and dissatisfaction in one part of my psyche quickly seeps through the rest of me, just as water will always find a level spot by creeping into the smallest crevices of wherever it’s flowing.

When I reached the station I walked from street level down the stairs into the cement abyss. The blast of heat and the usual stench of city life and homelessness and urine overwhelmed me. As usual, the station was packed full of people waiting for the next train, people headed somewhere, anywhere. Looking for an open place to stand on the train platform, I noticed a scraggly, young man, dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt, sneakers and a black, denim style jacket, standing against the wall with an acoustic guitar, hooked to a small amplifier. His guitar case sat open on the floor with a few coins and dollar bills inside. I didn’t think anything of it. He was just another hardened street musician trying to make a few bucks by performing to the masses in a stinky, smelly train station. I walked past as I’d walked past hundreds of these performers before, not realizing that this man was about to have a small, but profound effect on my life to this day.

The acoustic guitar notes coming from the small amplifier shouldn’t have been that crisp and clear, they shouldn’t have been that pristine… but they were. The man began singing a version of The First Noel and the song and the sound moved me for some reason in a way that I had not been moved many times before in the twenty-three years I had been alive. It was not the spirituality of the song, I was not and I am still not a religious person. It wasn’t necessarily the quality and talent of the musician either. But for a moment I was transfixed on this performance as if sitting in the famed Boston Colonial Theater listening to a Christmas concert. Something clicked and for a moment, I felt a kind of peace and happiness that has become so difficult to obtain amongst the commercialism of the holiday season.

The train approached as this man was playing the last few notes. On a whim, I reached into my wallet and pulled out a ten dollar bill and ran over to him and placed the money into his guitar case. The man smiled and said thank you and wished me a Merry Christmas as I turned to run back to the train. With a smile myself, I wished him the same blessings, not realizing that this would be one of those seemingly inconsequential moments in life that would somehow register in the front of my memory banks, easily accessible every December when Christmas Songs begin playing on the radio. I boarded the train and although I could no longer hear the music playing, I peered out the window and as this man began his next song, I wondered if anyone else standing on that platform had experienced anything magical, as I had.

Of course I never saw this man again. That’s life, especially in a large city with millions of people, where a fleeting, yet profound interaction with a complete stranger is always possible. As I contemplate my life these days, with the anxiety of a new career on the horizon, with the ongoing challenge of striving to find some level of success as a writer, with the persistent struggle to compartmentalize my life into those compact little pieces, and with another Christmas on the doorstep, I sometimes wish I could stand in the Park Street subway station and listen to that man play his version of The First Noel.

What seemingly inconsequential moments have you had in your life that you will always remember?


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