Santa Squid and the Mafia Unicorn

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 11, 2009

Editor’s note: This column is a re-working of an old favorite from 2003. For the second year in a row, we have a tree that has what is euphemistically called “character.” What it lacks in evergreen perfection, however, it makes up for in size and the eccentricity of its decorations.
“That is one intimidating tree,” my daughter Spencer announced after the monster Leyland cypress was situated in our sunroom with its top branches hitting the ceiling.
As we were trimming the tree ó literally, that is, with clippers ó Spencer announced that she was glad that I was not the kind of mother who felt compelled to force a designer tree on her family. She’d rather have a fun, tacky tree, she said.
“Tacky?” I said. I was aware that perfect is an adjective that will not be applied to our Christmas tree, this year or any year, but tacky? That seemed a little harsh.
“Well, not tacky, but where not everything matches,” she said diplomatically.
I suspect she was trying to encourage my laissez faire approach to Christmas tree decorating so that I would not remove the tattered white unicorn she had just hung with great care on one of the branches.
At some point in the 35 or so years I’ve owned this ornament, a little dot of red marker has stained the unicorn’s side, making it look as though it’s bleeding from a gunshot wound. The tiny slug, presumably, is still inside, because there’s no exit wound on the opposite side.
“That’s not very Christmasy,” I said.
“I like it,” she said. “It’s the Mafia Unicorn.”
Comments like these are what happens when you abdicate parental authority and let 13-year-olds watch “The Godfather.” Plus they are apt to quote lines like, “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”
So the Mafia Unicorn stayed, and we had a good time reminiscing about the old ornaments, including a construction paper and cotton ball Santa Quinn made in pre-school by tracing around her hand.
From an artistic standpoint, the Thanksgiving turkey hand makes sense to me. The Santa hand, however, is a little freaky. The thumb is decorated to look like the trailing part of a festive stocking cap; that much I get.
But the other fingers dangling down at the bottom serve as Santa’s chin (beard?) and look for all the world like tentacles. It’s Santa with a quadruple chin, but the chins are vertical, not horizontal. Still, I would never dream of relegating Santa Squid to the Ornaments from Christmas Past box.
I learned my lesson years ago about weeding out things my children have made.
The year that Quinn was 3, she made enough valentines to cover all of Julia Roberts’ ex-boyfriends and husbands.
Because of the sheer volume of them (the valentines, not Julia’s men), a few ended up in the trash.
If I had been a bit sneakier, my shameful act might have gone unnoticed, but Quinn passed the wastebasket and spied one of her valentines ó no doubt a glittery red construction paper heart impaled with Cupid’s arrow.
With real anguish in her voice, she asked: “Who said you could throw away my love?”
An arrow through the heart indeed.
So Santa Squid stays.
I think, however, that if we were to vote on a favorite family ornament, it would be the Four Scarvey Bears, a new addition ó sort of.
The ornament started out as a mama bear, papa bear and baby bear, labeled Katie, Dave and Spencer. Someone gave it to us back in 1990 to commemorate the birth of our first daughter. Spencer, of course, has always loved the ornament. It reminds her of that brief shining moment in history when she was an only child.
“Why is my favorite ornament on the back of the tree where no one can see it?” she asked.
“I didn’t want to make Quinn feel bad,” I said.
“Thank you for respecting my feelings,” said Quinn, making me suspect she has a counseling career ahead of her.
I’ll never forget the look on Quinn’s face when she first saw the Three Scarvey Bears ornament years ago.
“Where am I?” she wailed.
“Baby bear, you weren’t born yet,” I said.
“I don’t think we should put that ornament up anymore,” she said.
To her, the ornament was irrelevant, not to mention insulting. This year, instead of bah humbugging about it, she took action.
She reached in the ornament box and pulled out a tiny bear made of the same kind of clay that the three bears ornament is made of, with a similar style and feel.
“Where’s the hot glue gun?” she asked.
While Mafia Unicorn eyed the glue gun anxiously, we hot glued that little bitty bear right on top of Spencer bear, where it perched cozily on Spencer bear’s head.
Baby Bear, by the way, features a tiny red heart, but not one with an arrow through it, thank goodness.
The Four Scarvey Bears ornament is now hanging in a position of honor on the tree, not far from Santa Squid.
Come to think of it, maybe it is the perfect tree.Contact Katie Scarvey at kscarvey