Fredericksburg Features

Columns and stories of life from the Fredericksburg area.

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How lovely are your baubles!


Once a year, we dig that box of Christmas ornaments out of the attic or the recesses of a closet, carefully unwrap the contents and trip down memory lane.

There’s the fragile one our parents hung on their first tree. And the silly one a friend gave us as a joke. And the beloved one of cardboard, yarn and macaroni that our baby—now with babies of her own—made in preschool.

We asked our readers to share the stories behind their favorite ornaments with us, and because it’s the giving season, they obliged.

To see pictures of all the ornaments, check out today’s Town & County section.

—Edie Gross

My husband, David, is an enthusiastic Elvis Presley fan. About five years ago, he gave me a musical Elvis ornament. Shaped like a jukebox, it has a holographic photo of (young) Elvis on the front. Thankfully, this was not the only gift he selected for me that Christmas.

Most battery-powered items die within hours, but not this one. Five years later, Elvis has not left the building. Every holiday season, he hangs on (the back of) our Christmas tree, happily crooning “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

—Anne Scott, Fredericksburg

We were living in Zaragoza, Spain, in 1977. Our 4-year-old daughter, Heather, decided that our Christmas tree needed an angel on top, so she made one out of card stock, scraps of felt, rickrack, yarn, sequins and stickers, which were found in my sewing box.

Later we saw one at the store and brought it home. When she realized her angel was going to be replaced, there were tears. The store angel went back, and it became tradition that her daddy lift her up to put her angel on the top of the tree. It was carefully packed each year and survived five more military moves. It is now a story we tell our grandchildren.

—Lois and John Steiner, Stafford

In 1962 we lived in Houston, Texas, with our first child, Evelyn. At that time, our milk and cream were delivered to the home by the Sealtest milkman and placed in a metal box kept by the front door.

That year, the milkman gave us this paper Santa that we had to put together by inserting tab A into slot B and so on. The paper Santa has always been our special ornament and placed where he was “front and center.” He will be passed down to my daughter eventually.

—Julie Kuzma, Spotsylvania

As I was decorating my tree this weekend, I wondered which ornaments I treasured the most. All of them, of course.

It’s always fun decorating and remembering the different kids and/or reasons we received some of the ornaments. But I believe the ones with the most memories are 39 years old. While my husband was attending Germanna Community College during our first year of marriage, I would paint the ornaments while I was waiting for him to come home from his class.

—Yolanda C. Raymer, Fredericksburg


My youngest daughter, Tricia, made a Christmas ornament from a sardine can for me when she was in the first grade. I have hung it on our tree every year for the last 36 years!! One year, I wanted a “pretty” tree and tried not to use it. World War III happened! And it was hung on our tree, right along with the “pretty” ornaments!

I even tried to give it back to her for her tree, but, nooooo, she wants it on MY tree! And, quite honestly, I’m glad she let me keep it! It’s in its proper place—on the very front of my tree, where it will remain until I’m gone!

—Ann Black, Fredericksburg

When I was 5, my mother and father took my brother Bob and me from Oley, Penn., to a place near Reading, Penn., to see Santa and a Christmas Village.

At the end, they told Bob and me we could each pick our own ornament to take home. Bob picked a Santa, and I picked the angel you see here. They were both hard molded plastic.

This angel has now been with me for 52 years, so that either makes me an antique or it! It now is the angel on the top of my husband’s and my Christmas tree every year and has been in Maine and Virginia.

It means more to me than all the other ornaments since it was the first that I got to pick.

—Eve Blackwell, Spotsylvania


This papier-mâché “partridge” was made by my daughter in first grade in 1963. It has hung on our tree every year—around the world.

—Phil Haynes, Spotsylvania

This ornament was on my grandfather’s first Christmas tree. He died in 1979 at age 97, so the ornament is approximately 130 years old. I believe it is a kugel ornament made in Germany in the 1800s. It’s about 14 inches around and 5 inches wide.

—Donna Neese, Stafford

This is my favorite ornament, probably because my children think it is so ridiculous. We have chocolate labs, and mine is named Ghiradelli. This ornament of a chocolate lab in a bikini reminded me of her after she had her puppies. It makes me giggle and oh so happy. I don’t feel like my tree is complete without it. We have one other chocolate lab, and if I ever run across another one of these, I will purchase one in her honor as well.

—Victoria Dehlbom, Spotsylvania

This is our most prized ornament. Our youngest daughter made it at Ferry Farm Elementary School in 1978. If you can’t tell, it is macaroni noodles glued to a thin piece of cardboard/heavy paper and spray-painter silver.

It has faded a bit over the years. For 31 years, it has adorned our Christmas tree and always is front and center for all to see.

—Curt and Leslie Enzbrenner, Stafford


Back in 1961, I was 13. After telling my Mom I told my mom that a particular drum ornament was my favorite Christmas tree decoration, she let me write my name and the year on masking tape and attached it to the inside of the drum. She said it would be mine someday.

She passed away in 1995, and I rediscovered the ornament, opened it and saw my name. It has hung on my Christmas tree ever since and brings much joy. The earliest photo I have of the drum on our tree is from 1953.

–Mike Timm, Sumerduck

My favorite ornaments would have to be my reindeer plates. They are white porcelain with a silver trim. The average person would not take appetizer plates and use them as ornaments, but I wanted to be different. Each of the plates has one of the eight reindeer on them, with Rudolph, of course, being the most noticeable and probably slightly larger than the other plates.

—Erika Hilliard, Spotsylvania


My aunt Eleanor Fleming made the little ice skates Christmas ornament. She was very talented and loved to make “crafty” things. She made the skates for me in 1978, the year that I was married. They are made of white felt, little pearls and paper clips.

Every year, I hang the skates on my tree and think of the nice memories that she created for me during her lifetime until her passing in 1998. My tree would not be complete without her lovely ornament.

—Eileen Greene, Stafford

My parents, Charles “Buck” and Mildred “Millie” Simpson, hung this ornament on their first Christmas tree in December 1948. As a child, I remember seeing one or two of these ornaments on our Christmas tree each year.

Sometime after I had my two children, Mom gave me one of two remaining ornaments as a keepsake. Several years before her death in 1991, she called to say she was heartbroken that she had dropped and broken her ornament. Needless to say, Mom was in tears. I lovingly returned the last remaining ornament to Mom, who proudly displayed it on her tree for several years thereafter.

For safekeeping, this 63-year-old mercury glass orb shares space in my china cabinet. Every time I see it, I think of my beloved mother and how she and my dad always made Christmas very special for my two brothers and me. I love and miss you, Mom.

—Joy Simpson Toombs, Spotsylvania


A tradition in my extended family while I was growing up was to write poems about each family member making fun of something that had happened during the year. Along with the poem, you received an ornament to represent the embarrassing/funny story. In 1993, I had just graduated from college and was working as a hostess in a restaurant in Northern Virginia. Two young guys came in and began flirting with me. I ignored them.

They sat at the bar. I excused myself for a quick trip to the restroom and then went to collect menus at the other end of the bar. As I walked by, they tried to get my attention. Again, I ignored them. Then, I heard them start to laugh and I thought, “Oh, they’re embarrassed that I didn’t pay attention to them.”

When I turned to come back to the hostess stand, one of the guys was on the floor laughing. The other one motioned me over, and while barely holding himself together, managed to tell me that my skirt was tucked into my pantyhose—leaving little to the imagination!

The attached ornament and poem from my mom, aunt and cousin, Lori, who lives in Fredericksburg, commemorate that most embarrassing moment!

Trina came home from Tech with a BA degree

Looking for grad schools, studying for the GRE

But she needed a job, a wardrobe and transportation

She trained as a server at Uno’s, big bucks her expectation

Wearing a dorky uniform just wasn’t her style

I’d much rather hostess, she said with a smile

Give me a long vest and a swirly short skirt

What if it causes some customers to flirt?

Did you lose this quarter, was a favorite line

No? Well, keep it and give me a call sometime.

One night, Trina was getting lots of attention

A group of fellows said, “There’s something we should mention.”

Problem with your pizza? asked Trina, always on her toes.

No, it’s just that your skirt is tucked in your panty hose.

Thanks you so much, Trina said, blushing

Next time I’ll be more careful when I’m done flushing.

—Trina Garrison, Williamsburg

I broke my ankle in three places and had to have two plates and seven assorted screws (including one deck screw) installed. Fortunately, I made a complete recovery, and being reasonably athletic, had the hardware removed to allow for full range of motion. To celebrate, I wanted to hang it all on the Christmas tree. Don’t you think that the festive plaid ribbon keeps it from being totally butt-ugly?

—Terrie Crawley, Fredericksburg

I made this when I was in kindergarten in Staunton, almost 35 years ago. Yes, it’s one of those “blown egg” ornaments. I vaguely remember the day I took it home from school. I think I might have looked something like Zuzu (from “It’s a Wonderful Life”) trying to protect her rose.

Luckily for me, no “petals” fell off. My mom took great care of it until I got married. Since then, it’s survived just fine in our household. But there are rules that go with this ornament: I am the only one to touch it. I personally unpack/repack it each Christmas. No one else is allowed near it. Well, near it, yes. Touch it? NO!!!

—Mike Allred, Spotsylvania

My story is not about an actual Christmas ornament but something near and very dear to me. My dad was 92 years old when he passed away in May of 2010. While cleaning out his apartment, I found a hat he had worn when he was installed as the master of his Masonic Lodge in the 1940s. I hung it on my wall and then at Christmas that year, I tied a red ribbon around it and used it as my tree topper. I plan to use it again this year. Every time I look at his hat, it brings back bittersweet memories for me.

—Carolyn Libby, Stafford

Several years ago, after our traditional Christmas breakfast, my family sat gathered around the Christmas tree to begin opening presents. Suddenly, my husband insisted that we open the box of Cracker Jacks that he had just bought. We certainly were not hungry, and even though we were eager to open our presents, I gave into his insistence and began to open the box.

Much to my dismay, my husband then began insisting that I pour the contents into a bowl and pass them around. As I emptied the box, a typical Cracker Jack toy fell into the bowl all neatly wrapped up in its little package. He then suggested that I open it to see what toy was inside.

At this point, I was becoming quite annoyed with my husband. However, as this was so out of character for him, I was swayed by his continued persistence and opened the package. Much to my surprise, a beautiful diamond ring fell into my lap. My family must have been in on the secret because we have pictures of the stunned look on my face, staring at my gorgeous ring.

My son commented that the only way he could top that was to announce the forthcoming birth of our first grandchild, which he did with a pair of booties all neatly wrapped up in a package under the Christmas tree.

Both the Cracker Jack box and the booties have become focal points of our Christmas decorations. Yes, that was certainly a Christmas to remember, but my wonderful family has given me many memorable moments, and I cherish every one of them. Merry Christmas, everyone!

—Anna Barnes, Bumpass

My tree is nothing but eggs! Ornaments that is. At least 200 over a 36-year span, made by my mom, Ann Luck (better known as the egg lady). From quail, genie, turkey duck and goose eggs. She did the top to my wedding cake as well (emu egg, I think).

Mom started selling her eggs to pay for my wedding dress 36 years ago. Many of her eggs were sold at The Free Lance–Star back in the day! She retired this year at the age of 80. The last egg she made sold for $1,000.

—Janice Luck Lancaster, Spotsylvania

In the 1980s, our homeowners association asked that each club in the community offer an ornament to be displayed on the community Christmas tree.

During that period, I was in a weekly poker group. We met every Thursday, each player taking turns hosting the social (we played nickel/dime). One of the wives thought that we should be represented on the Christmas tree. We decided on “The Shakespearean Reading Society,” and she made an attractive blue bird in a basket ornament with our Shakespearean identification. Sorry, no picture available!

We were represented on that tree for several years, and I think that there are some longtime residents who still believe that the Lake of the Woods Shakespearean Reading Society is a legitimate club in our community.

—Jeff Flynn, Orange

Edie Gross: 540/374-5428