Cheryl Ashlie.

MacDuff: Under a towel on Christmas morning

Warm wishes from our home to yours.

Every year in early December, I assume the crouch position and manoeuvre myself into our crawl space to extract the Christmas decorations that seemed to have multiplied during the summer months.

I am the first one to admit that no one needs the amount of decorations that I have collected through the years, which is due to the fact that I am a sucker for anything red, green or glittery in the form of a Santa, reindeer, nutcracker or angel, especially when offered at 40-60 per cent off during the after-season sales.

But in my defence, I know I am not alone in this addiction to all things jolly, as I see the Facebook posts of people’s homes decorated from top to bottom and know that they, too, will be hitting the sales to find the next treasure that will ensure Merry Christmas screams from the rafters the minute they open the front door to their holiday guests.

Consumerism is clearly alive and well during the holiday season, as even people who do not partake in the Christmas side of the holidays still like to take advantage of the bargain prices that come with the holidays.

Based on a survey of 1,000 people by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP Canada, this year eight out of 10 people plan on spending the same or more than what they spent last year and last year, on average, people spent just shy of $1,100.

I won’t say where I fit in within the spending category, as my husband might find out, but I will admit that a few dollars will be spent on yet another decoration.

Holiday spending aside, I believe my decoration obsession is linked to a vivid memory that I have from my childhood of a most memorable Christmas. The snapshot that replays in my mind every Christmas is of a tall present wrapped in a towel leaning up against the fireplace hearth in a sparsely furnished room. The home was one of the many rental homes I lived in as a child and the present was the most beautiful doll any little girl could ask for, which I promptly named Rosemary.

My mom worked hard to buy that doll and she never accepted any social assistance, so wrapping paper, decorations and ornaments were out of the question. But it didn’t matter to me, as the surprise of what was under that towel was there on Christmas morning and it created a memory that can never be taken away, which is a good thing, considering the family dog ate Rosemary a few years later.

This memory — not the dumb dog memory — may drive my need to have all things Christmas around me, but it is also the reason why, if all of the decorations in my crawl space were to be lost to me, I would only cry over the loss of six items.

The first item is the box of green bell ornaments that are in their original packaging from the now obsolete Woodwards department store, which I inherited from my mom when she downsized from our family home.

My second favourite is a pair of porcelain angels, which also belonged to my mom. Both these items bring tears to my eyes when I unwrap them, as the memories of my mom are all that I have and I miss her a lot.

The next three items are related to my kids. The first is an acorn shell that, with the aid of felt and glue, was transformed into a mouse that my younger son made in Grade 2 with the help of some moms who assisted in the classroom. The mouse is now moldy, but until it turns to dust, it will be forever cherished and placed on the tree.

My daughter is represented by a “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament that my brother gave her, which is fitting, because 25 years later he is clearly her favourite uncle.

My oldest son contributed the next one, which is a clear plastic ball that contains a scene made from filo, which is hard to describe, as he was five when he made it and, well, we just don’t know what it is supposed to be, but it is beautiful all the same.

The last decoration is a small metal star that holds a picture of our friends’ son who passed away in 2001 at the age of 20 and my daughter always makes sure it is front and centre on the Christmas tree – an act that portrays the grief that we share with our friends at this time of year.

So while I now enjoy having the ability to purchase Christmas “stuff,” to me, these six ornaments reflect what is really important in life: family, friends and community.

And Christmas affords us an opportunity to celebrate each, in our own way.

I would like to wish a Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it, and to all others, warm wishes from our home to yours.

Cheryl Ashlie is a former Maple Ridge school trustee, city councillour, constituency assistant and

current citizen of the year.

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