Simple Gifts: A Cherished Christmas Decoration and “Friend”

By , December 24, 2017

Every year, as we pull out our Christmas decorations, we anticipate seeing an old friend: Bob the snowman.

“Bob” has been with us so long that we no longer remember, for sure, exactly where he came from.

Here’s what we do know: Michelle and I picked up this tiny plastic snowman at a Hallmark store, probably somewhere in Oregon, near Christmas, somewhere around 1983 – 1984 (the design is copyrighted 1983). We named him Bob immediately, for reasons we forget.

toy snowman

Bob, our tiny, long-time Christmas friend (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Bob made a perfect Christmas/winter ornament for a young couple, just starting out in life. We moved a lot back then, following my broadcasting career—Michelle figured we moved house 14 times in our first 11 years. A decoration that is so small it can sit on virtually any flat surface, even in the smallest apartment, while bringing joy to its owners, is something to cherish throughout a lifetime. Bob is so small, in fact, that we have to pack him carefully in something larger we’re sure to look inside—like a favorite Christmas mug—early in the season. Besides, it couldn’t have cost very much; it fit our frugal budget, certainly.

Of course, when Aly came along, Bob acquired an ardent new admirer. As a small child, Aly was fascinated with the miniature. This little snow man, a fixture in her parents’ home(s) for a decade before she joined them, delighted a small child’s heart, and continues to do so today.

Bob got a new “job” in the early 2000s. When we lived in Juneau, we joined friends for a standing “game night,” at which the one constant, among revolving games and participants, was double-twelve Mexican Train dominoes. In the version we learned from our hosts, each game includes a blank hand, on which anyone can play; they always referred to this hand as “Bob.”

Our friends gifted us a set of double twelve dominoes, about the time we first bought our homestead, and began to talk about moving here. We use them throughout the year, but especially in the winter months. As such, it’s become somewhat of a “Christmas game” in our household. And, when setting up the blank hand, it only makes sense for Bob the snowman to see to his namesake hand.

architecture made from dominoes

The dominoes don’t just get used for Mexican Train . . . (Photo: Michelle L. Zeiger).

Now, Bob has lost a little of his paint, and has yellowed a bit with age. Even so, he’s likely our first Christmas decoration to appear each year, and the last to get put away. We often keep him out all winter, only packing him away, along with the winter wine glasses (see Samhain Welcomes Winter) on February 1st, the date we acknowledge as the first day of Spring (see The Circle Turns Toward Spring). A snowman is, after all, more a symbol of winter than of Christmas, despite strong cultural associations.

Such a small decoration, so cheaply purchased, and so long enjoyed, is a Simple Gift to be cherished.

It’s Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas!

2 Responses to “Simple Gifts: A Cherished Christmas Decoration and “Friend””

  1. Angie says:

    Mark, I was 20 or 21 and my roommate and I were unemployed and flat broke. Rent was paid but there would be no tree or presents, and I really mourned the lack of a tree. One day he found a discarded tabletop-size fake tree, handed it to me and basically said, “Merry Christmas, so shut up.” I made popcorn-and-cranberry garlands, and hung anything small and shiny I could find. A friend had earlier passed along a huge box of cheap crayons (the kind with more wax than pigment) she didn’t want, and I got the ridiculous idea of making ornaments from crayons. This involved thread, straight pins from my sewing basket, and some experimentation — ornament hooks would have been an added expense. The upshot? Our tree was beautiful and I still have those threaded crayons. Every year they are the first ornaments to go on the tree. Blessings on your Bob the Snowman, and Merry Christmas to all.

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Lovely story, Angie! Although, we may want to overlook the “Merry Christmas, so shut up” moment!

    My parents used to baffle and embarrass us by their insistence that poorly scribbled-on paper print outs from Sunday school continue to “grace” the Christmas tree long after we’d grown old enough to despise them, but I’m beginning to understand their reasoning now. One of the family ornaments I like best are the tops of tin cans clipped and bent into bells. They look horrid, but they were integral to our family Christmas ever since I can remember.

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