Derpy Ornaments Bring Me Joy


As we decorated the tree this year, I got to thinking about my process of hanging ornaments. Start strong in the front and work to the back. Make sure every ornament has its own branch space to shine. And, if I feel fancy enough for any glass ornaments, they need to be extra secure and away from the dog’s tail potentially destroying them.

Then I was thinking more about the ornaments themselves. Buried in my parents’ garage is a storage tub packed with Barbie ornaments my grandmother gifted me. Every year I would select Barbies to be featured. I’d handle them gingerly as I scattered them around the tree first and then surrounded them with regular ornaments. I would always hang a Santa ornament near the top to communicate to the man-in-red that I knew who ran things around here and that I respected his efforts. And once that belief had faded, I hung him near the top as a reminder there’s still magic in the world, even if we have to create it ourselves.


As I got older, I grew to appreciate the little wooden ornaments. They’re so delicate and simple, many of them broken, the pieces lost to time—but you can’t seem to toss them. Whether it’s sentiment or for fear of angering the Christmas Gods, you keep them. Even if you don’t hang them because you somehow like the bittersweet feeling you get when you look at them.

You know those ornaments with the string you can pull and it moves its arms and legs? My parents have a wooden one that’s a girl with pigtails in a blue dress (I think she’s German or Swedish). Her thin neck’s broken a few times over the years. Parts of her have fallen off and been reattached. She’s been gnawed on by the dog. Having survived all that, I began to worry that some Christmas soon, she might not be fixable anymore. I’ve never seen another ornament like her and the thought of her not being on the tree someday made me sad.

A few years ago, I was in a store browsing ornaments when I spied these wooden Santas. What caught my eye was the string below their feet. I pulled it and was shocked its little wooden arms and legs moved up and down. I almost started crying right there in the store. I think it’s the simplicity, the nerd in me appreciating the pulley system that makes the ornament come to life. The look of the details painted on the wood . . . and honestly, it was nice to see something not made out of plastic. Of course I bought it, knowing that it would bring me joy whenever I looked at it on the tree and pulled the string.


Ah, the loveable derp. Over the years my friends have helped me appreciate the silliness to be discovered in the strange, poorly manufactured or just plain weird ornaments.


From a pink chandelier missing one of its fixtures . . .


To the derpiest penguin cupcake . . .



And this, what even is this? A jackalope? A reindeer-French bulldog hybrid? The world will never know . . .



Every year I look for the “one” to add to the hilarity. What could be next? You'll just have to stay tuned.

It's been a strange year, so many traditions had to be put on hold or made virtual or from a distance with masks on. But there’s one thing that didn’t change. When we unpacked the tree decorations and plugged in the four strands of lights, only half of one of the four was lit. So thanks Christmas Gods for keeping us humble, but we kept the boxes for these new lights (5-year warranty), so if something should be amiss next year—joke’s on you.

Happy Holidays, everyone! Our derpy hammerhead shark says, "Stay safe and be well!"



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