Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Memories

By: Marie Force

This is the story of a tuna can. On a cold winter day in 1972, a first grade girl took a tuna can to school for an art project. She cut out parts and pieces of old Christmas cards and glued them to the can. When her masterpiece was finished, she affixed ribbon to it, and a Christmas tree ornament was born. She took it home and proudly presented it to her mother, who oohed and ahhed and said all the right things—and then promptly relegated the masterpiece to the BACK of the tree. Oh the INSULT!

So the girl did the only thing a girl could do and moved it to the front where it belonged. Off she went to school. While she was gone, her mother did the unimaginable and RETURNED the tuna can to the BACK of the tree! And so it went, just about every Christmas season for the 32 years that followed. From front to back the sad little tuna can would travel in a battle of wills that was never discussed, acknowledged, or shared with anyone else.

The girl grew up, got married, and moved overseas with her new husband. She missed three straight Christmases at home. Ironically, in every photo of her parents' Christmas tree from those years, the tuna can sat front and center—finally getting the respect it so richly deserved. But when the girl came home for Christmas with her own family for the first time in four years, the tuna can was once again relegated to the back of the bus. Game on!

This is the girl's fifth Christmas without her mother, and the tuna can enjoys its premium spot at the front of her tree. No one moves it to the back anymore. The girl is thinking this could be the year she lets her daughter know that it is now her job to relocate the tuna can. It's probably time.

24 comments:

  1. "...this could be the year she lets her daughter know that it is now her job to relocate the tuna can. It's probably time."

    What a poignant story, Marie. Symbols are powerful things, aren't they? This mother tried to balance her appreciation of her daughter and with the value she placed on Christmas tree esthetics. She must have loved the tuna can. She never threw it away, or "lost" it, and yet she never hung it where it could be seen, except when her daughter wasn't there to see it. How equivocal.How human.

    Writer that I am, I couldn't help but think "What other ways could this little story end?"

    Instead of honoring her mother's memory by teaching her daughter a "tradition" of mixed messages, the girl could paste her mother's picture (maybe one taken at Christmas) in a tuna can. She could add tinsel and ribbon, and give it pride of place on the tree.

    There the memory of the mother and the tuna ornament would be--treasured in all their loving imperfection.

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  2. Mary Margaret,
    I love your suggestion! I will think about that. The girl's mother had much more of a wicked sense of humor than care over the esthetics of anything. A good practical joke--especially one spanning three decades--was much more important to her than how her tree looked. When the mother came to the girl's own house, where the tuna can now resided, she would MOVE it on the girl's tree, too. Never let it be said that this mother didn't practice persistence. LOL!

    Thanks for coming by Michele and Cheryl!

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  3. Marie, the mother sounds like she had quite a sense of humor...reminds me of someone else I know:-)

    And what Michele said. Awwww.

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  4. One good practical joke deserves another. All the better reason for the girl to "enshrine" the mother in a tuna can!

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  5. Kendra,
    The mother's sense of humor was definitely wicked! Her SON is one of the funniest people in the world. Side-slittingly funny in fact, except most of his humor is directed at his sister....

    Mary Margaret,
    Your evil twin has come out to play today, and I LOVE it! That would be the ultimate last laugh, wouldn't it?

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  6. Of course that should have been side-SPLITTINGLY funny... LOL!

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  7. I am all choked up over here! And not just because I am the worlds biggest sap. This is a sweet story that could have gone so bad with hurt feelings and so on, but humor reigned and the persons involved seemed to understand that teasing and jesting is another way to show love. I love this story. thank you so much for sharing it with us. And, if it is a vote, I kind of like Mary Margret's idea.

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  8. Yes, you are so right Sharon. My feelings were never hurt. Rather, my competitive spirit was roused. I don't think my mother really even consciously put the ornament out of the limelight. It's hideous. She just did what was best for the tree. LOL!

    And yes, MM's idea is growing on me. I am going to hand off the computer now to let my daughter read the blog and see what she thinks. I'll report back.

    And BTW, the DH thought I had truly gone over the bend when he caught me taking photos of the tuna can last night!

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  9. this is emily and i just wanted to say that unlike my mothers novels this story is true. and every year that little junk can gets more attention than christmas. haha

    love emily

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  10. Emily,
    You need to start hiding that can way in the back at the bottom so she'll have to WORK to find it! Got to keep your ol' Mom in shape, you know!

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  11. Update: the tuna can is missing. Must check back of tree.

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  12. Can I just say that you got me to tear up?

    Merry Christmas, tuna can lady!

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  13. Yes, you CAN, Judi! LOL! Thanks for your note.

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  14. Well, pooh! My comment got lost.

    This is the kind of tradition you've got to love and that lovely battle of wits.

    Linda

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  15. That's awesome, Marie! What a great tradition to have ;)

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  16. Hi Linda and Fedora,
    I am currently winning. The can is back in the front of the tree, but she will see it soon....

    I am stranded at home with a sick kiddo when i should be at a fancy shindig for DH's work. They are making me watch Ricky Bobby. Someone HELP ME!

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  17. I could send Fluff and Puff to rescue you, but that could totally backfire.

    Linda

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  18. Awww Marie! I think it's definitely time to initiate your daughter. Maybe you can write a book about it. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Tuna Can...

    Robin :)

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  19. Fluff and Puff would be more interested in the tuna than the can, Linda, but thanks for the offer!

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  20. I'm a little late with my comment on this one--this is seriously so funny and adorable! Holiday traditions are great. thanks for sharing, Marie!

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  21. Thanks, Danielle, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm sure you have similar stories about Mama Jackson!

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