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VERSIONS OF US

Cindy Maddera

Michael and I choose a new ornament for the tree every year. The ornament is supposed to reflect something about us and the year. Our first year ornament makes absolutely no sense. Santa is riding a giant trout and there’s a fishing pole dangling out of Santa’s hand. It’s ridiculous and confusing. And completely appropriate for the time. This was probably six months after we first met; four months after he had officially moved in. We were ridiculous and confusing. The second year we bought a record player ornament. It was the year Michael had set up his record player and I bought a bunch of Doris Day albums. Later ornaments would be a camper (of course) and something Star Wars. Then we stumbled upon two ornaments that carried an odd resemblance to us. The guy had a curled mustache and wore an orange sweater. The girl sported a stocking cap on her cropped brown hair. They were ornament versions of us.

This would become a recurring thing. We now have two small doll like ornaments. One doll is wearing a plaid shirt with hiking boots. He’s sporting a medium length beard and holding a small Christmas tree. The girl version is bundled up in a coat and scarf. She’s holding ski poles even though there are no skis on her feet. The resemblance is uncanny. The two ornaments look so much like us that we even considered using them in our Christmas card. Maybe I did. I vaguely remember taking a crappy picture of the Cabbage holding the two dolls. Michael and I were looking around Target on Saturday for this year’s ornament and I heard him say “Hey look! It’s us!” I turned around to see him holding up a gnome with a long beard and girl doll wearing a cap and scarf. I guess a cap and scarf are my go to winter looks, but I busted out laughing at the idea of these two being the ornament versions of us. They are by far the most hilarious versions we’ve come across. We bought them along with a seal ornament because this year we saw a lot of seals.

Earlier in the day we had been talking about Christmas cards and pictures for the cards. I always start out with an intention to take or have someone take a nice festive picture of the three of us, but it is so hard to coordinate. It doesn’t help that the Cabbage is in that poser stage where it is more reasonable to believe that one can collect marshmallow poop from unicorns then it is to get a genuine smile from her. For this year’s card, I didn’t even try. I just used some random pictures I’ve taken this year and I’m perfectly happy with this. As we talked about the cards, Michael mentioned the idea of us wearing ugly Christmas sweaters. I winced slightly and replied that Chris and I had already done that. Chris and I used to plan out elaborate Christmas cards. We took joy in the whole process. It was like preparing for our very own Christmas pageant and we would start making our plans for the photo shoot in October, gathering costume materials and backdrops. People looked forward to what we’d do for the next year. I’m not going to lie. That first Christmas after Chris died and I had to put Hooper down, I considered photographing their coffee cans of ashes wearing Christmas hats for my card. I didn’t because I figured there was less than a handful of people who would see the dark humor in this. Everyone else would just see it as the the sad country song that it really was.

I don’t even attempt the elaborate Christmas card with Michael and the Cabbage for a number of reasons, but mostly because I’m not trying to recreate a life I had. The things that made sense for me to do in my relationship with Chris doesn’t make sense to do in my relationship with Michael. Because it is not the same relationship. Chris and I had our own thing. We made silly Christmas cards. Michael and I have our own thing. We find versions of ourselves in Christmas ornaments.