Above left: For 1984, the bone china unicorn was originally part of a boxed set - of "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" character ornaments. I'd actually admired them in various shops for several Christmas seasons in a row. They were manufactured in Taiwan in 1974 from A Company Of Friends. I wasn't enough of an "Alice" fan in those days to want the whole set, but several individual pieces were really appealing. When it became obvious (in 1985 and 1986, when people kept giving me extra ornaments) that I'd be needing two ornaments per year, not just one, I decided to buy the now-sold-loose, and bargain-priced, unicorn - and then date it retroactively. I felt quite justified in doing so; I'd wanted him for years, and would have bought him in 1984 if he'd been available as a separate item. The ceramic teddy bear is very heavy, and quite posable, as the arm and leg joints are on elastic bands. I stood in the shop for ages trying to work out which was the most expensive, single ornament that I really, really liked. And the teddy won out (but I think he was responsible for breaking several branches on my first plastic Christmas tree). Both of these ornaments came from Grace Bros. at Roselands, bought two years apart.
Above right: For 1983, the wooden donkey was my first Christmas ornament. (I'd yet to move out of home, but was saving to buy a flat.) The donkey is handmade, from two and a half dolly pegs, felt scraps, wool and wiggly craft eyes, by an elderly Californian neighbour of an American exchange teacher colleague, Rhonda, with whom I spent Christmas of 1983. Rhonda had taught with me in my first year of full-time teaching in 1982. She took me into Elta's house in Martinez to see "a traditional American Christmas tree" - and it was hung with hand-threaded strings of real popcorn (preserved since the tragic death of her daughter many years earlier), gorgeous, old, blown-glass baubles, and hand-crafted dolly peg animals. Elta asked, "Which animal is your favourite?" - and this was presented to me, duly signed and dated by Elta. She'd also made camels, reindeer, moose, horses, and many others, from different combinations of the wooden pegs. Truly charming! The cute fabric clown was "the" special decoration of the year at a large San Francisco department store, famous for its Christmas displays - one entire floor was strewn with fake snow - and a huge toy department. They had several large Christmas trees on display that were exclusively decorated only with tinsel and these little clowns, every one of them of different colours and patterns of fabric. For several years, my clown played "tree angel" and was perched at the top of my tree each Christmas, until he got demoted by a certain Vulcan.