It took me about three days to decorate the Frantz family Christmas tree this year. That is probably because all my expert help has grown up and officially left the premises. In some respects it is a major bummer. I wish someone would have let me in on the secret when our babies were born that someday they would grow up and skydive off the edge of the nest. Looking critically at the three pounds of tinsel on the right side of the tree, decorating solo has given me lots of time to remember and smile really big like that portly cat in “Alice in Wonderland.” I probably grinned the widest upon popping off the lid on the large box of homemade ornaments the kids made while they were still in school. Collectively, the ornaments look without a doubt the most fragile, yet have held up the best after all these years. Yep, it’s sad to say I’ve busted more than a couple of boxes of glass ornaments over the last 40 years, while the elementary-school versions appear pretty much indestructible. You really gotta hand it to teachers. It’s amazing to me how many different ways Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer can be made by hot gluing three simple Popsicle sticks together. I never get tired of turning them over to see which of our three kids participated in the gluing and the year they were made. Yep, add a couple of eyeballs and a red felt nose, with a red pipe cleaner slapped on as a tree hanger, and Santa’s favorite reindeer is universally recognizable. I’ve noticed that teachers are also very clever, tugging on parental heartstrings with the use of fingerprints in their Christmas ornaments. We have one from Ricky when the dude was in the first grade. Knowing our son when he was little, I can just imagine how many other places his red fingerprints appeared throughout the classroom accidently and on purpose. Visualize a single red fingerprint on a small circle of white paper. A few straight black lines here and there remotely look like antlers. Add a happy face on the fingerprint and there is yet another reindeer variation. Oh, and don’t forget to laminate the whole thing and you’ve got a priceless ornament that I can attest will stand the test of time worthy of appearing in the King Tut exhibition. Personally, I’ve always liked it when teachers can incorporate photographs into their Christmas ornament projects. We have one when our special needs daughter was in an Early Childhood school program. Mimi is a tiny thing, about 3 or 4 years old, in the photo sitting on Santa’s lap. The chubby-cheeked little girl is gazing lovingly into Santa’s eyes. The photographer caught precisely, even to this day, how Mimi feels about Santa. The teacher cut the photo into a small circle and framed it with green felt so it looks like a Christmas wreath. Excuse me while I pull out a large tissue. Funny, I don’t know why but those expensive hand-blown, hand-painted glass ornaments covered in glitter from Germany never affect me quite the same way as the simple and sweet classroom version. I’ve got a few one-of-a-kind ornaments from those early years that don’t fit the Popsicle stick or photograph mold. I suspect a couple of my kids teachers musta took advanced graduate school courses in arts and crafts. I love the red and white chunky beads strung on a pipe cleaner that looks like a candy cane. Not certain which of my children to attribute the ornament to, but it’s pretty darn cute. My personal favorite in this category is a bunch of puzzle pieces spray-painted green and then glued into a circle in three layers. Can you imagine the bravery of a teacher cutting a bunch of little kids loose with bottles of good old Elmer’s and 40 to 50 puzzle pieces? The result is a perfectly round Christmas wreath with a red bow glued to the bottom. It’s a masterpiece. Michelangelo would have been proud. Now that I think about it, maybe our kids began the jumping from the nest process many years ago way back in elementary school. Yep, betcha $9 dollars it all probably started with Popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners and little bits of properly laminated paper. Dixie Frantz is a longtime Kingwood resident and newspaper columnist for the past 15 years. E-mail Dixie with your comments at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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