The Company I Keep (Bill) –

I have a lot of things hanging on the wall of the ceramics studio. All of them practically placed within easy reach for a specific task.

There is a pin board on the north wall that holds nothing practical. Only the reminders of how fortunate my life has been.

My Uncle’s Ornaments (Beth) –

I don’t notice the loosened pin until I take the photograph, but there it is, through the soul of the red velveteen bird clinging to the ornament. She shares her perch with another permanently winged thing and a cluster of artificial berries. Velveteen leaves, not quite ombre in their effect, are pinned to the styrofoam globe with faux jewels. Plastic pearls, most elegantly arranged, complete the look.

Daniel D’Imperio, an antiques expert living at the Jersey shore, made this ornament decades ago. He was my uncle, my mother’s brother, and with all the ferocity in the world, I loved him. Sometimes he would bring the tools of his trade to the house where my family lived and, together on a wobbly card table, we would work. My job was always the simplest job. Still, we pricked our fingers just the same, and we both, by day’s end, smelled like glue.

My uncle’s ornaments hung from the branches of my parents’ Christmas trees. Mirrored balls. Cornucopia balls. Tasseled balls. Ornaments boasting faces and Santas and storybook scenes torn from antique scrapbooks. Year after year, the limbs of the trees grew heavier, until one year the whole thing toppled. The lights, the tinsel, and my uncle’s ornaments lay scattered across the floor.

In time, my brother, sister, and I were given ornaments of our own, but when my uncle died suddenly years ago, we understood that among our many new, irreparable losses was this: There would never again be another new ornament to hang from our holiday trees.

We were wrong. Last Thanksgiving, my brother arrived with a mysterious box. After the final dessert had been served and the last glass of wine had been poured, I was invited to take a look inside. There, within the crisps of old tissue paper, were more of my uncle’s ornaments. A wild fluffy thing. An F. Scott Fitzgerald scene. A fabric heart. These birds on their autumnal perch which, today, but only for a moment, I hung from a massive rhododendron tree.

For thirty years this trove had sat in a stranger’s closet, then sat in another stranger’s closet, with a note insisting on their delivery to my brother, sister, and me. For thirty years these ornaments had waited patiently, and then—a miracle of luck, coincidence, and fate (?)—they made their way to us. My brother divided the trove equally.

I will never hang my new old ornaments on any Christmas tree. I will always hang them from old coat hooks in my bookmaking room so that anyone, at any time, might see. Mostly, though, I hang these ornaments to keep me company. They are here, and so he is. They were found; he is not lost.

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