When Christmas arrives, residents break out the ornaments for the trees. For Liz and Bob Schnarr of Morton, they have more than just tinsel and popcorn.
Their Christmas tree is decked out with artifacts from their personal lives and experiences covering most of the 20th century.
This tree finds a home for all kinds of ornaments: conventional and unconventional, typical and unique.
Other ornaments are more exotic and come from destinations such as China, Japan, Germany, and the former Soviet Union.
Their collection began involuntarily in 1956.
The red orb came from Grinnell College’s Reed Hall. The orb had hung from a college Christmas tree and had been given to the Schnarrs in the aftermath of a Christmas party.
Mil Christie was a pharmacist like Morton’s own Bob Schnarr. Christie’s career had taken him all over the world, and he often brought back the Schnarrs’ souvenirs of his travels. Liz requested that Christie bring her ornaments.
Christie often answered that call for ornaments; some could be hung on the tree and others could not be. Liz often had to modify the ornaments in some way or another for them to be hung.
An obe from Japan and a Babushka doll from Russia both needed to be adjusted by Liz to be suited for hanging on the Schnarr’s Christmas tree. Another Russian icon from the Soviet era is in the Schnarr’s possession, a Lenin medallion.
One particular ornament really stood out on its own. This was a plastic baggie with three pieces of rubble from the Berlin Wall, a not too traditional piece of Christmas lore; yet still fascinating.
“Friends of ours were in Berlin after the wall was torn down in 1990 and they managed to bring back these pieces for us,” Liz said.
These 22 old pieces of rubble are talismans of history, and a reminder that something negative can become positive. The Berlin Wall was a symbol and device of oppression; yet these three pieces are now linked with a symbol of hope and prosperity: a Christmas tree.
The Schnarr’s do not have a particular favorite ornament. Both Bob and Liz acknowledge that each ornament is special in their eyes.
Liz said that some of the people who gave them ornaments are “no longer with us.”
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But, the ornaments, in a sense, are memorials, invoking the spirits of the givers into the Schnarr home to continue the celebration of Christmas.