One of my favorite ornaments came to me from a neighbor. Miss Nettie, one of our original neighbors 39 years ago was not the most pleasant person to get to know but we wore her down with kindness over time. I really believe she just needed a friend and didn’t know it. Nettie was in her 70’s when we bought our house and she liked things done a certain way. She liked the leaves from our 100 year old oak trees all picked up on a daily basis. She liked the lawn mowed every week so it looked smooth. She liked the snow shoveled cleanly so that the asphalt could melt any residual snow and look clean and tidy. All these things and more she liked; and left us notes in our mail slot about how we were not keeping our house up to her standards. Initially I thought it was rather weird that a neighbor would tell us how to upkeep our house but then I realized she was just lonely.
I decided to start baking; one thing I knew how to do well. The idea of shoveling snow with such precision was not in my wheelhouse but baking? Now, that I could do! So I brought small plates of cookies, cupcakes, or small loaves of tea breads to Nettie. After a while if she asked, I’d stay for a cup of tea but in the beginning I just dropped the tasty treats off and wished her well.
What really turned Nettie’s heart was our daughter. Heidi was a precocious child and just didn’t understand why someone wouldn’t love her. The year Heidi was 3 we made May baskets for a few of the neighbors. For those that do not remember; May Baskets are the act of leaving a surprise of flowers hanging on a doorknob on May 1. It was a custom in the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s. Nettie probably had some suitor leave her a May basket as a young lady but she told us no one had remembered this custom for many many years.
Heidi decided to leave one for “Grandma Nettie” as she called her. This little sprite with a bunch of flowers lovingly offered to a crotchety old lady just melted Nettie’s heart…..also calling her “Grandma Nettie” softened this seemingly tough old lady. They became best of friends. Nettie lived next door until Heidi went away to college, asking about her all the time. She became one of our best neighbors. When she passed away, I was given the chance to go into her estate sale before anyone else. I chose this bird ornament and a black teapot ornament to remember her by. They are two of my favorite pieces.
The bird ornament has feet that clip on resting on top of the branch. The bird is about 6 inches in length, made of the thinnest hand-blown glass and painted like a chickadee with the black skullcap and rosy breast. In his tiny beak he holds a berry that dangles and wiggles with any movement on the tree. His tail is made from fiber optic type material that catches the light and shimmers.
The tiny black teapot is only about 1 1/2 inches high and 2 inches across from spout to handle. Delicately blown from glass and painted black with rosemaling style flowers it can be difficult to see on a dark tree. It’s diminutive handle and spout are almost not visible and the black color helps this little pot disappear into the boughs of the tree. Since acquiring this teapot, I have collected many more of this style, tiny thin glass with rosemaling flowers decorating the sides.
Every year when I put these ornaments on the tree, I fondly remember our neighbor Nettie and how she turned out to be such a wonderful friend.