Meet our new gnome tree-topper.

He makes us positively gleeful.

For years, my family’s Christmas tree was graced with a paper cut-out of a Nisseman.

Several moves and several years later, alas, he became awfully wilty: way more bent-over than set-atop our tree.

Coupled with the fact that our Tomte was pictured with a cat, which no one in the house likes, not least of all because we are all deathly allergic to them, the kids and I decided that this was the year to find a new topper.

The matter of a new tree-topper is no small thing, as far as we are concerned.

Oh no.

We are talking heirloom stakes here.

Christmas trees are where memories are made.

For example, here is a picture of my father trying out his new basketball hoop eyeglasses, which arrived at our door last week from some mystery gifter, for some mystery recipient (after opening the box, Else and I decided that they were clearly an early delivery from Santa meant for my dad; looking at these pics [even more the video of him making a basket on the first wear, and only the fourth try, which, after much effort, I have decided not to post], obviously we were right]).




No ordinary tree-topper should oversee these moments. No sirree.

So, starting at about the end of November, Else and I started scouring the web for tree-toppers: “homemade tree toppers” “rustic tree toppers: “not-kitschy treetoppers” “not gloppy tree-toppers”…every tag you could think of, we googled, and came up empty.


So discouraging.

However, one day, about two weeks ago, I went to my favorite local coffee shop, the Cedar Coffee Company. I’m an introvert, so it’s awfully easy for me to simply sit by the fire with my two hounds and write, but even I realize that that’s probably not so healthy.

That said, not just any place could lure me from an introvert’s paradise. Somehow, the Cedar can, and does, about once a week, which says something.

Turns out, its coffee and yummy calories call my friend Brad Nelson out of his self-employed craft too, and with luck, we run into each other there in the mornings.

Brad is a silversmith. Click on that link to check out his art, for there you will find phenomenally well-made, well-designed creations.  So beautiful, and made with intention and care.

Brad can also speak German, and so we banter a bit back and forth auf Deutsch: as for me, I hope no real Germans are overhearing.

On this particular morning, I said to him, “Ja, hallo, Brad!”

Then, it clicked: he might sell at his shop what we need: “Hey, du: verkaufst du irgendwelche….treetoppers?”

At this point, he cocked his head, and I did too, and admitted that I had absolutely no idea how to say “treetopper” in German.

So I gave it another run, this time in English, and explained that my kids and I were looking for a treetopper, and wondered if he sold any.

”What sort of treetopper are you looking for?” he asked.

”Nothing gloppy, nothing kitschy. Something made by a real person, and something with character.”

”Well…,” he said, slowly, ”…I could give you a whacked-off gnome I found at the dump.”

I stared at him.

I knew, even before seeing our gnome, that I had found our heirloom.

”That’s perfect,” I said, breathlessly. “It’s exactly what we want.”

“Understand, Anna: it’s all busted up.  It was broken when I found it, but I figured if I just whacked off the broken part, I could do something with what’s left. It’s decorating my yard, but if you want it, it’s yours.”

“I do! I do!” I said, and then gave him a totally appropriate jubilant hug.

During a different part of the course of that conversation, I learned that he likes butter as much as I do, and so I swung to the market, picked up an array of really good butters, packed them up in a gift sack, and sped down to his shop on Scenic 61.

You can see my happy picture above: dear Brad left out in his yard for me not only the gnome, but a Danish flag sticker and some special sweet treats.

In their stead, I left some butter, and happily danced into my Subaru with my new gnome, who is, as you can see, now gracing the tree and Christmas and the hearts of my two children and me.

The gnome (we need a name for our gnome: suggestions welcome!) is perfect precisely because he is broken.

I mean, the dude is really, really broken: if you look in the pics above, you can see that not only are his feet whacked off, but his paint is peeling, and it’s not at all clear what he’s holding (or once was) in his hand.

He’s therefore all the more perfect.

And our gnome is perfect because it was a gift from someone who can see that deep beauty can be found, can be salvaged, in the rejected.

That’s exactly why Else, Karl, and I are positively smitten.

The odd thing of it is, Christmas is a day paradoxically and toxically laden with images of perfection: the perfect meal, the perfect family, the perfect present.

It makes no sense (and, for the record, some parts of my goose were sublime; others will need a blender before we could digest them).

It makes no sense, given the story that we claim to know and treasure on precisely these days: a vulnerable baby, born to a refugee family, one which lived in poverty and fear, surrounded by people themselves chronically on the edge, all of whom nonetheless (and, perhaps, exactly therefore) knew the sacred, radical, hope-infused moment that centered on this wriggling, burping, crying, pooping, cuddling, needy child named Jesus…who would one day grow up to offer sacred, radical, hope-infused moments exactly to the vulnerable, the impoverished, the fearful, the refugees, the broken.

The gnome is perfect because he is broken, and he was offered in exquisite, unexpected, unnecessary kindness.

You see, our brokenness and our kindness, our humility and our simplicity, these are what make us and those who know us great again: great with gladness, great with charity, and great with hope that things and we are not as dismal as we’d thought, nor as they need to be, which in turn gives us purpose to repurpose that which is broken, which is rejected, which is not as it should or needs to be.

Readers, I so hope that this Christmas and its humble story have lavished, and will continue to lavish you, with gladness, charity, and hope.

May they also have reframed your brokenness, helped you see beauty in the rejected (yours, and that of others’), been occasions to give and receive kindness, and given you reason to delight in the busted-and-therefore-brand-new unexpected simple graces, the likes of which can be found in my family’s perfect whacked-off, broken, busted, brand new treetopper gnome.

Merry Christmas!