By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN
“We don’t sell things. We sell memories,” said Bill Hixson, antique collector and dealer, author, storyteller, florist and proprietor of Hixson’s Flower Barn in Lakewood.
As the designer and seller of a dazzling array of collectible Christmas ornaments, Hixson has been fascinated by holiday legends since childhood. He recalls his mother telling him his first holiday story, about the tradition of putting a bird’s nest on the holiday tree. “I was a Depression baby. I’m 89 years old going on 65. My mother told me that the bird’s nest symbolized health, wealth and happiness. We had health and happiness, but we didn’t have any wealth until many years later,” he noted.
Author of the book, “Legends, Lore and Stories of Christmas Ornaments,” Hixson is working on a new book to be released this holiday season entitled, “Christmas Traditions in the World.” His shop features ornaments highlighting the holiday traditions of about 30 countries.
“When a customer buys an ornament, we give him the story that goes along with it. The story is worth 10 times what the figure is worth,” he said. “I’m Scottish, English, Irish and Welsh. The Irish part of me loves to tell stories. My stories are no good unless I have someone to tell them to.”
“I’ve touched every ornament you see in my shop. I decorated all of the trees,” he said. “People come in and ask me to sign the ornaments they buy and to tell them the story that goes with it.”
“Christmas to me has always been very special. Where else will you find a shop where the owner is still there after 65 years and has no intention of quitting?, ” he asked.
Hixson opened his shop in Lakewood in 1953 and moved to the current location at 14125 Detroit Ave. in 1959. He designs the original ornaments and works with fourth and fifth generation glass blower families in Europe to produce them. He has helped decorate the White House for the Reagans, the Bush family, the Clintons and the Obamas.
“I told Laura Bush that her husband needed a frog ornament on the holiday tree because the frog is a symbol of progress. It can only jump forward. I gave her three ornaments, including a frog, a pickle and a pig for the White House Blue Room tree,” Hixson recalled. The pig symbolizes prosperity, while the pickle is a promise of good luck, according to Hixson. “I told her that I had more to do with bringing good luck to the country than her husband did. She sent me a handwritten note saying that, from this day forth, the Bush family will always have these ornaments on their tree.”
“I consider myself a Christmasaholic,” he added. “I decorate my home with all of the things I didn’t have as a child, like antique ornaments and music boxes. When I was a child, my brother got a BB gun for Christmas and I got a flashlight. But, I love to read at night, so I loved my flashlight as much as he loved that BB gun.”
Hixson said he plans to send a suggestion for the 2018 White House Blue Room tree to the current occupants. “I’m going to send a suggestion to Melania Trump that they should decorate the tree with ornaments of different countries this year, because we are a nation of immigrants,” he said.
As for the rest of us, Hixson has a recommendation that should take us into the New Year. He suggests that we add pork to our New Year’s Eve menu. “If you eat seafood, the fish swims away from money. If you eat chicken or turkey, you will spend the next year scratching away at making money. But, if you eat pork, the pig roots up money,” he noted.