For one month of the year, Maria and Dino Cimino’s grandest display comes down from the attic and takes center stage in the family living room.
There’s Dorothy, the scarecrow, the lion and the tin man from The Wizard of Oz on the end table. Mary and Joseph head up the flock of kings, jokers and knights, among other more modern characters on the coffee table.
But when 74-year-old Maria first started collecting nutcrackers 10 years ago, she didn’t anticipate her collection would grow to more than 100 unique examples, varying in size, material and price. Of course, now that it’s reached 129, she thinks she’d need a bigger living room before her collection could grow more.
“Each one is different in some little way,” she said. “It’s not that it’s necessarily a valuable collection, but when I see something I like I buy it, it doesn’t matter if it’s $2 or $25.”
As her collection grew, so did the detail and attention paid to each nutcracker. Some have a story; others were bought on a whim by a friend at the local CVS.
The Ciminos are fond of their bass-playing nutcracker. They picked it up as an homage to Dino, who plays bass at local hangouts.
There’s a king for which Maria fashioned a fur cape and hat from fabric scraps. There’s the music
box nutcracker she bought at an Oregon flea market when she was visiting her daughter. Nearby is the Uncle Sam nutcracker that reminds her of the Fourth of July, her favorite holiday.
No one nutcracker is her favorite, though. “I don’t know,” she says as she looks carefully over the entire collection and smiles. “I don’t know. I just like them all.”
The three days it takes Maria to arrange the nutcrackers for display is worth it, especially when her grandson visits and inspects each one carefully.
“When he was a little kid he just inspected every one of them, it was really cute,” she said. “Now, he’s 18 and he still likes them.”
He claimed the collection for himself already “for when I’m gone,” she says with a laugh.
“Ever since he was a little kid he would just stare at them and say, ‘Grandma, can I have these?’ And I’d say, ‘Yes, they’re yours.’ ”
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