“You know, mom, my friends’ Christmas trees are all done when they have this many ornaments on them.”
I’d just informed my daughter that we were halfway done hanging ornaments, ready to start on our second box. My husband and son had dropped out of the project long before, and my sweet girl had persevered.
“It’s okay, you don’t have to finish,” I told her. She skipped off to her bedroom.
The decorating is not about the tree, it’s about the ornaments, and there were more to see. More memories to revive. I wanted to spend a moment with each person, each moment that is forever imbued in the baubles, so I continued.
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I pulled out a ceramic ornament that a dear friend had decoupaged with a Wavelry patterned napkin. I chuckled, experiencing a flashback to my very first Christmas tree. It was color-coordinated, bright crimson decorations with white lights. My friend gave me the handcrafted ornament, and it stuck out, its burgundy bow clashing against the red, the white background conspicuous. It was with that ornament that I realized the sentiments of the ornaments hold far more value than their appearance or conformity to our decorations.
I walked through years of self-discovery and change. Ornaments that sparkled on wedding gifts, Handmade ornaments from children — my own and others, reminders of friends who I still hold near, and those whose paths have diverted from my own. Small handmade decorations from coworkers, and others made by close family members, hang side-by-side, my worlds mingling cheerily.
I took special care with favorite groups of ornaments. I reminisced with those my husband and I have collected on the many trips we’ve taken together. No outing is too small to commemorate with an ornament. An Elvis from Memphis, a ski gondola from Colorado, a ball made of shells from the sea shore, even a tiny ceramic courthouse from central Kansas. I was reminded of our many opportunities to explore, and the fun times we’ve had on our journeys.
The collection we’ve accumulated as a family hangs prominently, showing the stages of our lives. A goldfish, in honor of our fish Goldie; a frog and a robot celebrating our son’s snails and puppy dog tails years; sparkling baby shoes from each kids’ first years; a glittery gray cat in memory of our old cat, Ricky. Each marks a stage of our family.
A handful of time-worn blue and gold balls, as always, piqued my curiosity. Hand-me-downs from grandparents I’d never known, took special places. They’d once looked dingy and used to me, but now feel rich with history and mystery, a tiny connection to those I surely would have loved dearly. I wonder what our relationship would have been.
“Hi Grandma,” I whispered to a gaudy ornament — a doll with a body fashioned from sparkling beads, and a rubber, Barbie doll type head. I was, in fact, silently critical of the ornament when I found it wrapped under a tree. Its heavy eye makeup and bouffant hair on top of its bizarre, twisty body seemed so gauche. But now, it’s among my very favorites.
I hang the African-themed balls my Aunt Jane bought me at a craft fair, a surprise, as we didn’t usually exchange gifts. I sighed, hanging white, sparkling angels from my Aunt Gayla. Both aunts have now become angels themselves. I find my husband’s grandmother in a tin coffee can that she painted to be a jolly snowman.
I sifted through many other memories, steeped in love and friendship, warmed by the blessings.
I wish you blessings of the holiday season. Cheers to memories of the past, and those yet to be made!
Reach Overland Park mom Emily Parnell at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter:@emilyJparnell.