Decorating our Christmas tree is an important event, for me, every year.
It’s an old prelit tree with warm, incandescent lights with just a few that twinkle ever so gently. One day, when I can justify the expense, I may buy a new one. But part of me prefers the traditional, older charm of the tree. What really makes this tree meaningful are the ornaments placed on its branches. It truly is a walk down memory lane as each ornament is carefully removed from its box.
My husband and children help as the traditional Christmas music plays in the background. I’m not sure if the whole process is as special to them as it is to me, but they willingly participate for my benefit, and for that I am grateful.
Some ornaments are souvenirs from trips to Disney, and other vacations from years past. Others are handmade treasures made by Matthew and Faith, most of which are from ten or fifteen years ago. Many are thoughtful gifts from my niece and nephew. I even have saved several ‘Best Teacher’ ornaments from my students over the years. Each and every ornament is sentimental and has a special meaning.
There are painted balls, popsicle sticks glued together, and a couple thin, tin, throw-away ashtrays with plenty of glitter and shiny enough to forget for a second what they were used for thirty years ago. Faith’s sweet, little five-year-old, bella faccia glued in the center is what makes it to my favorites list.
Hands down, Matthew’s ornament that tops them all from his school-made treasures is ‘the book’. It’s just about the size of my hand, folded and stapled neatly. It’s made from an old-fashioned Christmas gift bag with holly and a reindeer. Inside, though, holds the true treasure of his seven-year-old thoughts. His own elementary handwriting is what makes it an all-time favorite! He wrote about Christmas being special to him because the family is all together and we wait for baby Jesus. He went on to ask Santa for toys and DS games and kindly asked him not to forget his little sister, Faith since she couldn’t write her own letter.
Be still my heart.
He even included a diagram of our home labeling every room, on each floor, complete with stick figures with big smiles. Lastly, he made a list of all the names of his second-grade best friends.
In addition to my children’s ornaments, my ‘memory tree’ lovingly honors our family pets, special events, and activities over the years. There are baseballs, horses, and ballerinas to remember Matthew and Faith’s activities.
Many of my nostalgic ornaments hold the coveted position of front and center.
Pictures of my children. The first Christmas with my husband. The weekend getaway when he unexpectedly proposed, down on one knee, on the beach, in Maryland. And then there are the tear-jerkers that honor our loved ones who left this earth too soon.
The iconic Tastykake krimpet. Every time I see it, I’m reminded of the days my father would snack, on the living room chase, as he watched his Cowboys during Monday Night Football. The ceramic Winnie the Pooh since my daddy called me Pooh bear as a kid (and as an adult). The handmade decoupage ball was made by my artist sister with more than a dozen wonderful memories of us with Daddy. And the infamous, shellacked McDonald’s french fry. As The Story Goes, I saved it in my five-year-old, dirty pocket for my sister because it was the longest one I had ever seen. When I got home I was so excited to give it to her that she didn’t have the heart to complain. I don’t remember her taking a bite of the mangled, dirty fry (I hope not.), but I do remember the thrill of giving it to her and her love and appreciation.
The victorian, pink, and gold hearts, and vintage angels from my sweet mother, hold memories of her thoughtfulness and love as she strung them within her handmade bows that tied my Christmas gifts together each year.
Finally, atop this treasure of a tree, perched with pride, is a gold, velvety star with taffeta streamers that once belonged to my parents.
So you see it may not be a fancy trendy themed tree with matching ornaments. The ornaments are not expensive or popular collector’s items. I won’t be featured in a home decor magazine or blow the minds of my Facebook friends with its beauty.
But my whole heart can be found on this tree.
It contains a lifetime of love, happiness, and family memories. And every year, as I uncover each one from within the protective tissue paper, I’m overwhelmed with emotion.
Happiness and joy as I giggle at kids’ crafts, and fun times in the past. Sadness missing my loved ones who left this earth too soon. But always grateful for the precious memories. And tears of joy for having had them in the first place.