Every year I dig out the boxes and the red and green plastic bins from our storage area. I haul them up to our living room and prepare for a flood of memories as I begin to relive my Christmases past.
As you might guess, the bins are filled with holiday decorations and ornaments I’ve collected over the years. Some of the ornaments are still in their original boxes and others are wrapped in makeshift cushions of paper towels, bubble wrap or newspaper. As if on a secret treasure hunt, I retrieve them one by one. I unwrap each ornament in my hands as if waiting for their story to be revealed.
You see, I’m not one to purchase the package of multicolor bulbs or to decorate with certain colors or themes each year. Don’t get me wrong. I love the look of beautifully decorated trees. It’s almost an art form, isn’t it? At the hands of a skilled decorator, what starts out as either a real or artificial evergreen tree almost magically transforms into an illuminated masterpiece.
My tree is less of a masterpiece and more of a mosaic. A hodgepodge of decorations each representing various events in my life. And each one carrying with it a special memory from the past.
There’s the hand-embroidered ornament with the logo of our alma mater made by a friend and fellow classmate. I was lucky to have participated in a unique program with UCF and my employer at the time, Walt Disney World. About 40 of us signed up for this degree program that would be taught on Disney property. Over the course of the two years, our group shrunk to about 29 people or so, but the majority of us graduated with our BA in Communication in 1996 – disproving the unfortunate nickname for the college which was, “U Can’t Finish.” I met my husband while attending UCF.
There’s a covered bridge ornament from Vermont that we got years ago.
Somehow we walked out of the quaint little gift shop without paying for it. We didn’t realize this until we were miles away. We still tease each other about it. (for the record, HE stole it, I did not).
And there are tons of those thin, gold ornaments from our anniversary trip to Hawaii, a solo excursion to Nashville, and a visit to Yosemite. They reflect the light so beautifully.
But my favorite ornament is a delicate, pearl white bulb with a hand-painted picture of Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty. It’s the first ornament that goes on my tree and it’s the last ornament I put away. It means the world to me because it was a gift from my son. He picked it out while shopping with his mom back in 1992. He was four. I was single at the time and living on my own, but it quickly became the central piece of my small, but growing collection. It has a quote on it which reads,
“Each of us the child shall bless, with a single gift – no more, no less.”
When I first read the quote, it made me stop in my tracks. I’m overwhelmed each time I read it. No gift comes close to the gifts of love and family and friendship. And I’ve been lucky enough to receive all three through my open adoption relationship with my son and his family.
Over the years, I’ve kept all the cards, letters and photos he and his family have been kind enough to send me. But this ornament holds a tender place in my heart. And it always will.