Everything tells a story. It was my mantra while I was a senior docent at the North Carolina Museum of Art, and it’s my mantra as a Christmas tree decorator. I love ornaments. We have a big Christmas party every year (last week was our 18th), and we give all of our guests an ornament to commemorate the year. Shooting comets for the new milennium, red-white-and-blue stars in 2011, glass pinecones this year. We get an ornament when we travel. And while I trim the tree in relative randomness, there are a few ornaments that always make it in the same spots. Here are ten of our most memorable ornaments; their stories might surprise you, because they’re not all shiny and bedazzled.
Our friend and artist, Monica Wyrick, used to love for our son to come over and make ornaments with her children (a tradition we incorporated as one our own), and this little handprint is from his first Christmas, when he was seven months old. Monica’s children painted it and glued on the reindeer parts.
In 2008, my mother took us to Disney World to celebrate her retirement, her 60th birthday, my 35th birthday, and my son’s 10th birthday. We went with our great friends, the Noodles, and had a ball. Disney World is dreamy at any age, but those red-letter years were pretty spectacular!
We’re big superhero people. We potty-trained our son with the promise of wearing his Superman Underoos as long as he didn’t have an accident. We’d put them on in the morning, along with his long red homemade cape (it was awesome, if I do say so myself); with the first accident he went to boring tighty whities, and any accidents after that put him in pull-ups. We only had a handful of days when he couldn’t be Superman, Batman or Spiderman all day long.
This Rescue Hero never fails to make me a little weepy, and infinitely thankful, for the health of our son. He was gravely ill when he was three and hospitalized after a long illness of a bone infection. We brought him home the week before Christmas, but he was so tiny and weak and it was hard to make it up and down the stairs, so we put a small tree in his bedroom (which is now the first thing we put out every year). It made him very happy. We made these ornaments out of a photocopied product insert page and construction paper, but they still make it onto the big family tree, and his little boy tree, every year.
My father-in-law made these little animal shapes that were tacked onto our son’s dresser, around the drawer knobs, in his nursery. They’re so cute, and when we shifted from nursery furniture to little boy stuff we plucked off the critters and store them with the Christmas tree.
This Star of David gives me great pleasure, because in Kindergarden our son’s teacher talked about a huge variety of world faith’s and they had a little holiday cookie party and presented different arts and crafts. The Jewish faith was the stuff that drew our son, and he kept asking when we were going to put out our Menorah and where were the dreidels. We’re protestant, by the way. But that sparkly purple Star of David shines high on our tree every year, and it makes me smile.
This simple ornament was my Grandaddy’s, who’s name was William Ruffin Moore, but everybody knew as “Teddy.” He was a big volunteer–which was unusual in our circle–but a huge influence on my life as I am a big volunteer, too. I’m always proud to hang this ornament, and for people to ask about it.
My mother and my son are the best of friends, and he has spent most Saturday nights with her since he was about five. It’s a date night for my husband and I, but my son and “Gran” also consider it theirs. She takes him every year to find a gift for me and the mister, and this was the first year he bought us ornaments. There’s a Mrs. Snowman, too. They were both so excited to give us ornaments since I’m typically the giver of ornaments … it started a trend, too, because now our friends, the Noodles, have started giving us an ornament each year.
We read Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel to our son so many times over the years that he not only memorized and could recite it, but we wore out our first copy and had to get a second one. He dressed up as Mike Mulligan for his third Halloween and we bought him this small excavator to carry in his hand, his Mary Anne. It hangs on his tree now.
An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane, such as long life or recovery from illness or injury. We started practicing orgami when our son was sick as something for him to do in bed, or sitting still. We started out with simple objects, and moved our way up. Often I had to help with complicated folds, but he always loved the engineering and direction aspect of the craft. We shared cranes one year as our party ornaments, and still make cranes for friends today.
What are your favorite ornaments, or family traditions?