When I was growing up, my mom made it a point to get each of us a dated Christmas ornament each year. It didn’t really start until I was a bit older, but it was something that I came to expect and look forward too. It was a nice tradition.
Those ornaments became special. So special, in fact, that we started to tie ribbons on them to distinguish them. My brother had blue ribbons on his, mine had red and my sister’s ornaments were all topped in white. Mom always said then when we were grown up and moved away from home that our ornaments would go with us. I remember thinking that if we did that, she would have nothing on her tree!
Now, as an adult and a mom, I have come to appreciate my moms attachment to our ornaments. I have collected a few myself. There is the one from our wedding cake. A very wedding-ish looking ornament given to us by my husband’s aunt. We arranged to have it hang in the middle of our 4 tier wedding cake, so that when we hung it on our tree each year, it would have even more significance. There is the very fragile egg ornament made by my grandmother so many years ago. I don’t know the whole story behind it, but it’s a real egg shell with a large cut out. Inside is a nativity scene of tiny paper figurines. It’s special to me because it came from my grandmother’s house. I have the first ornament of our little family. It’s 3 snow people; a dad, mom and little girl. On each hat is printed our names, not Mom and Dad and Mary, but Lori, Rich and Mary. That’s because it was Mary’s first Christmas with us, and we were not yet Mom and Dad. Of course when our little boy came last year, he saw that one and wanted a snow person with his name too. I scoured the tree and found a little lone glass snow man. I got a sharpie pen and let him write his name on the back of it. I dated it, and back up on the tree it went with him grinning ear to ear! Mary’s very special ornament is a pink fuzzy Easter egg. We bought it when she was born (her birthday is in early April) and never got a chance to get it to her new parents. So we hung it on our Christmas tree that year, and said, “That’s the Mary egg!” Each year, we would say that as we hung it, just because sometimes you just have to announce each ornament as it comes out of the box. It’s like re-living the memory each time. There are a few others, but those are really the key ones.
Then, last spring, the unthinkable happened. We had rain. Lots and lots of rain. And the basement started to flood. We raced out to get plastic storage tubs to put stuff in and keep it dry as the water continued to rise. Our efforts, though, were all in vain. The storage bins, although full, were not heavy enough and rose along with the water eventually tipping over and filling with water. Including the ones with the Christmas ornaments and decorations.
It was a while, too long really, before we were able to get those bins out from the basement and into the garage. By that time, the mold and mildew had started ravaging our belongings and a tremendous amount of stuff had to go to the curb. We had some WONDERFUL friends come to our house and help us with the daunting task of moving everything out of the basement. I worried, though, that along with the smelly bins of Christmas decorations went my special ornaments. I searched box after box and just couldn’t find them anywhere. I never told my friends of my dismay, because they had been so gracious to come and help with that horrible job. It wasn’t their fault, really; it was a mistake and I didn’t want anyone to feel bad about what had been lost.
Sometime over the summer I started sifting through the mountains of stuff once again. I didn’t care about most of what was there. As a matter of fact, I was preparing for a yard sale and was looking for stuff to put in it. Nearing the end of my sifting, I opened a box that had been buried since the flood within the pile. I could not believe my eyes. All of my special ornaments were there! All of them! My grief at having to throw some of them away was muted by my joy at finding them at all. Some of them were just too far gone; too much mold to attempt to clean. One glass ornament that I got from my mother had it’s own beautiful fabric box. That was impossible to clean. And the ornament, too, had mold growing inside that was unreachable. With the fragile art work, it was going to be damaged by any method I attempted. But among the ones that could be saved were, ironically, the ones that dated our family: The wedding cake ornament, the fuzzy pink Easter egg, the snow people family, the lone snowman with a little boy’s name hand written on the back. I had my own Christmas miracle.
These are the memories I have to hold on to for my children. These are the ones that they will take with them one day, when they are grown ups.