One tradition I started years ago when our first daughter, Rachel, was born was to buy two ornaments per child each Christmas, one for my tree and one I wrap up and put in a special box. When each kid moves out, they’ll take their box of ornaments, with a letter explaining why I chose each one.
Nineteen years and two more kids later, my tree is now filled with memories. Rachel’s brief dancing career. Her longer love of soccer. (I couldn’t find a trashed-knee ornament, so I couldn’t commemorate the end of that hobby.) Telephone, cell phone, shopping, the guitar, driver’s license, starting kindergarten, graduating high school, discovering politics, starting college, meeting her marine.
Sheri’s were different, especially as the girls got older and their personalities solidified: Cats, more cats, dolls, sister-playmates, starting preschool, karate, Hello Kitty, “Mommy time” at Borders, the violin, computers, cell phone, meeting Kiki, starting high school, starting to drive.
For Nick, it’s all crazy, because he’s a boy, and boys are a little crazy: Scooby Doo (three years running), riding a two-wheeler (at 3!), the hulk, cars, fire engines, computer games, soldiers, the guitar, Mizzou football.
This year, Rachel’s ornament for her special ornament box is a kitten fishing in a fishbowl for Cleo the horrible kitten. It was hard finding a bad cat ornament; they all looked too sweet to be Cleo. For the tree, an airplane, because she flew off to California about eighty times, which was scary and brave.
For Sheri, her ornament box will have a sun for her new love of artwork, especially suns and moons, and also to commenorate her love of tattoos; she has a beautiful yellow and blue sun and moon design on her back (along with roses on her arm and angel wings and my dad’s initials on her ankle; the girl loves needles). For the tree, I chose a slice of pizza to commemorate her first job. She’s grown into a responsible, hard-working young lady this year, and I’m very proud of her.
Nick’s make a mockery of the season: A gun for the tree (he loves BB guns and bows and arrows, but he’s the sweetest kid — he’d never shoot at an animal. Shooting at his friends, on the other hand …), and Cartman from “South Park” for his ornament box. I’ve never watched “South Park” in my life, so I’m aware that it’s inappropriate but not sure how bad. Thank God it’s not for my tree.
We also have some ornaments for the family. Two sad ones: a heart with a staircase leading to Heaven, with a poem about wishing we could climb the stairs and bring Ruffy back home; and an angel, for my dad. He’s our guardian angel, and if anyone could bend the rules of Heaven and make things happen here, it would be dad. God must be exhausted with Dad up there telling everyone what to do. There are seashells for vacations, old ornaments from my childhood, Christmas pictures of the kids, cats and dogs when we brought home new pets.
It would be cool to have a tree that’s just pretty. But having a tree full of memories seems especially appropriate in a season that starts with giving thanks, goes through the greatest sacrifice and joy, and ends with new beginnings.