Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Christmas Tradition...Broken

In the spirit of Erica's blog post yesterday (if you haven't entered the giveaway, there's still time!), I was all set to share another one of my favorite Christmas traditions today. But then something happened that made me rethink what I wanted to share.

Let me back up. My husband Dave and I started dating in 1997 when we were seventeen. That very first Christmas, I bought him a cute little Santa ornament. I still remember the moment I saw it, and knew he'd like the jolly fellow. Since it was our first Christmas, it was a safe gift to give. It wasn't terribly personal, yet it was a glimpse of my heart. I dreamed of seeing that ornament on my own Christmas tree one day, when we were married.

The following year, we went on a school trip to London, England two days after Christmas. While we were shopping, I found a cute little tin Santa Claus. By this time, I was quite sure I'd marry my real-life hero, so I boldly said: "Let's buy this ornament, and every time we go on a trip, we can buy another. One day, we'll have a tree full of ornaments from around the world, and we'll reminisce every time we decorate."

Purchased in London, December 1998
And that's exactly what we've done for the past seventeen years.

At first, we stuck with Santa Claus ornaments. Sometimes we had to improvise, like the time we went camping in Canada and I learned I had a knack for whittling!

Santa made in Quetico, Canada, 2000

Or when we couldn't find a Santa Claus in Decorah, Iowa, and we found a little figurine and put a string on him.

Purchased in Decorah, Iowa, 2000
Eventually, we gave ourselves permission to buy anything that represented the area where we were traveling. We also agreed that if we travel alone, we still need to find an ornament. Dave has one from his mission trip to Africa. I have one from my trip to France.

Purchased in Burkina Faso, Africa, 2008

Purchased in Paris, France, 2009
We have ornaments from as close by as Duluth, MN--and as far away as Africa. We have ornaments from various places in the Caribbean, and ones from Europe. We have several from trips to California, Colorado, New England, New Orleans, New York, and ones we bought at our local Wal Mart to celebrate the purchase of our first home, our first dog, and our first cat.

Purchased in St. Augustine, FL (the oldest town
in America), 2013

Purchased in Washington, D.C., 2001

Glass Float purchased in Monterey, California, 2014
Every ornament carries a special, heart-warming memory.

But I have three favorites. The one I bought Dave for our first Christmas. The one I bought on our trip to London. And one we bought in New York City just a few months before 9/11. That one is blown glass and the original broke in Central Park when I pulled out my wallet to pay for a carriage ride. The package fell from my backpack...but Dave retraced our steps, and about an hour later, he returned with a replacement.

Purchased in New York City, 2001
But then...two days ago...I heard a crash, and then a startled: "I'm sorry, Mama!"

My favorite ornament, the very first one I bought Dave in 1997, was on the floor with a broken hat, and my nine-year-old daughter stood above it with a mixture of alarm, remorse, and apprehension.

I could have cried--but I didn't.

That jolly fellow has been on every Christmas tree we've ever owned, including the first after we were married, living in a little apartment in Ames, Iowa where Dave was going to college. It was one of the only ornaments we had. It followed us to a cute farmhouse we rented after college. And then to our first home, and our second. It sat alongside the first ornaments for each of our children, and it became crowded as each year passed.

I didn't yell at my daughter, and of course I said I forgave her. I didn't make a big deal about it, or make her feel bad (she already felt bad enough). I simply picked it up, gathered the shattered pieces, and tried in vain to glue it back together.

It will never look the same, but I've decided I won't throw it away. It will never hang on our tree again, but it will be put somewhere special for everyone to see--and for all of us to remember that it still holds the same value, even if it's not perfect. 

But, more importantly, I want all of us to remember that it's just a piece of painted ceramic. It's part of a temporary world we will all leave behind someday. What I want to remember is the love and memories behind the gift. Those are the things that truly matter and that last.

The ornament has a new story to tell. It speaks to the truth, that we're all broken and imperfect, but we're still valuable and loved.

Hopefully when my daughter looks at it in years to come, the story she will remember is one of forgiveness, understanding, and unconditional love. Because she is far more precious to me than all the ornaments on the tree combined.

Despite his flaws, he's still the same jolly
fellow. :)
What about you? Have you lost a special ornament over the years? Do you have an ornament tradition?

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  1. This is lovely! You have a wonderful tradition...of gathering ornaments, and a tradition of kindness.

    1. I've love both traditions, and I hope they will continue with my children as they start to go out in the world. ;)

  2. I guess you could say our ornament tradition is looking each year at thrift stores for train ornaments. My special needs son is obsessed with trains and insists we have them on tree

    1. What a wonderful tradition! I'm sure he loves each one.

  3. Gabe thank you for this heart warming post! You have truly shared the message of Christ! (((((((HUGS))))))))

    1. I'm able to share it, because it was first shared with me. :) Hugs to you, too, Caryl.

  4. Beautiful tradition and beautiful lesson.

    1. Thank you for stopping by, LeAnne! Always nice to see a familiar face. Merry Christmas!


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