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|
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|
|Purchased in Burkina Faso, Africa, 2008|
|Purchased in Paris, France, 2009|
|Purchased in St. Augustine, FL (the oldest town|
in America), 2013
|Purchased in Washington, D.C., 2001|
|Glass Float purchased in Monterey, California, 2014|
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|
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|
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