Our travel ornament tradition continues! This year, my favorite additions will be memory ornaments collected in southwest Colorado, Chicago … and an ornament that my youngest son brought home from a class trip to Washington D.C. It was touching to discover that this family tradition has become personally significant to him.
I like to read the stories on our Christmas tree.
There are over-sized pinecones from a North Carolina roadside, hastily gathered during an accidental route departure (some would say we were “lost”) and “child-enhanced” with cheerful globs of green and gold glitter glue.
Other homemade creations include painted wood ornaments and glass globes, sequin-covered styrofoam balls and assorted paper art. Everyone knows who made which one, and there’s a story behind most. I treasure a wooden star that my Grandma Dugan painted during one of the Christmases she stayed with us before moving to the care center.
A few ornaments date back to my childhood: a worn-looking angel, painted with the abandon of a child who has better things to do; a felt star festooned with sequins that I sewed on, one by one, at the dining room table of my childhood home; a trumpet given by my best friend in fifth grade; a mirrored nativity scene from my Grandma and Grandpa Prior…
Musical notes and instruments are a recurring theme, many of them gifts from my late father (odd term; he was never late for anything and was actually a bit early in leaving us!).
Near the top of the tree, just beneath the Star, is a silly looking penguin whose wings and beak flap with a pull of a string. It joined us during our brief residence in Elida, Ohio and is the coveted find as we decorate each year.
Every year, the kids receive an ornament that reflects a current interest; these now include ballet slippers, a lizard, virtually every sports ball, and an electric guitar (ssh… a new arrival this year). We also make it a practice to find seasonal decorations when we travel. When I look at our tree I see islands such as Hawaii, Bermuda, St John and Virgin Gorda. Canada, Mexico, France, Spain, Gibraltar and Morocco dangle from branches as do a good number of states and cities of the US.
A pair of flip flops and a ballerina cow from Hannah’s trips to Anna Maria Island and Chicago… A gecko and a cable car from Zach’s trips to Palm Springs and San Francisco… Leaping dolphins that Matt helped pick out in Hilton Head…
Zion, Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks were added in 2008, three brightly colored key chains to remind us of some great hiking adventures (we’ve found key chains make great, inexpensive ornaments when you’re too busy to shop for souvenirs). Similar keychains from Puerto Rico, Vieques, the Florida Keys, the Grand Canyon, Mammoth Cave NP and Aspen, Durango, Silverton and Ouray, Colorado dangle as snapshot memories.
It’s a well-covered tree this year, which helps hide the stripe of burned out lights near the bottom. As the kids settle into their homes and traditions, though, the branches will empty. Most of the ornaments will go with them as tangible reminders of their personal histories. Perhaps they’ll share the memories with their own children someday, just as I’ve recounted mine to them. And when they decorate their own trees, they’ll probably travel through a few memories… I hope so.
Because the familiar stories are usually the best.