We now have a tradition that my daughter chooses one Christmas ornament a year for herself. I was delighted when this year, she chose one of the red wooden cardinals I've been eyeing at Michael's.
When I was growing up in my parents' home, my twin sister and I would always race to hang what we called the "jeweled bird" ornament, a clay bird encrusted with tiny mosaic fragments of mirror. Bird ornaments have held a favored place on my tree since then. My parents even gave me my own version of a "jeweled bird" as a joke, but it's like a wind-up nightingale compared to the magnificence of the original jeweled bird.
I've already inherited a fair number of ornaments that date back to my girlhood. When I unpack the ornament boxes, I find embroidered reindeer from our time in the Philippines, Beefeaters made from clothespins collected in England, Celtic crosses, brass ornaments engraved from 1982, and crystal angels that radiate light through their delicate curves.
Each year, there's at least one ornament that brings me to a complete halt. I sit silent for some time with that ornament in hand.
The year we were married, 2001, we took a picture together in front of our tree and stuck the photo in one of those "Our First Christmas Together" ornaments. That ornament became my Ornament-of-Silence this year. As I held it, I contemplated my bright cheeks, my foot-long blonde hair, so glossy and well-groomed in those pre-child days. My husband was equally young and shiny-faced, back then. Regarding that old picture, I felt neither nostalgia nor sadness for the passage of time. Instead, I felt honor. Honor for our years together and the many changes that have come to us, both internally and externally. Honor for surviving the rough times that we have already experienced, and gratitude for the good times.
Last year, we held a costumed Victorian Christmas party, and I wanted the ornaments on my tree to be as historically-authentic as possible. The Victorian tree looked very nice with its gilded walnuts, its pinecones, and its gingerbread men, but nothing can take the place of my ragtag collection of ornaments.