Joan's Blog

"Watch Me Pull A Rabbit Out Of My Hat"
DECEMBER 23, 2011 9:48AM

The Secret Life of Ornaments

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This morning I am hanging the ornaments on the Christmas tree. I'm late to it this year. I am impressed by how neatly I have put them away from last year. Each one carefully wrapped in its own piece of white tissue, nestled neatly in the box. 

It's the unwrapping that brings tears to my eyes. Most of the ornaments have been around since my daughter was in elementary school. I know these ornaments intimately, having seen them year after year, yet I still register some surprise as I open each one. Oh, the gingerbread ornament she made in kindergarten! The white crane for luck! Ha! The sock monkey! Every ornament tells a story.

There is Edward, the ornament that looks like a horse she used to ride. When he died, she and everyone else at the stable was devastated. He was a mean one, and sometimes he bit, but there he is, immortalized on our tree year after year.

There are a few random pieces of fruit ornaments that no one seems to like but me. Sparkly purple grapes and a sparkly green pear, that I chose because they are pretty. Why is there fruit on the tree?

Every year we add one new ornament to the tree. Last year it was an Elvis ornament, something my daughter picked up in Texas, I think. If it were up to me, Elvis would never be on a Christmas tree, but most of the choices  have been hers. The ornaments are a timeline.  The handmade ones from elementary school to the glass ornament with the name of her college, they reflect nearly twenty years of our lives. 

Each ornament has a story, and every story pulls at my heartstrings.

I have tears in my eyes as I hang this year's newest ornament. I worry this will be the last Christmas we are all together. Children grow up and leave the nest. I just didn't realize how quickly it happens. 

All the ballerinas, all the horses, all the sock monkeys and even Elvis. They all have a story to tell.  This year I am listening with a heavy heart.





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Merry Everything to all my OS peeps. xo
awww endearing all-best to your family, Joanie

Dear Joan I think you have to cry when you dress the tree otherwise it simply won't work. But this about children leaving: they don't. They keep coming back! Only last night I tried elegantly to extricate myself from a gathering with my 27 and 28 year old and they quickly reinvented high dudgeon and did it better than ever before. So soak it up. It comes and it goes, they come and they go, but mostly they come! I think it very precious, in a good way, that you have taken such good care of these memories.
Sweet and touching. I hope you get to enjoy some quality time with Julia while she's home from school.
This sings to me, softly, sadly. We're going thru the same transition. Maybe grandkids, if and when they come, will start things anew.
Merry Christmas to you, Joan. xo
All the best to you and yours, Jonathan

Gail, I hope you are right. So good to see you here!

bike, thank you...

Chicken Maaan, oh that will be a looong way off...
Oh Joan, I love this post and the new Elvis ornament. I love that you decorate your tree with ornaments collected over the years - the same ones year after year. That's exactly what I do. It seems to be the trend nowadays to do "designer trees" - themed, with a predominant color. To me, there is too much perfection and not enough memory to those kinds of trees.

My tree, like yours, is decorated with ornaments I've collected over the last 34 years, each one with a story to tell. My favorites are the ones my kids made through the years, of course. Right behind them in favor are the ornaments that I painted the year I was pregnant with my first child. I had plenty of time on my hands and I poured myself into creating ornaments for our tree. My daughter was born the day after Christmas. Best present ever.

Merry, merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year - all good wishes to you this season my dear friend.
That is why it is so good to have the memories when they are little. They say that with kids the days are long but the years go by so fast. Mine are gone from the next now for about ten years. In their thirties they need space and time to be who they want to be. I'm just thankful for the memories. Keep the ornaments close but as with everything they become history. Wonderful post.
Every tree needs an Elvis.

I'm really coming to believe that this is what Christmas trees are for, this unwrapping the tissue paper and looking back over the years.

Merry Christmas.
Merry Christmas, Victoria!

Unbreakable, I knew you would understand. I love that you made your own ornaments and that your best gift was just a day late...xo

Zanelle, I seem to be still in the letting go stage. Where did the time go? Thank you for coming by.

Jeanette, I have actually changed my mind this morning. Every tree needs an Elvis. Thank you, and Merry Christmas. xo
I think we can all relate to this. I get teary eyed over the ornaments too.
You've captured the immensity of that simple act of putting the ornaments on the tree. Love Elvis.
Any Gel Sole ornaments?

Elvis was from Texas?
Thanks, Christine, Merry Christmas.

Pauline, me too. Thanks for coming by.

Larry, Elvis is not from Texas, but the ornament is. No gel sole ornaments, but something almost as bad. I figured I'd leave it out of the post, as it may get me in more hot water...
Poignant memories beautifully expressed, Joanie
Happy Christmas my dear friend.
So true! My throat closes when I pull out the one for my father-in-law who passed away many years ago and the paw print of our dog Avalanche.
Great post!
What a sweet post, Joan. We lost all of our ornaments during Hurricane Irene. Brings a tear to my eye. xo
I remember a glass angel ornament on your tree!
Your tree sounds like a hunka-hunka beauteous cheer! Merry Christmas!
Isn't it funny how that works? I still have ornaments made by Stephen in pre-school! I miss that little imp. Elvis looks pretty cool to me on your tree. Cheer up and enjoy her, 'cuz she's there now. Mope later, when she's not. Sound like a plan? :D

How I envy your traditions. I never got the Christmas decorating gene. My tree is one of those you plug in, with points of colorful light radiating from fake needles. It's been up since last year. No fuss, no muss. Hell, I haven't even bothered to plug it in yet. I'll better get on that tonight.
Aww. But they come back, with little versions of themselves! I've got so many stories on my tree, too: Precious Moments ornament my mom gave my son after five years of not seeing him; and ornaments for every one of my little boy's phases: Titanic; Harry Potter; Star Wars; guitars; drums; dancing penguins; Tron; etc. It's like a tree of life, literally.

Merry everything to you, too!
I have ornaments from my childhood and new ones we've added together. It is a visit with old friends each time they come out.
a wonderful piece joan. now, go have a cookie and look at your beautiful tree :)
I added a Raiders ornament this year for my son, I understand so well how you are feeling. Enjoy your Christmas and try to not worry about what next year will bring.
Joanie, I think I have the same collection. The construction paper Santas, the ornaments from kindergarten and girl scouts and trips. The saddest of all for me are the whole collection of golden retriever ornaments that always make me cry for Cassie, our dog. Thanks for the peek at your tree Joan.
It will be difficult to adjust when they leave home, but they come back for visits. If you're lucky they'll multiply! That definitely will make for a whole new, wonderful, outlook; there is nothing like Christmas through the eyes of a child. It makes it as special and exciting to you as it was when you celebrated when yours were little ones.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.
A big beautiful heart you have Joan, that will transcend distance. You've done so well in how you've raised your daughter, think of all the things she owns from you that she will pass along.

Merry Everything back to you friend.
I was frustrated with how long it was taking for my son to be potty-trained and my mother in law said "The only thing that ever surprised me in life was how fast my children grew up." Breathe. Be. Your memories of this time will be gold.
Merry Everything back at you .... to you and yours, Joan. Btw, I think Elvis looks great on your tree. My girl is home too as we observe the Solstice; the light will shine more these days, thankfully.
I still have ornaments from when I was two or three years old, I don't still hang them but I can't get rid of them. Enjoy your memories, and it is true, your kids rarely really leave. Sometimes they bring back others with them.... Merry Christmas Joan!
Merry, merry to you, genius lady.
A beautifully written piece, as usual Joan. I've never had a Christmas tree with ornaments, but if I didn I imagine it would be like yours - with each ornament telling a story and holding a memory. Thank you for this post. Merry Chirstmas and a Happy Healthy New Year to you and your family.
"Each ornament has a story, and every story pulls at my heartstrings..." So true, it seems to go so quickly, but somehow still exists forever, like some imprint in time.

Wishing you & yours a Merry Christmas, beautiful holidays, & lots health & joy, Joanie H! Thanks for all your beautiful writing always! :)
This is lovely ~ it's always the ornaments that get me too...
Merry Christmas!
Thank you everyone for reading and commenting on my somewhat maudlin Christmas post. Holidays are such a roller coaster ride...
So beautiful but so sad. I hope this Christmas was full of joy - and I wish that all the ones to come will be joyful for you, as well.
I am late, but I have a "reading window" this morning. I totally understand this - I am still regretting not putting up a tree for my maprents this year; it is my Yiddeshe Mama's favorite thing in the world. You have inspired me to do it next year, even if it's a total pain. Because I love her and there isn't a lot of time.