My parents gave us a lasting door back into our childhood.
Some friends of ours came over for dinner recently, and commented on the idiosyncratic nature of the ornament collection hanging there. No rhyme, reason, or theme dominates our tree, save one:
Many of the ornaments were ones I picked out as a child.
Growing up, my parents started an annual tradition. Each year they would take us to one of the Christmas bonanza stores, stuffed full of trees and décor. We were allowed to wander at will, but when checkout time came, we could choose just one ornament to take with us.
Once home, my mom would find a discreet spot to write our name and the year in Sharpie, and then we’d hang them on the tree. After the holidays ended, Mom had a box for each of us, and our ornaments went there.
Every year, we’d get our boxes out and revisit Christmases past. I loved remembering what I’d chosen; I loved to see how much more “mature” I was at eight than I’d been at seven, or three.
When I moved out, my mom gave me my box. I have the collection now, complete with the clown from when I was two, and the Macy’s mini stocking from the trip to New York we took in junior high.
We’ve added to that childhood collection. There’s a swimming Santa from our honeymoon in Hawaii, and a Mt. Vernon tree from a recent trip to DC.
There’s a pink bottle from the year my daughter was born, and a teddy bear this year for my son’s first Christmas.
My daughter picked out her first ornament this year too, a small pink elephant from the Smithsonian. I think it’s a great inaugural entry, and can’t wait to watch her put together her own collection.
I can’t wait to see what my son chooses too, once he’s old enough to do more than gnaw on the edges of ornaments.
Anyway, if you have kids and you celebrate Christmas, may I suggest this as a new family tradition. Because as much as I loved collecting ornaments as a child, they mean even more to me now as a “grownup.”
Photo: Flickr/Roxanne Ready