I am preparing to embark on a journey unlike any other. An annual pilgrimage through time that has the stuff of Science Fiction, but is as real as my trip to California last summer. An excursion not for the faint of heart. What I mean to say, is that I’m about to take down the Christmas tree. Let me explain.
The ornaments on our tree are an eclectic collection of keepsakes that each hold a particular memory; each ornament a ticket to travel back in time. A magical thing happens when I hold one of these miniature time capsules–I am transported to a place in the past or to a loved one whose presence no longer graces our lives. As I turn each special piece in my hand, I experience the sounds, smells, and flavors of that encapsulated moment once again.
A great example of this is the clay moose ornament we got on our trip to Vermont. It takes me back to the freezing cold river we crazily went swimming in, the outdoor market with its unusual wares, the strong sweet maple syrup fresh from the tree; the quiet that surrounded me as I lay on a hammock with my beloved, watching the kids enjoy an old-fashioned swing on the porch. This was a trip we took with my baby sis and has remained one of the sweetest getaways full of simple joys we have had to date.
Then there’s the faded construction paper ornament slathered with glitter by the clumsy two-year-old hands of my eldest. This trip takes me back to the season when I was returning to work after a two-year stay at home with my firstborn.
I wasn’t ready to give up that precious time with my baby, but it was time for me to return to the classroom. Dropping her off at a sitter was heartwrenching for me. This sweet papercraft was made at the sitter’s house and I can still see the happiness in my little girl’s eyes when she gave it to me. This simple gift reassured me that she was in a happy place and all would be well. Even then I knew this seemingly ordinary art project would become a treasure.
One of the ornaments that make me chuckle every time I look at it is the 2008 commemorative souvenir of the Phillies’ World Series win. The memories attached to that one are two-fold. First, I vividly recall the excitement of that season as our team got closer and closer to clinching the title. When they won, my husband took the girls to Philadelphia to watch the celebratory parade in all its madness; but that Christmas, my youngest daughter, and her cousin accidentally knocked the prized ornament off the tree and broke it.
Their solution was to slide half of it under the tree and hang the other half with the hook still attached to the back of the tree. As I reached for a gift I spotted the dangling half ornament. Their faces were priceless and after I was done being upset with them, I thought their feeble attempt to make the incriminating evidence ‘disappear’ was hilarious–still is to this day each time I notice the dried up excess glue that holds it together.
Most recently, we traveled to Oklahoma for a softball competition. That trip was as quirky as the ornament that captures the moment. We took in the beauty of “Pearl”, the life-sized bull covered completely with pearls outside of the charming indie bookstore where I vowed to make part of my book tour. My husband tried “lamb fries” (don’t ask!) at a cowboy steakhouse spurred on by the rodeo competitors eating near our table; I discovered frozen pickle juice was surprisingly tasty. We got to see international professional softball teams play and experience the distinctive cheering of the Puerto Rican fans complete with güiros, palitos, pandaretas and the unmistakable rhythm of the island–all in Oklahoma!
This is how this annual trek goes for me. As I hang or take down the ornaments, I travel back and relive pockets of time with all of the joys and sorrows that go with them. All the stories of births, graduations, driver’s licenses, ballet classes, sports, anniversaries, vacations and farewells are revisited and experienced anew. A spirit of gratitude towards God wells up in me from having had the opportunity to live these moments alongside my beautiful family, along with the chance to travel back and enjoy them again and again.
For you who are starting out on your own family journey, consider preserving your memories in some way, so that you too may revisit them and be reminded of how fortunate you have been…especially during the inevitable seasons when the reverse seems to be true.
Before I go to sojourn through the stories of where we’ve been, I leave you with this last thought…