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ornamental memories

December 5th, 2010 | 18 Comments »

My friend Missy, the Marketing Mama has gathered some blogging friend together to talk and reminisce about Christmas ornaments that they love, and the reasons why they’re so important to them. I knew I had to participate in this fun blog carnival because I’ve often considered the fact that should I ever have a fire in my home, one thing I know I would be crushed to lose would be my boxes of Christmas ornaments. The history that unfolds each year as I pull them out and unwrap them never ceases to amaze me, and to fascinate Griffin. He loves looking them over as much as I do, and has contributed many ornaments¬†over the years that are absolutely priceless to me.

And that’s where I will start…. with the first ones he gave me.

This wreath was made when he was in Kindergarten, in the after school program he went to each day.

It’s the simplest thing; a hangar twisted until it was round and then covered with dozens of strips of cut white plastic garbage bags that were tied on. Here you can see a little more detail.

My little guy was mighty proud of this when he showed it to me, and I was really impressed, especially when his teacher told me that he was very diligent about tying his strips on to ‘make it look really nice’. I’ll never forget his face as she praised him, and when he handed it to me. He looked like he could burst wide open. This wreath graces our front door every year, and I love how it looks against the lovely green tone.

The very same year, from his actual Kindergarten class came this adorable little Christmas tree, complete with his Kindergarten picture. It’s faded almost to gray and most of the glitter has worn off, but it is always placed in a very prominent position on our tree every year.

The best part about this particular one is that I have one to match it from when I was in Kindergarten. That faded little paper chain was something I put together when I was but a five-year old too, some 30 years before my own young man. His is imbedded with the year 1999, and mine was made in 1969. These two ornaments always hang next to each other.

Another treasured set of ornaments date that far back as well, and likely even before. These are ones that my Grandma made for us each year.

Some of them even still carry the tags she attached, penned in her careful script.

Each year on Christmas Eve, my Grandma came to our house for dinner. We loved her arrival because she always had a box with her, filled with her handmade ornaments, one for each of us. She had 15 grandchildren, and she did this for all of them each year. We loved the anticipation of what was to come, and often mobbed her to help her with her coat, get her boots off and have her situated so she could bring out our box. We would then rush to our huge tree in the corner to add it to the staggering wealth of ornaments hanging there already. It seemed like each year when we opened our boxes that we had so much to place on that tree. I get that same feeling now, but I place them all carefully so that I can see each one. My Grandma passed away in 1988 and had long gotten out of the habit of making our ornaments each year, but to have these on my own tree always reminds me of her warm smile and the way she would throw her arms around us to give us those perfect grandmotherly squeezes.

I have even yet another set of very special ornaments that were given to me by a friend when Griffin was three years old.

These are superbly old fashioned glass ornaments and are very fragile. I’ve lost a few over the years to eager little fingers but when I pull them out of their tissue packing I remember a year that was very difficult for me, and a friend that stepped up to try and add some necessary cheer to a cheerless situation. It was my first Christmas as a single parent, I had little money and was feeling extremely sad about celebrating. This friend took me out shopping one evening and bought me a small little tree for my tiny apartment, a stand to put it in, a cute holiday tree skirt for underneath, some light strings and a few ornaments, including this set. They simply said ‘You need to have Christmas for your little boy.’ and I was not allowed to say ‘No’. I’m very grateful for that generosity because it helped make our first Christmas alone a little bit better. Growing up, we had a small box of old-fashioned ornaments that were very similar to these so they carry fond memories of when I was really young too.

One last decoration that requires special mention is this porcelain christmas tree.

Griffin’s paternal Grandmother gave this to me many years ago. I had always admired it in her home each season, and when she moved from a house to an apartment, she passed on many treasures to me, including this little tree. It has tiny glass bulbs that slip into holes on the tree branches, and when it’s plugged in it shines with it’s numerous colored lights on a lamp stand in my office. It’s so unique, and so perfect. Grandma Annie passed away this past March, yet she left me several wonderful keepsakes of her and this tree will always have a place in our holiday decor.

This year, on a whim, I took that old tree skirt from my friend, the one that covered that tiny Christmas tree in 1997 and laid it out for the cats to use as a festive means of celebrating Eli’s first Christmas with us.

Because I think everyone in this house should get into the holiday spirit, even if they’re covered in fur.

Join the rest of the bloggers participating in this fun walk down memory lane. Follow the links to their sites to see what they’ve got hanging around their homes this holiday season.


November 11th, 2010 | 7 Comments »

It’s Veteran’s Day, which is set aside as a day of remembering those who served our country. And then there’s Memorial Day, as a day to remember those who died serving our country.

But where’s the day, the national holiday that honors our loved ones and the normal folks who didn’t lay down their lives for their country? Where’s the day that we remember the mothers, fathers, siblings, aunts and uncles and grandparents that are no longer a part of our lives? The friends we’ve lost? Why is there no national holiday that honors those everyday heroes, the ones who raised children but left them too soon? The friends that no longer smile upon us and brighten our lives? The grandparents that dote on their grandchildren?

My answer to that is simple- it happens every day. Or it should happen every day.

If you’ve read this site for any amount of time you know that I no longer have my Mom and my sister Karen in my life. They died three years apart in the mid-90’s. It was a really awful time of my life as both died suddenly and tragically. But I think the worst part of losing them both is how the world simply forgets about them once they’re gone. My family certainly doesn’t forget; we can’t ignore those holes in our memories regardless of how long it’s been. And no one who has ever lost a parent forgets that influence. My Mom has been gone for 16 years and yet I still hear her laugh, and feel her guidance every day. I still bristle years later from the callous remark made to me a short time after my Mom died when someone made the offhand comment that “Jane was your Mother.”

Jane still is my mother, no less than she was when she was here and even more so because she’s gone. The influence never stops. And the fact that she gave me life doesn’t stop at her death. It’s the same way with my sister, who doesn’t cease being my sister once she leaves this Earth. Along the way of learning to navigate life without them, I began to think it was vital to do something to remember them, every day. And somehow have a means of showing others that I will never forget, and that they shouldn’t either. I didn’t know what that would look like but somehow the vision I had kept coming back to Dragonflies. And then browsing the Internet one day, I came across this from The Dragonfly project.

“In the bottom of an old pond lived some grubs who could not understand why none of their group ever came back after crawling up the lily stems to the top of the water. They promised each other that the next one who was called to make the upward climb would return and tell what had happened to him.

Soon one of them felt an urgent impulse to seek the surface; he rested himself on the top of a lily pad and went through a glorious transformation which made him a dragonfly with beautiful wings. In vain he tried to keep his promise. Flying back and forth over the pond, he peered down at his friends below. Then he realized that even if they could see him they would not recognize such a radiant creature as one of their number.

The fact that we cannot see our friends or communicate with them after the transformation which we call death is no proof that they cease to exist.”

Which then led to this permanent reminder that I carry every day on my right forearm.

Our culture doesn’t like death. We don’t honor it much and for most people, I think the thought of dying is pretty frightening. The means of one’s dying becomes a source of discomfort too, such as the case with my sister, who committed suicide. People don’t understand it and it’s better to just ignore it than talk about it, talk about why, try to make some sense of it. People turned their backs on me when my sister died because they couldn’t handle it. And when I would talk about her, I saw fear in the faces of others. We don’t honor the dead. We sweep them under the rug and act like it never happened. Or we want to, anyway.

But I don’t. And I won’t. That’s why I inked the symbolism on my arm. And I love it when people ask me what it means. To me, it means the world, my world and what I’ve lost. That’s important to me and I will never tire of telling anyone about it.