56. Christmas Ornaments

56. Christmas Ornaments

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

Christmas Ornaments

Our most treasured heirlooms are the memories of our family.

~Author Unknown

“How long do you think it’ll take Mom to break an ornament this year? I’m taking bets,” I announce.

“I’d say definitely before the cookies are even ready,” says Alexandra.

“I bet she drops the first one right out of the box,” Jen replies.

My sisters and I are no longer surprised when we hear glass crashing to the ground this time of year. Every Christmas season begins the countdown to when my mother will accidentally break an ornament. It inevitably begins as we bring in the tree and unpack the decorations. We all forget it’s coming, though, as we are entranced by my father lugging in the freshly cut pine, aromatic needles carpeting the dark hardwood floors, and by the living room being transformed into a miniature forest. My two sisters and I pass the boxes down to each other from the attic, creating an assembly line of lights, tinsel, generic silver and gold ornaments, and the more special ornaments that tell the story of our family.

“Remember last year when she broke the Mickey Mouse ornament we got at Disney World?” I ask. “His body shattered and now he’s just a floating head on the tree. Not exactly festive.”

“The only ornaments never in danger are those crappy ones we made in elementary school out of plastic spoons and felt. I can’t believe she’s saved those for fifteen years,” Jen comments.

“Of course I saved them!” exclaims our mother as she shuffles into the room with the big box of ornaments. “They remind me of a simpler time when you girls were sweet and didn’t make fun of your poor mother.”

“Sorry,” Jen replies. “I just don’t want to see any more casualties this year.”

“I’ll be extra careful then.”

The tree is now up and dressed in lights. Every bulb miraculously works, and we begin to slowly add the ornaments, each hanging his or her favorites.

“Dad, what are you doing over there?” I ask.

“I’m taking the crystals from that old broken chandelier in the attic and turning them into ornaments. I’ll put the hooks in and pass them to you.”

“Great. More broken things to put on the tree,” I mumble.

“A Christmas tree is like a big chandelier if you think about it,” says Alexandra. “It’s decorative and lights up the room. Except it goes up to the ceiling, not down from it.”

“You just described a lamp,” I reply

“Well, you know what I mean.”

“Why aren’t you hanging any ornaments?” I ask her.

“I’m supervising from the couch. You missed that spot in the back there.”

The house is filled with the sound of laughter and the soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Cookies are baking, hot chocolate is on the stove, and the smell of cocoa mixes with the scent of pine. It is an unmistakable combination that envelops us and transports us directly into the Christmas season. Suddenly, the sound of shattering glass brings us all back.

“Uh oh. Someone grab the broom,” my dad calls.

“I win! The cookies aren’t even out of the oven yet,” says Alexandra.

“Which one was it?” Jen asks.

“Maybe it was Minnie Mouse and now she and Mickey can be disembodied together,” I suggest.

“It was the blue and gold one your great aunt gave your father and me for our first wedding anniversary.”

The disappointment is evident on all of our faces and seems to hang in the air.

A moment of silence for our lost ornament.

“It’s okay. We’ve had many anniversaries since, and we have a lot more ornaments,” my dad responds. “Next year we’ll just give you a cheap ornament to smash right away to get it out of your system.”

After the tree is decorated, we all place our presents underneath. I put my smallest gift right on top — an ornament for my mother, as usual, so she doesn’t feel as bad about the one she broke. I like to think we don’t lose or replace our memories when the ornaments break, but we build upon them every year with new ones. Like our memories, the ornaments are jumbled together with very little rhyme or reason, but they twinkle and catch your eye as you walk by, almost as if to say, “Don’t forget me.”

~Victoria DeRosa

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