19: Christmas Ornaments

19: Christmas Ornaments

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Christmas Ornaments

The message of Christmas is that the visible material world is bound to the invisible spiritual world.

~Author Unknown

At the beginning of December we begin the ritual of hauling boxes upstairs from their yearlong resting place in the basement. The boxes are filled with treasures that will make our Christmas tree sparkle, adorn our fireplace mantel and leave every surface with some sort of holiday jewels, glitz and glamour. Some of the ornaments were from my childhood, and my parents’ and grandparents’ childhoods. Every time I see them, I am reminded of days gone by, filled with warm, happy memories. One year, unpacking the ornaments made me realize I needed to make a few new memories with my children.

When I was adopting Juliana and Andrea from Romania, I looked for Christmas ornaments while we were there, but could not find anything to hang on our tree. I bought a few miniature plastic Romanian dolls that I thought the girls might like on the tree, but I felt they needed something more in comparison to the many items Pat and I had from our families. It was unrealistic to fly back to Romania to shop for Christmas ornaments in a store, so the next best thing was to make some.

The girls did not enjoy crafts the way I did, so the handmade versions looked pathetic. The art teacher at the elementary school conducted art projects where the children brought home delightful ornaments they made, but none of it related to their Romanian heritage. I was adamant that I would find something Romanian for them to hang on our family Christmas tree.

My sister knew someone who would be traveling to Romania on business right around the holidays. I called him and explained how important it was that my daughters have something from their birth country on our Christmas tree. He understood and promised to buy something for each of them. I was thrilled.

As the days ticked by, I was getting more worried that he would not be successful with his quest to buy the girls ornaments. I remembered how barren the store shelves were in Romania when we were there, and I couldn’t imagine the economy had improved much. I knew it would be hard for my sister’s friend to find anything. Yet, I couldn’t stop myself from dreaming about some gorgeous shiny orb that he might find and deliver to my daughters for Christmas.

A few days before Christmas he called to say he found something “small” and we should look for it in the mail. He also warned that it was not a typical ornament. He said the stores didn’t offer much and he was hard pressed to find something to hang on a tree. He refused to give up until he found something for the girls. I was impressed with his devotion. He was a total stranger offering to do a kind gesture, and I assured him that whatever he found would be cherished.

We were all excited when the package arrived. We huddled around the kitchen table and waited patiently as Patrick opened the package with a knife. He gingerly folded the top flaps back and let the girls carefully look through the tissue paper that filled the box. The moment Andrea felt something she retracted her hand and whimpered. “I’m too excited,” she said. “I can’t do it.”

Juliana giggled. “Oh, Andrea. I’ll do it.”

Andrea bent down close while Juliana slowly and carefully unfurled the object. A brown ceramic pig tumbled onto the kitchen table with a thunk. The girls looked at each other, expressionless.

Andrea picked it up and examined it closely. “What is that?” she asked in a high-pitched, squeaky voice.

“Andrea, it’s a pig,” Juliana said matter-of-factly.

Andrea’s mouth dropped open. “Why in the world would he give us a pig?” She looked at me through her tiny glasses. “When I think of the baby Jesus being born in a stable I think of sheep, cows and donkeys. Not a pig. Was a pig there?”

Juliana laughed so hard she fell off the chair and rolled around on the kitchen floor.

I sighed deeply as I watched Pat pick up the pig and examine it, figuring out how to hang it on the tree. To him, this was the essence of their culture and it did not matter what the object was. Pat would rig it up with wire and duct tape and I would camouflage it in ribbon. Together we would hang it on our Christmas tree and be grateful.

Two weeks after Christmas the girls were sick with ear infections. Following a trip to the doctor’s office, Pat waited in the car while I ran into a pharmacy to get their prescriptions filled. As I waited for the medications, I wandered through the store. A “90% off” sale sign caught my eye. That might be a great deal! That’s when I saw a box of ornaments, and my heart skipped a beat. I quickly checked the small print on the side of the package to see where the ornaments were made. When I saw “Made in Romania” tears filled my eyes. I ran to the front of the store, grabbed a cart and filled it with every box on the shelf. I was so excited about the ornaments I almost forgot to get the medicine for the girls.

I cannot imagine what Pat thought when he saw me push the cart overflowing with packages to the car.

“What’s all of this?” he asked. He got out of the car and opened the trunk. “This can’t possibly all be medicine.”

I laughed as I told him that I had been dreaming about these shiny glass ornaments with glitter and jewels for the girls. I showed him one of the boxes filled with the sparkling ornaments. “This is exactly what I wanted for the girls. They were made in Romania and I got them on sale for ninety percent off.”

“That’s unbelievable,” he said smiling.

“What’s unbelievable is that I asked if they would be getting more next year and they said no. They had never seen these ornaments before and would probably never get them again.”

That was fifteen years ago. Every year I look for them, but always come up empty handed. It only makes the day that I found them that much sweeter.

~Barbara S. Canale

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