It was the early 1950s. She was young and had only been married for a few years. This Christmas … this Christmas was something to look forward to. No one was going to be deployed overseas; there was a little extra money in the budget. Yes, this Christmas was going to be nice. This Christmas called for new ornaments and decorations on the tree.
At her next trip to the drugstore, she walked slowly down the aisle of Christmas decorations, choosing carefully what would adorn her tree and bring the Christmas spirit to their small home. She finally chose a variety of ornaments, of all different colors and shapes. These. These would look beautiful with colored lights, white lights, or no lights at all. These were perfect.
She went home that day and decorated her tree alone. After all, this was a woman’s job to beautify the house and to bring home the Christmas spirit. It did not go unnoticed.
New Babies, New Memories
A few years went by and she welcomed a baby girl, a baby that shared her birthday. That baby’s first Christmas was a fun one, with a crawling 10 month baby girl. More than once, the little girl reached for the ornaments, and who could blame her? They were shiny and sparkly – certainly a toy. But these were not the shatter resistant ornaments of today, and when the decorations were packed up that Christmas, there were three that were gone.
Three years later, a baby boy was added to the family. The young daughter, still fascinated with the ornaments, wanted to show “her baby” the shiny baubles, and the mother managed to rescue several before the baby put them in his mouth. But it was a happy Christmas, even though another two ornaments were lost.
As the years passed and the children grew, she did not replace these ornaments, even though several had been shattered. She treasured the ones remaining. After all, what memories had these ornaments seen? They had witnessed that first Christmas, when the decorations themselves were some of the main gifts. They had seen both of the babies’ first Christmases. They had sat on the tree when gifts were abundant underneath it, and they had sat on the tree on years when only one gift per person was barely scraped together.
When her children, still babies themselves in her mind, left the house, she decorated the tree alone once again. She did it knowing that they would come home for Christmas, and she wanted the tradition to feel the same. Those same ornaments – only three boxes still remained – decorated the tree with pride.
Grandchildren – More New Memories
Five years later, her first granddaughter was born. Oh, how a child brings out the spirit of Christmas and the joy of the season. It wasn’t many years after that this granddaughter, and also her sister, would go to her house and help decorate her tree. She was no longer decorating it alone.
Years later, as two more granddaughters were added to her brood, she found herself answering the question frequently, “Grandmother, why do you still have these old ornaments? They’re so OLD!”
“Like me?” she thought with a wry smile, but she answered with the same patient response, “I got those right after me and your granddaddy got married. Those ornaments are special.” Only two boxes of ornaments were still in tact.
After the oldest two grandchildren were in college, and her own health had failed her on several occasions, she decided to hang up the tree decorating.
But the ornaments were not done. Their story continued.
You see, that year, her oldest granddaughter unwrapped two very old, beat up boxes of carefully preserved ornaments. Those ornaments had long lost their shine and glitter had been lost over the years. “I bought those ornaments right after your granddaddy and I got married,” she told her granddaughter, “and now I’m giving them to you.”
That same year, the granddaughter proudly displayed these ornaments on her Christmas tree, with a bit of history mixed in with the new. When she had her own daughter three years later, those precious ornaments moved on up to the top of the Christmas tree, so that little hands can’t reach them, and all of the ornaments can last.
Oh, the memories that these ornaments have seen. When they were first purchased, there was no thought that they would one day be looked at in awe by her great-grandchildren, yet here they are. A Christmas tradition turned into an heirloom, all from a few boxes of drugstore Christmas ornaments.
I am the oldest granddaughter who received this box of precious ornaments, and it is one of my most cherished Christmas gifts to date. I was inspired to tell this story while decorating my tree this year and thinking what memories these ornaments have seen! I have used some imagination throughout based on how Christmas is with my own two children, also a girl and a boy, as well as just things I have been told from her about their life back then, so it probably isn’t 100% true to my grandmother’s life. I look forward to passing these ornaments on one day to my own daughter, along with the memories behind them.