The enduring lessons of Christmas ornaments
To the editor:
On the Saturday after Thanksgiving I decided to go up the attic to get take down those old ornaments and decorations that have sparked so much joy in my family's life. I believe they have a magical, redeeming quality , sort of like Christmas lights that are kept up all year by famiies who hold a heartfelt vigil for heroic family members in uniform overseas.
I always marvel at the ancient, timeless, multi-generational treasures, many dating from my earliest childhood and with some of the "newest" introduced a decade or two ago during our child-rearing years.
We own candles that have never felt flames, angels that have never seen flight and Santa Clauses that exceed current politically correct standards of fat and jolly. Music boxes have chimed the same music for ages, and mysteriously some begin playing without winding them as if they were relieved to be liberated for a few, glorious weeks again. Perhaps it's just the air of the season and anxious anticipation of the festivities to come that animates them.
We have a faded Rudolf made of wood whose nose still burns bright red and a half moon with a Santa profile made of papier-mache. We have "ornaments" made by the children with elbow macaroni spray painted in gold. It is astonishing to me that we will enable our grandchildren someday to hold delicate, glass, colored globes with tin hooks that we first held as children. How these have survived are a deep mystery to me. We've used the original faded and stained boxes for most, and for most others, holiday kitchen cloths and towels that have never felt moisture provided the protection to transcend the decades without incident.
There is a particularly, mysterious quality to the objects that have eyes that initially connects me to my childhood which took me a while to fully understand. My imagination seems to play tricks on me as the eyes of the angels, the Santa Clauses, figurines of the Nativity and the reindeer are slightly moving, living and actually looking at me. But before I need to see a therapist or be blamed for partaking early in a bit of eggnog cheer, I've come to realize that my experience is borne from the rituals of the season and the recesses of my childhood.
In bygone days, when I first looked into the eyes of those objects, I actually was a believer. I believed that angels did play trumpets, that reindeer could fly and that a jolly old man in a red suit would bring me the presents that I had yearned for. Since as a child my own eyes were literally bigger, perhaps they had a magical ability to perceive life in inanimate objects. Alas, isn't this the very essence of childhood?
Realizing the potential lesson here, I promptly announced to my children that I would not set up the Christmas tree and decorations around the house this year. Since they are now are teenagers and young adults they should assume this responsibility, allowing mom and dad to get their shopping done early. Since they now have reached the ages where they are no longer "believers," I have decided to make it my parental mission to help them initiate a new lifetime process through a seasonal chore.
I hope that as they would go about the business of uncovering the tree ornaments especially, they would encounter the same experience of reflection that I've had for years. I wanted them to recognize that their blessings in life are to be appreciated. I wanted them to feel the pull of nostalgia in their hearts and the yearning for days of innocence when sharing and laughing with others permeated their days. My hope is that they will develop an appreciation for family and friends and spreading good cheer and giving of themselves as methods to profoundly enrich their own lives.
My hope is that my final act of parenthood on the eve of their adulthood would be helped along by those little treasures that are hidden in cardboard boxes that we put away each year on the Epiphany and take back out just after Thanksgiving.