Another Christmas is almost upon us, so there is a 9½ foot Noble fir in our living room covered from tip to skirt with colored lights and ornaments. Most of those ornaments belong either to me or my sister. We have a special tradition in our family where each year, when the tree goes up, my sister and I receive a new ornament that commemorates something that happened in the past year. Our tall tree is therefore decorated not just with ornaments, but with more than thirty years worth of memories.
The kind of ornaments we receive come in several different categories. One such category could be called milestone ornaments.
For example, I received this ornament the year I started school.
My sister and I were presented with a book ornament the year each of us learned to read.
Learning to ride a bike was celebrated with a shiny red two-wheeler ornament...
...and we each received a shiny red car the year we got our driver's licenses.
Other years, my sister and I are given ornaments that represent a trip we took that year, either as a family or, as we've gotten older, as individuals.
We received snorkeling Santas the year we vacationed in Hawaii.
One year, while I was in college, I did some traveling in Europe, which included spending several days in London. A Big Ben ornament commemorates that trip.
There are other years when we receive ornaments that represent a special interest or hobby or event that happen that year.
This particular year (when I was seven, if my memory serves me right), my sister and I were given our yearly ornament on Christmas Day after Santa had delivered jump ropes for each of us. My sister's jump rope was red, so this is her ornament. Mine was blue, and I have a nearly identical ornament, except the little girl has a blue jump rope and a red dress! (She is missing part of one of her braids, which is why I photographed my sister's ornament.)
I received this "Vixen" reindeer ornament the Christmas when I was a senior in high school and it's one of my favorites. A doodle I made on a whiteboard in my physics class turned into a running joke with my physics teacher and others about "Physics Vixens" and I even held that title in the school physics club. It just so happened that Pottery Barn made ornaments representing Santa's reindeer that year and so my parents were able to surprise me with this fabulous vixen!
My sister and I both got this sweet pup-in-a-box ornament the year we adopted Abbey. My sister was living on the other side of the country at that time, but Abbey was still very much her dog, too!
Another one of my favorite ornaments is this fat cat with a fancy "blinged-out" gold chain necklace that represents the so-called Bank of Benny, the cash that I earned from looking after the Ancient Kitty! This ornament took me entirely by surprise and my parents' long search for just the right cat really paid off: this fat kitty looks exactly how you imagine a wealthy banker cat might! Benny was a green-eyed, orange and white cat, too, but nowhere near as plump!
Last year, my family accidentally grew acorn squash in our community garden patch. (We thought we had planted pumpkins.) The homegrown, organic acorn squash turned out to be far more delicious than the acorn squash you can buy in the store, and seeing as we're all fans of acorn squash, we really treasured the ones we grew! My mother, thanks to the power of the internet, managed to find a place that sold beautiful acorn squash ornaments for me and my sister!
And for 2011, my sister and I got camera ornaments! I, of course, launched a photography business and acquired a very fancy camera this year and my sister got a new camera, too. These camera ornaments are quite ornate, with all the buttons and the digital screen on the back and everything!
If you look at it carefully, our Christmas tree reveals that over the years I played the violin and the electric guitar, that I was a snowboarder and a softball player, that I went whitewater rafting and vacationed in Maine, and have loved things as diverse as turtles and art. There's even an ornament celebrating the year I rented my first apartment! When I decorate the tree each year, I love reliving all these memories as I hang them. It's a tradition well-worth keeping and sharing.