AW

Ornaments Tell a Story

In Family, Life Lessons on December 21, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Growing up, I didn’t have a Christmas tree in the house.  Most Jewish families didn’t.  Years ago, when I started dating my wife, having a Christmas tree became as much a part of my holiday tradition as having a menorah to light for Chanukah.  In all honesty, the tree itself wouldn’t be very meaningful to me, if not for the ornaments adorning it.

Every family has their own tradition and vision of what a Christmas tree should look like.  Some decorate their tree with such elegance that it adds a touch of class to the room in which it sits.  Others use an abundance of lights causing the tree to catch the eye of all passersby.  Our tree is far from elegant, and it is so subtly lit that it would draw very little attention to anyone passing by.  But it has meaning to us.

Even though we didn’t add many new ornaments this year, it looks different than it did in years past, largely because my 4-year old did so much of the decorating.  My wife and I did our part to make sure that the top of the tree wasn’t bare, and my son took care of the middle of the tree.  But this year’s tree is very bottom-heavy with ornaments, and quite frankly, a bit sloppy looking.  That’s what happens when an excited 4-year old is allowed to decorate with reckless abandon.  And though it wasn’t intentional, my little one managed to create a tree that is a microcosm of our lives right now…chaotic, cluttered and a bit cramped.

Some of the ornaments date back to when my wife was a kid.  The rest have been added over the years as our lives have grown together.  One look at our tree and you know instantly who our favorite sports teams are.  You know what characters from our childhood hold a special place in our hearts.  You know some of the places that we have visited.  You know when my wife and I celebrated our first Christmas together…our first Christmas with our son…and our first Christmas with our daughter.  The hanging dreidels and menorah ornaments show that in our house, our tree is actually a “Chrismukkah” tree.

It is said that every picture tells a story and that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Perhaps that is why my wife and I both love the picture frame ornaments that hold photos of the kids when they were younger.  The ornaments on our tree tell a story, but not the whole story.

The holidays are a joyous time, but can also be painful.  While decorating this year, we got to experience the sheer joy on my little one’s face as she hung each ornament in her own little haphazard way.  We also experienced sadness as my son broke down and cried as he held the ornament inscribed with our departed dog’s name on it.  Thankfully, the moments of joy far outweighed the moment of sadness.  But that is not true for everyone.

The picture above is of an ornament that is very special to me, and to the others who have received it as well this year.  It commemorates the life of Olivia Grace Armand, a little girl who passed away on 12/11/2009 (10 days before her 5th birthday).

Today would have been Olivia’s 6th birthday.

Today, Olivia celebrates her 2nd birthday in heaven.

Today, the Olivia Grace Armand Foundation ornament hangs on our tree and tells a story of its own.

It reminds us that life is precious, and that we must live each day to the fullest.  It reminds us that things are usually not nearly as bad as they seem.  It reminds us that we should be grateful for the things that we have instead of longing for the things that we don’t.  Lastly, it reminds us that the greatest gift that anyone could receive is the moments that they get to share with the ones that they love.

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