Saturday, December 10, 2011

12 Decorations of Christmas

When visiting someone's home at Christmas, I enjoy looking through their tree.  Most have stories, filled with a mixture of ornaments collected through the years.  A Christmas tree is much like a family book, the pages open among each branch, memories and milestones shared with each hanging trinket.  It is those stories, the timeline of our family, that make me treasure our tree and decorations at Christmastime. 

I realize I've written posts before on decorating our tree.  One just a few weeks ago about a special new addition to our family.  However, this was before knowing I'd have a "12 ____ countdown" and it's just not Christmas without a tree full of special ornaments, or a tribute to my favorites.  Join me, as I take you through our home this season on a virtual tour...

The very first ornament I ever purchased was one symbolizing our marriage.  I was drawn to the mauve ribbon that ran throughout it, as this was one of our wedding colors.  We were barely married six months, our first Christmas together.  Two love birds, already building our nest, and an unexpected gift of a child on it's way.  We shared so many dreams and plans of our life together, as we held hands hanging it that first year.  We've continued that tradition to this day, hanging it two hands as one and sealing it with a kiss.

Our next Christmas was filled with the joy and excitement that only a new baby can bring.  Austin was five months his first holiday under the tree.  Our little "Blair Bear" as we called him, this was the perfect ornament for his first Christmas.  Tradition was for him to hang this each year, pausing for a picture for Mom with that sweet, growing smile. 
...precious memories now as I hang it for him.

The next year I decided to start the tradition of purchasing a symbolic ornament for our tree.  Sometimes it was to celebrate a milestone, recognize a person, or a memorable event that happened that year.  Tim joined the local fire department it's first year, when he was barely 18.  Though a volunteer, he'd worked hard through the years and earned his way to becoming an officer.  This little mouse, climbing up to place the star on top, reminded me of his passion and dedication.  He's our tribute to Tim's devotion to the fire service and I love watching him hang this every year.

In 2000, our lives were blessed with a bouncing baby boy, our Noah. Continuing the "Blair Bear" theme, this was a special find.

I'm not sure when I began to collect snowmen but they've been a part of my decorations for as long as I can recall.  I love snowmen, so jolly and sweet.  Maybe it goes back to my childhood, where it seemed we always had a white Christmas and extended snow vacation.  Such fond visions of making snow angels in the crystallized fluff, sledding and rolling balls to form a snowman, of course saving a few smaller ones for a fight.  My house has welcomed dozens of snowmen over the years, most of them finding a home in the kitchen.  They are the only decorations allowed to join us for the new year.  I'll keep them out through February, or whenever the last snowfall greets us.  Their smiles warm my heart on cold winter days.  This is among my favorites, a gift from Noah one year, purchased
with his own money at the Santa store at school.

Our Kid's tree is covered in handmade decorations and ornaments from the chubby little fingers of my boys.  It would be impossible to pick my favorites on this tree but this one has special memories.  It's actually a necklace, we hang now as "garland" on that tree.  I so vividly recall Noah proudly handing it up to me one year, something he made at church.  "It's a neck-a-less, Mom.  
I wanted you to have something beautiful like you."  .....Heart hug! 

We found this beautiful angel while vacationing in the Bahamas on our Disney Cruise.  I packaged her ever so carefully in our luggage, hoping her shell wings would survive the travel home.  We have such fond memories each year hanging her, remembering our dream trip with the boys.
There's actually lots of angels on my tree, something I've always been drawn to I guess, and a seemingly appropriate decoration for a Christmas tree.  This is one of four angels in a set that float on our branches.  For many years, they were actually just "filler ornaments" and had no special meaning.  Our final Christmas with Austin though, that last perfect day, he seemed so touched by these.  Sitting on the edge of the couch, gingerly holding one in his hand, he looked deep into it.  As he hung it on the tree, light caught in the glass, sending it dancing around the angel and he softly commented about how beautiful it was.  "This is one of my favorite ornaments, Mom," he said.  So, of course, these four angels are extremely precious now to me.

There a certain set of angels which stay out in my home all year long, my willow tree collection.  They adorn our mantel, receiving a dose of holiday cheer with the addition of lit garland and ribbons this time of year.  The vast majority of them are from Mom, each symbolizing something special, often as birthday or Christmas gifts.  One Christmas, Mom gave me a large "mother/daughter" angel, which came with a smaller replica as an ornament.  Not having any ornaments from my childhood on my tree, this seems like a piece of it, even though it is new.

This isn't an ornament but a special decoration just the same.  It's one of the few keepsakes from the "12 days of Christmas" I did for Tim in 2008. That year, I came up with the idea of surprising him with a 12 days of Christmas countdown, hoping it would give him something to look forward to each day.  To be honest, I needed it as much as him as it gave me a distraction instead of marking the days on the calendar since we'd lost Austin.  That simple activity saved the both of us and helped us survive such a difficult time.  

The pain returns each season without Austin but we can now remember him with smiles as well as tears.  And my two favorite ornaments surround his memory.  One was purchased last year, containing a photo of Austin placing the angel on our tree that last day. It hangs just below the very angel he rested so easily that year atop the tree.  The final and newest, having just received it last night, is a golden yellow butterfly. 
A symbol we now treasure and always reminds us of Austin.

What ornaments are special to you?
Share some memories with us!


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