Almost 22 years ago, we received these Christmas ornaments on our wedding day. I must admit, at the time, I thought they were an unusual gift, however when that following December came around, these ornaments were the only ones we owned.
A few months after we got married, my husband joined the Air Force. This was not part of the plan before we were married, nor was it really one after we were married, however, one day, and I still honestly don’t know how, it became an option. Before we knew it, he was off to basic training and tech school, and I was left alone, in a new country, a new town and the only people I knew were my new inlaws. May I add, while he was off starting his military career, he left me in Lubbock, Texas of all places! For this young girl who had grown up in Australia, Lubbock Texas was not one of beauty….add to that the fear of tornadoes which I had never experienced before either, and it was, shall we say, an interesting 6 months! But I digress…
Fast forward 6 months, and we arrived at our first Duty Station, Hurlburt Field, in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. We arrived in December, a few months after Hurricane Opal wiped out the beautiful sand dunes along the beaches. We moved into our first townhouse and when it came time to decorate for our first Christmas, those ornaments we received as our wedding gift back in February, were the only ornaments we had. Our household goods hadn’t arrived yet and we barely had anything in the house, so there was really no sense going and buying a whole lot of Christmas decorations. Instead, we bought a small fake tree and hung these ornaments on there.
Over the years, we slowly accumulated Christmas ornaments. (We even have a few from our own childhoods we’ve been able to add.) Our tree has never been one that would grace the cover of Better Homes and Garden Magazine, or compare to Martha Stewart. All of our ornaments have some kind of memory from that year specifically pertaining to each individual person. The tree is a hodgepodge of ornaments of all sizes and colors. Homemade and store bought alike. From a Monsters Inc. ornament (the first movie Abigail ever saw at the movie theatre), to the Precious Memories ornament of a little girl playing in snow (first time Denae saw snow). Or the car tyre from the year Kian discovered, and became obsessed with, the Cars movie! Each year more ornaments get added and each year it looks even more perfect than the last.
My goal for doing this was so when each of my children leave home, they will have at least 18 ornaments to take with them. 18 years of ornaments to decorate their own tiny trees with when they move into their own homes or dorm rooms. 18 ornaments that become a chronological timeline of their first and favorites. Some years it was easy, some years it was hard, but each year we have managed to collect an ornament that has some kind of significance from the 12 months of their lives.
Here are some suggestions to start your own Christmas Ornament tradition for your growing family:
- Their first – first Christmas; first snow; first airplane ride; first time baking a cake; first basketball game; when they get their drivers license, or graduate high school.
- Choose a movie or book they absolutely loved that year.
- Family vacations – pick up an ornament while you’re on your trip.
- Their favorite food or some new food they tried and discovered they liked.
- A photo of them in a small frame.
- The homes you’ve lived in. Being military for over 20 years, we moved around a lot. Each home we lived in, we decorated a little house and put our address and the years we lived there.
These are just a few ideas, obviously the list could be extensive, but these have served us well over the years and will continue to do so as we move into the next phase of our lives. Also, make sure you write your child’s name and the year they got the ornament. Don’t kid yourself that you will remember who’s ornament or what year it was from, no matter how good you think your memory is!
I know the tree will look bare one day as each child moves out, taking their ornaments with them and starting their own lives. It will be bitter sweet as we don’t put up that “First Basketball Game” ornament one year, or the Dr. Who telephone booth, but we will add new ornaments as we continue to have new adventures.
To this day, we still hang those first 3 ornaments we ever received on our tree each year. We also hang 21 years of memories that bring all of our years together flooding back as we decorate. I may not be the best decorator of trees, but to me, these ornaments mean more to me than any perfect magazine worthy tree ever decorated. Because this is us!