When Cheyenne was about 3, a wonderful lady shared about buying ornaments for her grandchildren to hang on the “cousins tree” in her house. Each Christmas the cousins would all come over and were given a new ornament to go on the tree and would then decorate the tree with ornaments from years past. I thought this was great and I changed it a bit to fit the season of life that I was currently in and still am as I do not have any grandchildren yet.
Each year I give the kids a new ornament which is the first ornaments to be hung on the tree. Their ornaments are stored in a plastic shoe box labeled with their names. The idea was that when they left home that these would be their ornaments to decorate their own trees. Last year, the first box left home. Honestly, this was more traumatic for me than when the child actually left home. There are precious memories in those boxes.
In the beginning, I wanted a themed tree- you know color coordinated and just so. So, I purchased ornaments that went with my theme, mainly mercury glass type ornaments in shiny colors. But then one year when the kids were still very little, I had the idea to purchase the ornaments while on our summer vacation. I was able to do this without the kids noticing as my husband is great at keeping the kids busy while I hunt ornaments. At Christmas, the vacation would have long been a memory but when the ornaments came out the memories came back. Being stealthy about the ornament buying worked for a few years, but the children being smart and observant started looking for ornaments for me while we would be shopping. Then this became a new tradition. Also, it dawned on me the year we went to Chincoteague Island that if I didn’t buy myself an ornament I was going to have a very empty and sad tree when the kids left home.
Now, each year when the boxes are relieved of their contents, we remember each trip and tell the stories one more time. Some years, there weren’t vacations so the ornaments were chosen based on a significant event in our lives. Like the year all the kids got into horses, I bought horse ornaments that looked like each kid’s horse. It has become something we all treasure and enjoy. My tree is not coordinated, but it is themed. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I often ask the kids about their friends houses at Christmas- I am a bit of a junkie and I like to gather new ideas- so often their response is “The tree is pretty, but not special like ours.” It seems I set the bar high without even meaning to do so.
This is what traditions are to me- threads that run through the years tying us together and weaving the tapestry that when we look back, it is the tapestry of our lives. As the mother, it is my honor to be the keeper and maker of these traditions.