by: Topher Wiles
I admit, I’m a Thanksgiving/Christmas purist. Don’t even talk to me about Christmas until I’ve Friday morning after I’ve enjoyed a good turkey dinner the day before. But when Friday comes, The Wiles family goes full force into Christmas mode with trees, lights, ornaments, the Christmas activity jar, Advent calendars, and more!
Putting up the tree every year as a family together is a great bonding and remembering time for the Wiles. Grandma Nell was so sweet when she gave us her dilapidated metal & plastic tree about 17 years ago. That Christmas tree has seen a lot of years and we were happy to keep putting it up year after year when she no longer could. As our first Christmas tree in the Wiles family, our ornaments took on the personality of the tree. We began decorating with mostly hand-me-down ornaments donated by Grandma, my mom, sweet friends, and dirty-Santa game winnings. Every year we add new ornaments that people give us and hand-made ornaments by the kids. Now that old tree is completely filled with memories of sweet times and sweet people long past. I’d like to tell you about three of our ornaments that will bless some families this year who may find some struggling moments during the Christmas holiday season.
One of my favorite ornaments to put on the tree makes me laugh out loud as it comes with a story. As we pull this delicate ornament out of the box my kids wait expectantly on the edge of their seat for the coming hilarity of the story. During our first Christmas together as husband and wife, my Ashley decided to cheaply make ornaments for our tree. Her chosen materials for the ornament were cinnamon and apple sauce. Did you know you can bake them together to make a cute star shape, bell, or heart through which ribbon can be threaded? Yes, we have cinnamon based ornaments that have been on our tree for 16 years. And they taste horrible. I would know, because 16 years ago I took a bite out of one of those ornaments. They may smell sweet, but they taste like dirt. My kids laugh every year as I tell the story of my ornament tasting time. Some ornamental memories make us laugh.
I have another ornament that I alone get to hang on the tree near the top. It is a little blue plastic star framing a white nativity scene. It’s not an ornament that originally cost much money but it means the world to me. My family growing up didn’t profess or practice a lot of religious faith, so this nativity ornament from my late Grandma Marge’s tree makes me smile as it signifies her own belief in Christ. She hung it every year at the top of her tree, and that ornament is one of the few things I have left from my grandma who passed away 25 years ago. When I hang the ornament I remember the sweet times of eating chicken pot pie at the bar in her kitchen or visiting the humane society taking care of stray cats and dogs with Grandma. I smile at the faith and memories it brings back. Some ornamental memories make us smile.
There is another ornament that completely caught me off guard as it drew an emotional response from me. My mom was always crafty and handmade so many things for us kids through our years. Annually, my mom would handmake a few new ornaments on our tree, most of them were odd, like crocheted lollipops or paper stars, but I kept them every year anyway and dutifully hung them on the tree. When mom passed away in May a few years ago, I didn’t think a thing about those Christmas ornaments until I started hanging them on the tree. I pulled out the pink crocheted lollipop and was surprised as tears started welling up in my eyes. I didn’t cry much when mom passed, perhaps because I was so busy doing all the funeral responsibilities. Yet here I was six months later breaking down in tears remembering mom and all her handmade ornaments. Some ornamental memories make us cry.
Laughing, smiling, and crying together are healthy events in the life of a family because it helps all of us to remember. For the health and strength of your family, I encourage you to actively find an annual tradition to help your family remember. Maybe it’s watching your wedding video every anniversary. Perhaps it’s pulling out the photo albums every Easter. You may even be able to create a large family tree to hang in a prominent place in your home. Whatever the method or the emotion it produces, your family will be blessed as you remember.
“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that the Lord has done; I ponder the work of His hands.” – Psalm 143:5