I saved it for last because I knew it would break me.
Every year I buy my kids and family keepsake ornaments. It is carefully chosen every year and probably my favorite tradition.
I pick each child’s ornament based on what happened in their life that year or just something they love. It’s something to commemorate another year gone by, another year older in childhoods passing all too quickly.
Each year I let the kids put their own ornaments on the tree. It has become a magical time of reminiscing and nostalgia. I hear exclamations of excitement as each one is opened and lovingly placed on the tree.
Remember when I watched Dora every day and we have that video of me dancing to the music in nothing but a tutu?
Remember when I was so obsessed with Polar Express I watched it every day for three months straight?
I started this tradition with no idea of the joy it would bring to our family. For Justin and I, an ornament is chosen as well. For us they are usually big life events. The first several years of our marriage are marked by first home, first baby, second home, second baby, third baby, first trailer etc. Up until this year they have been joyful occasions to celebrate.
As I went to select our ornament for this year I realized there wasn’t really a major happy life event. In fact 2015 really sucked. It started with a breast cancer scare for me followed by 12 months of sickness for Jax, Doctor visits and worry. But worst of all and most momentous of all, 2015 will always be for me the year my dad died. The year that life forever changed in exponential ways. Nothing will ever be the same after 2015. How do you mark such a year?
I couldn’t find the appropriate ornament for 2015. Hallmark doesn’t make ornaments with mammogram machines, hospital bills or gravestones. I didn’t feel like I had much to celebrate. It’s not a year I want to cherish or remember. I’m relieved to see it end. But there is a life I will always remember. A life well lived to the end.
Everyone knows my dad loved to sail. My favorite color happens to be Navy Blue. When I saw a Sailboat ornament with Navy blue sails I knew it was the one for 2015.
It isn’t happy or joyful. I will never ever look upon it and remember fondly this year. Instead of excitement when I unwrap it, I’m sure it will take my breath away. There will always be sadness when I hang it on the tree. But sadness and loss are a part of life. They are now a part of the landscape of mine.
When I hang this sailboat on the tree I hope as years go by and the pain dulls that I will be able to smile and find joy again. Joy in the life and memories that it represents.
Every year the kids love to help me decorate the tree. They don’t, however like to take it down. For me it has become a bittersweet tradition. It’s one I like to do alone. As I lovingly pack each ornament I think of the year it represented. It’s a symbolic of me packing away a year of memories.
This year Reed had a Cub Scout ornament. It reminds me of two years of wonderful memories. I picture the pride on his face when he gets a new award, remember snuggling up in a tent just me and him trying to stay warm and how very handsome he looks in his uniform.
For Paige she got a Girl Scout ornament and I remember her first year in hopefully many to come of making memories with friends, laughing at their Christmas party and the way she looked in the light parade with her Who Ville hair.
Jax is obsessed with Batman so I chose a character ornament for him. I will always laugh that it was one of his first words even before Mama and the excitement he feels and way his face lights up whenever he sees anything to do with Batman!
I packed away each memory, both the old and new. When I got to the sailboat I didn’t have the strength. I’m not ready to say goodbye. I’m not ready to pack away my dads memory. I knew the simple act of taking it off the branch would be my undoing.
And so it sits on the tree, a solitary sailboat that represents a man that has taken his last sail. 2015 I am not sad to see you go. But I need to hold on just a little bit longer.
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