I pull the boxes of ornaments from the closet and prepare myself for a trip into
the past. No photo album can bring back as many memories as my box of ornaments.
Like a picture, each ornament contains a memory.
There's the box of wooden ones, handmade and painted with care. Within the assortment is a small man on skis, a mouse on a swing, even Santa in his sleigh. I
remember when my Georgia I bought them. It was our first Christmas as a married
couple. We hung them on the tree and dreamed how our future children would love them.
I pick up a ceramic Santa. My aunt gave it to me when I was four. He holds a
tiny box in his hands. There's a tear in it's wrapper, a tear caused by a boy who couldn't
contain his curiosity.
A tiny brass bell is next. My brothers and I had fun with this bell. We took
turns hiding it in the tree. The others had to find it. We played "Find the Bell," until mom
yelled at us for shaking the tree to make the bell ring and reveal its hiding spot.
Mom knew how much the bell meant to me. The year I had my own family, she
gave me the bell. I played the same game with my own children.
I pick up a pretty red ball. My daughter touched it when she was two. We'd put
Venessa down for her nap and decorated while she slept. We wanted to surprise her.
We finished I sat back with a glass of eggnog and waited for her to wake.
I see her face again. She ran from her room, fully charged and ready to take on
the world. She was five feet from the tree before she looked up and stopped. Her eyes
opened wide. Her jaw dropped open, as she emitted a small cry of delight. She walked
forward, raised her hand, and touched a red ball - the ball now held in my hand.
She turned to me. Her eyes reflected the colored lights. "Daddy, what is
"It's Christmas, Sweetie." My voice quivered with emotion, "It's Christ's
birthday. We're going to celebrate it."
Her sparkling eyes, hanging jaw, and soft skin made me hold my arms out. She
ran into them and gave me a hug that would have melted even Scrooge's hard heart.
I pick up a cracked green ball, a veteran of the first time I allowed my kids to
decorate the tree. They hung all the balls on one branch. When they turned for another, I
quickly moved the one before it to a better spot. I laughed when they told Grandma they
decorated all by themselves.
Near the bottom of the box, I find a brass plaque. It brings back a special
memory. It has my son's name and birth date on it. Justin was supposed to be a New
Year's Eve baby, but he decided he wasn't going to miss Christmas.
Justin was three weeks old, when we took him to the Christmas Eve service at
our church. That night, our minister explained to us the real meaning of Christmas. As
she spoke, she wandered down the aisle and stopped beside us. She reached down and
asked, "May I?" I nodded and handed him to her. She lifted him into her arms.
She was quiet as she walked back to face the congregation. Turning, she held
my son high and said, "This is the real meaning of Christmas: The birth of a new life!"
She cradled my son as she spoke. A single tear trickled down my cheek. She
walked around the sanctuary, displaying my son to those gathered for the Christmas
service. The room seemed empty of everyone but her and my family. Overtaken with
emotion, I reached out, hugged and Vanessa to my side, and thought, "This
will be a Christmas to remember."
In 2003 I pulled the ornaments out again. Justin and I were not going to be
home for Christmas that year. We were going to spend Christmas with friends in ,
but I wanted Christmas to be the way it always was. I wanted Christmas to be the way
Georgia had died two months earlier. Justin and I were alone in New Jersey.
Vanessa was in Ohio. It had to be the way it was before - the tree perfect. The
ornaments - the memories - had new meaning that Christmas. The memories of
happiness were raw, but the tree over came them. A tear trickled from my eye. Good
things may pass, but their memories hang on.
A year later, I hung a new ornament on our tree. It was one I got for Ginny, my new wife. It's a penguin. Ginny loves penguin. This year, I have one she gave me to hang. It's an
Ohio State Football ornament - new pages added to my album.
I hang my personal album for all to see, sit back and relax. For several weeks,
I search my magical tree until I find my special spot. It could be anywhere on the tree,
but I know it's there - a spot where light shines perfectly on one or two balls and reflects
off a length of tinsel. It's perfect in every way.
I lock my eyes on it and enjoy its beauty. I relive my life. It's there for all
to enjoy. I invite you to share it with me. Look at the ornaments. Flip the pages. Share
my life. It's my magical tree
Michael T. Smith
Note: This year we are living with Ginny's daughter's family. They don't have room for my
big tree. My ornaments will stay packed away for another year. Next year they will be even