The Ultimate Ornament Exchange

Every year since our now thirty year old son was born, Santa deposits an ornament in the stocking of any child sleeping under our roof on Christmas eve. Santa has enjoyed choosing each ornament with love and care. Many of these (usually) carefully chosen tree decorations - I imagine that some years Santa just runs through Target and grabs a few - serve as a reminder of shared experiences or a standout individual love or pursuit. 


At the close of each Christmas season, I have placed each ornament in a plastic box labelled with the recipient's name. In earlier days, our kids had a "porch Christmas tree" where they would hang their treasures, and then they would return to their designated boxes. My intent was to pass these along to them once they grew up and out into the world. One son claimed his fairly soon after he was married. The other two weren't as settled, so they remained in our attic for a number of years.

But this year, there was a request. These two brothers have settled near to each other and are starting their own family traditions. "Can you bring our ornaments to Thanksgiving?" At first, I just considered the logistics of how best to get them from Raleigh to Chicago. And then I started to pack them up. I was caught off guard as my emotions responded to this walk down memory lane. Feelings of happiness, sadness, joy, and sorrow -a bittersweet nostalgia accompanied me as I touched each and every ornament.

I did my best to recollect the story or interest or preference behind each of Santa's choices. Some held specific memories for me and others I could not recall at all. There were so very many stories, beginning with their entrance into the Wilson family:


There were reminders of a favorite Christmas show, a beloved family pet, and one son's passion for all things Harry Potter.


This one was chosen in honor of the country of their sisters' births.


And there were several to remind them of from whence they come.


At the bottom of one box, I found this. I felt sad as I poured the remnants of a once beautiful creation made by the preschool hands of one of my boys. 


Not too long ago, Santa celebrated with them the place that they now call home.


I am grateful for the opportunity to touch and feel each one of these ornaments. It was akin to connecting with each of their childhoods once more. Today, the ornaments should arrive at each of my sons' homes. I wonder what memories will rise up for them as they decorate their own Christmas trees.

This ornament exchange offers a gift to me. It invites me into the joy and satisfaction of watching my now grown men sons live into each of their stories. I look forward to seeing each of my children create their own Christmas traditions in the years ahead. I will cherish the times that I get to be a part even when my Santa days are behind me.