12 Days of Christmas Ornaments: A Tradition of Memories

Our 1st Christmas
Our 1st Christmas

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a portrait to put on the tree… actually, my true earthly love (aka: husband Mike) did not give it to me, but I gave it to us 14 years ago.

It was a Pooh and Piglet frame ornament with our newly married faces peeking out and glowing with joy. I love pigs, especially Piglet, and Mike is as faithful a friend as Pooh, and together we find Milne’s stories endearing, so it fit.

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was creating a tradition of buying, making, or receiving ornaments that would commemorate special moments from the past year.

As my family and I were decking the tree this year, I found myself saying multiple times, “Ohhh, remember this…” And it became a fun time of telling stories, even if they did ignore me half the time, leaving me to reminisce and laugh alone.

The point is, almost every ornament had a piece of our past etched into it, triggering a small celebration of our lives.

So in the next 12 days, the 12 days leading up to Christmas, I hope to share with you, 12 types of ornaments you may want to include on your tree. And on this special 12/12/12 double-digit date that will not occur for another century, maybe a special tradition of memories will emerge, one that highlights the valuable things in life.

The faces of loved ones doing unique or funny things or simply smiling can trigger all kinds of joy.

The memory of how my kids used to look, reminds me how quickly they are growing. Sigh. And one distant day later, when the boys are no longer living under our roof, I will look back on pictures of today and envy our times together. Longer sigh. But at least the memory will be there and I can be thankful for every bit of it.

Whether it’s a child, a family member, a friend, or a loved one who has passed, placing their image on the tree each year is a way to keep them in our hearts and their stories alive.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me — visit here tomorrow to see.

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Angel at School: Part 3

In parts 1 and 2 (Aug. 21 and Sept. 5 respectively) Freddy upgrades his name to Fred on the first day of his fifth grade year. The plan is for his last year in elementary school to be his best. But when he meets an unexpected helper and situations don’t go his way, can it still be the best year yet?

A week later, Omar confronted his friend, standing in a bush looking lost. “Freddy, I mean Fred, you better stop that. People are talking.” He held up a poster with “Fred for President” in blue, vandalized with a black sharpie, “crazy bacon-scented plant lover” inserted with a carrot after Fred’s name.

“I didn’t write that part in black.”

“Of course you didn’t, dork.”

“Let me explain… I, um, lost something… or, um, someone. And they said they’d help me with the election.”

“Yeah, you need help. But you ain’t gonna find it in that bush.”

Hanging upside down from a tree branch, Fred’s angel called out, “Get out of there; and get ready for your speech. You’re up in 10 minutes.”

“Where have you been? You said you’d help me!”

Omar jumped, “Whoa, what’s that?”

Fred’s angel landed upright in front of Omar and turned cordial. “Hello. My name is Derf, that’s ‘Fred’ backwards. I’m Fred’s angel. Now, if you’ll excuse us; we’re late.”

Derf began to coach Fred, “Just give your speech. I have it all under control. By the way, did you like what I wrote on your poster?”

“What? People think I’m crazy. And it’s all your fault”

Omar trailed behind, “What’s going on?”

Fred’s teacher, Mrs. Wandawho stepped right on top of Derf. As he disappeared, she scooted Fred onto the stage. Lights blinded him; silence numbed his ears. Fred even thought he heard crickets.

“Uhhhh…”

A heckler (that sounded oddly like his angel) interrupted the quiet, “What did the plants tell you to say?” The auditorium erupted in laughter.

Fred was not about to lose control. “Hey! Uhhhh, vote for me because… because I’m a plant whisperer. I have a green thumb; and I can make our campus beautiful.”

The crowd went silent again. Then from the same corner as the heckler, a gum ball flew through the air, missing Fred’s head by an inch. And then another was hurled at him from the other side. Before Fred knew it, the gum balls that were handed out by another candidate were being pelted at him. He was being booed off the stage.

Fred caught one in his mouth and chomped it down in size. The gum ball attack ceased as a collective gasp held the auditorium’s breath. Then one was thrown gently at his head and he caught it with his mouth, chomping that one. Then another. And another.

Soon it became a game of “catch the gum ball.” The mocking laughter turned into a fun cheering one. Kids started to count the number of gum balls entering Fred’s mouth. “sixteen, seventeen, eighteen…” Then the kids chanted “guru, guru, guru…” He was being pronounced “guru of gum.”

In the following week, Fred discovered that being “crazy” was a good thing in the musical theatre world. Though Fred wasn’t the lead, he had fun appearing and disappearing into smoke that surrounded a lamp. He even received personal pointers from Derf, “I know, it’s so cool to reappear, standing like this.”

And Fred was genuinely happy for Omar. “Congratulations for getting the lead.”

“Dude, don’t rub it in. You know I don’t want to even pretend to kiss Telly. Just my luck that she’s the princess.”

As Fred, the new class president, chewed on bacon that the cafeteria started selling, thanks to him, he walked through his handiwork: a beautiful campus with gardens of flowers, shrubs, and trees. And occasionally, he would hear a friendly echo through the trees, “This is your year so don’t you fear!”

Angel at School: Part 2

In part 1 (from Aug. 21): Freddy upgrades his name to Fred on the first day of his fifth grade year. His last year in elementary will be his best because he plans to rule the school as president, as lead in the school play, and as “Guru of Gum,” collecting the most gum comics in recent history. But when situations don’t go his way, can it still be the best year yet? The first of a string of unexpected glitches occurs in part 1: a small being crosses his path, uttering a phrase he doesn’t understand. “This is your year so don’t you fear…”

A rustling in the bushes next to the drinking fountain made Fred do a double take. “So that’s where the little guy disappeared into. Maybe he’s playing a trick on me?” He knew kindergarteners were small and sometimes behaved oddly, but this one seemed a bit ridiculous. “Hey little dude, come outta there. Where’s your mommy?”

“F-R-E-D!” came a small voice from the shrubs. Fred leaned in but couldn’t find a trace of anyone. He tried coaxing him out again. “Hey, buddy. How do you know my name? You must be smart. And what were you saying about this being my year so don’t fear? That’s kind of a weird thing to say. Please come out. I won’t hurt you.”

“I’m not a kid.”

Playing along, Fred continued, “That’s right. You’re not a kid. You’re a big boy. And big boys talk face to face.”

“I’m not a big boy either. I’m your angel friend.”

“You’re my what?”

“Remember when you were 4? We were friends. But when your dad had enough of your “imaginary friend,” he convinced you to grow up and I disappeared. Remember?”

“Uhhhh, I think I’m gonna be late. I better be going.” Fred rushed off to his new class. The words “angel friend” and “imaginary friend” kept turning in his mind. “Nah, that’s crazy. It can’t be. I’m not going crazy!”

“Of course you’re crazy, Freddy boy!” Omar jolted Fred into reality. “You had like 20 kickball home runs last year! Dude, that’s crazy! Just own it. Just say it, ‘I’m crazy good.’ Say it, Freddy!”

“It’s Fred.”

“Oh yeah, dude. ‘Fred,’ whatever. You’re crazy!”

Fred chuckled at Omar’s obsessive fascination with kickball skills. “Okay already. I’m craaaazy in kickball!”

And nodding in satisfaction, Omar said, “That’s right. Just own it, man.”

At recess, Fred could not get his mind off the “angel friend” who wasn’t imaginary. So he went back to the bush where he had his last conversation with the hidden boy. “Psssst. Little dude. Where are you?”

“Why you talking to a shrub?” The little boy was suddenly behind Fred. He jumped with a start and noticed, in fact, that the little boy was not a boy at all, but a little man creature with squinty eyes, hunched up shoulders, white hair, and an orange shirt with a grinning face upon it.

“You’re my angel friend?” Fred questioned cautiously.

“At your service! You’ve hit the jackpot. Only one in 175, 000 can see their angel after the age of 5.”

“Why me? …Why you?”

“All us angels talk about who needs us most, who’d be most accepting of us, who’d get the most from our services… And with you being a good guy and having lost your house over the summer, we thought you were a pretty good candidate.”

Then Fred’s angel looked offended, “And why me? You want an exchange already?”

“No. I just didn’t expect you to… to… look like this.”

“Oh, I get it. You’re expecting wings, a white gown, and maybe a halo over my head, right?”

“I can tell now; you are my imaginary friend! That’s so cool! Only, you’ve changed clothes.”

“Yeah, the big guy loosened up the rules since I last saw you. We can choose our own fashion now.”

“Wow, and you chose that shirt, huh?” Fred marveled at his old friend.

“Okay, enough about my excellent fashion sense… This is your year so don’t you fear!”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean: I’m like the writing on the wall, your own personal guide, your genie in bottle — only, I don’t grant wishes, I can’t produce money, and I don’t live in a bottle. I’ve always been around to help you; but now I get to use a little of my magic to make things go your way. That is… if you let me.”

“How do I know I can trust you?”

“Try me! Did I fail you when you were younger?”

Fred couldn’t remember a time when his “angel” sent him in the wrong direction. But it was so long ago and he couldn’t be sure of a lot of things.

“Alright, let’s try this. Your first task is to help me with winning the election. It’s next week.”

“Great! I love elections. They’re such character builders. Oops, gotta go.”

Telly appeared out of nowhere. “What about the election? And who are you talking to? You’re weird.”

“You know, I can say the same about you, too.” Fred walked toward the kickball field, throwing his hands in the air in frustration. His angel was gone, again.

Looking into the sky, Fred whispered, “How am I supposed to contact you? Can anyone else see you or hear you? What’s your name? God, are you playing a practical joke on me?”

Part 3 of 3 to be continued in 2 weeks.

Angel at School: Part 1

Kids brushed by Fred to the left and to the right, carelessly bumping against his shoulders. “Why is everyone in such a hurry? Fine, it’s the first day of school; but still – people, chill!” With his hand-me-down backpack and shoes from the year before, “because they still fit” according to his mother, Fred was not particularly ready for the new year, but that wasn’t going to stop him from having the best year yet.

His new shirt boldly declared, “I love bacon,” written in strips of bacon and eggs. It even smelled of bacon.

Omar Brown was clearly eager to be back; he had new shoes. ”Sup Freddy boy? You had a good summer?”

“It’s Fred,” Fred said with a serious, don’t-mess-with-me kind of look. But then he added a mischievous smile to assure Omar that they were still cool.

“Okay, okay. Why’d you change your name over the summer anyway?” Fred was in no mood to explain the nuances of growing up. Omar walked away, “Okay dude, whatever you want… Fred.“

Fred pulled out the school’s activity sheet. “Student Body Elections – next week.” Check. “Tryouts for ‘Aladdin Returns’ – in two weeks.” Check.

He was going to rule the school. He was a year older as of two weeks ago, finally 10. He was no longer “Freddy,” the kiddie old self. He was now “Fred,” the fantastic fifth grader, the top of the food chain, and the master of kickball.

His goals:

1. Be the school President.

2. Be the lead in the school play.

3. Collect the most bubble gum comics.

The later would give him the coveted and respected title of “Guru of Gum.” The school record was 784 comics from two years ago. Billy Park had chewed a lot of gum that year.

“Hey Freddy, nice shoes,” came an unmistakable shrill voice from behind. Telly Dell could turn a deliciously fun pizza party into a funeral with one sour comment.

“Thank you!” Fred was quick on his feet. “I decided to keep the shoes that made me ‘King Kickball’ last year.” Telly folded her arms in front of her chest and walked away in a huff. “… And it’s ‘Fred’ from now on. Thank you.”

Just then, a kindergartener whizzed by, whispering a scratchy, “F-R-E-D. Fred, Fred, Fred. This is your year so don’t you fear!” Or did an alien creature scamper across his path, he couldn’t tell? One moment he was there and the next, gone.

To be continued…