The Christmas Ornament circa 1999

I knew that I wanted it as soon as I turned the catalog page. The photo showed a large glass ornament; flawlessly round. The glass wasn’t a bright red or blue or green. No, this was a soft, off-white color which set its snowy scene perfectly. The artist had drawn trees, but in a minimalist style. The trunks and branches were simple lines of white with just a touch of green glitter in the tree tops. And there nestled among some of the treetops were five tiny, bright red cardinals. A sixth bird stood on the ground.  It was quite unique and I instantly loved it.

My mind quickly pointed out that “the reason for Christmas shopping was to buy gifts for others, not yourself” but the argument was futile because I knew that I was going to buy it.

When the box arrived, I was a little confused as it seemed larger than was needed for an ornament.

Opening the box, I peeled back the layers of packing material and there it lay. Well, technically, there lay another box and when I opened that, I was absolutely confused.

It was the right ornament, but there were six of them neatly cushioned into two rows of three.

“What in the world?” I thought. Did I just order one “box” of six versus one single ornament? I looked back at the catalog and then I checked what I had been charged for them, but the price was consistent for a single ornament.

I called customer service to see how the mistake could be corrected. The representative did not understand my request.

“I’d like to return five of the six ornaments I just received” I started to explain.

“But our system says you only ordered one” she replied.

Yes, that’s true, but you sent me six.”

One can see how confusing the conversation became.

Eventually, a supervisor intervened, but she seemed exasperated with the thought of convincing the computer that it sent out one, but would be accepting five in return, or even six for that matter in order to start fresh. In the end, she just let me and the ornaments go; telling me “Keep the box. It was a mistake on our end.”

So, I now had six beautiful snow scene ornaments. One quickly became a Secret Santa present. The others were given to friends and neighbors who I thought might enjoy them.

I was so happy I had bought this ornament. When it hung on the tree, the glow of the Christmas lights softly shone through the glass making the scene feel a bit more special as most of the other ornaments had the light bouncing off of their colorful sides and shapes. Over those next 20 years, I packed it in a special box for safekeeping, and hung it carefully on a prominent branch every year.

It was now December 2020, and my husband had completed placing the lights on the tree and I was starting to hang the ornaments. I found the special box and retrieved my ornament and found a good branch.

But it was the wrong choice. I had just placed it and stood back when the unthinkable happened. The branch couldn’t hold the weight and the ornament fell. We do not have carpeting in our family room, it is all tile, and the ornament hit that tile and shattered into a million pieces.

I just stood there in disbelief. I was so mad; and miserable. I longed to just go back ten minutes in time to make another choice; to choose another branch to hang it on. Or, maybe in some prescient way, just keep it in the box that year where it could remain safe.

Christmas came and then it was time to begin to pack everything away. The lights were turned off for the last time and the other ornaments went back to slumbering in their boxes. I had no idea that in just three short months, I would be undertaking a far different kind of packing day.

In March, we suddenly found ourselves facing the monumental task of packing up my mother’s apartment as we had made the decision to move her to memory care. The time had come where she needed to be in a place where she could receive regular attention from trained staff. Following Covid protocols, we were given permission to enter the building for two days so we could clear her apartment.

It was emotional going through the rooms and closets and drawers of a parent’s life. There were so many questions. “Why did she choose to keep that”? “When did she get this?” Some of the questions could be answered, but some could not. I found birthday cards my son had given her signed in a 9-year old’s signature. There were boxes and boxes of photos. She had so many stylish dresses and jackets and jewelry, the volume of belongings to process and make decisions about was overwhelming.

Later that afternoon, I was in her second bedroom with my head buried deep in the closet. I pulled out a box that wasn’t marked, most likely because it held a mix of items. There was a ceramic ballet dancer, her pose was sitting on the ground, bent at the waist, stretching her legs. I just had a feeling that mom herself had made this figurine back in high school or college. There were some empty photo frames and an old, medium-sized blue Tiffany box. Mom loved holding onto to old “dressy” boxes to store whatever treasures she had, and I was curious as I opened it.

And there in the box, laying on white tissue paper, was my snow scene ornament.  I just sat on the floor holding the lid, trying to understand. I must have given my mom one of the six ornaments; I have no recollection of that. I was touched that she had held onto it for all these years. And now in this singular moment, she was passing the gift back to me; right when I needed it.

I took the Tiffany box home and placed it with the other ornaments. Then two weeks ago, when it was time to put up our tree, I gingerly opened that box, picked up the ornament and placed it on the tree first using the very same red ribbon my mom had chosen for it. The lights happily glowed once again through the large, round glass; a literal full circle moment.  There are so many reasons why Christmas can feel magical, and now one of them is hanging on my tree.


15 thoughts on “The Christmas Ornament circa 1999

  1. Thank you for the gift of two stories folded into one. I imagine people in the ornament business don’t usually encounter honest people like you who want to rectify a wrong order in their favor. No wonder she exclaimed, “Keep the box. It was a mistake on our end.”

    And even though I could anticipate what you found in the unmarked box, I still felt suspense in the build-up. You are so good at descriptive detail, Melanie! Thanks for sharing your full circle moment, in every sense of the word.
    Merry Christmas! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Good point about companies who aren’t used to customers trying to give something back to them! At least I knew that I had tried. I’m glad you enjoyed my build-up and descriptive details. I don’t write a lot of creative non-fiction (although I enjoy it) so reading your words means a lot Marian. 🙂 Have a beautiful Christmas with your family. ♥ I love this time of year.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great story, Melanie—the kind that should be in a collection of stories. I’d encourage you to enter it into a short-story competition. This brought back many memories of going through my mom’s stuff. She didn’t throw away much, and I knew many of the items probably included stories that no one would ever know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gosh Pete, you just gave me an early Christmas present. Thank you!! I am honored that you think the story is good enough to submit into a short-story competition. I will definitely explore that. Yes, I am touched too by the countless stories attached to things a person holds into, and then those stories end without being passed on. It is probably common, but it is a loss. Have a wonderful Christmas with your family!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That was a beautiful story Melanie. I got goosebumps when you found the oranament again at your mom’s house. Goes to show – never look a gift horse in the mouth right? Those extra balls surely came in handy and made others smile as well. Merry Christmas! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Debby! Yes, life is so funny that a shipping error started a ripple that went outwards in so many ways, including giving me a gift years later. Crazy. I’m glad you liked it. 🙂 Also, I *think* you are headed south soon and hope you have a fabulous time. I’ll look for posts.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a beautiful (true) story of an ornament that is more than an ornament. It’s a hope. A wish, A thing of beauty and peace and love always meant to be on your tree. And what a gift from your mom… and the Universe. P.S. I LOVE that ornament! Happy new Year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Pam for your kind words! It was a great start to my day. 🙂 I love the thought that it is something always meant to be on my tree; and I agree that it was a gift not only from mom, but the Universe. That is a wonderful feeling. I’m really glad that you love the story (and the ornament too. 🙂 ) Happy new year!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a wonderful Christmas story Melanie. I feel you were given those 6 ornaments for a reason! Two of them have been a sentimental part of Christmas for you and your Mom. Each time one of the remaining 4 are put on a tree you’re part of someone’s Christmas memory. The gift that keeps giving. Let’s hope for more carpet and less tile under those trees though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pam, I think you have the heart of a writer! Your comment about the remaining 4 ornaments (something I never thought about) is such an interesting, creative idea. ♥ I feel like there’s a whole second act to the story! Thank you for reading it and for your fascinating take on it.

      Like

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