Dear Olivia: Week 24

olivia-week24-webDear Olivia,

You might as well know the truth now: we didn’t get you any presents.

Don’t feel bad; we didn’t get your sister anything for her first Christmas, either. With so many family members dying to spoil you both, it’s easy to have a far more modest Christmas. You’re not going to remember, and it’s not as if you’re really wanting for anything.

There’s one exception to this: you both get an ornament for Christmas. Your first Christmas and every Christmas thereafter until we decide to not do this anymore, which will most likely be when you’re nearly as old as I am (ANCIENT, I know).

This was a tradition that my parents started with your aunt Leslie with me, and it’s absolutely one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season.

Because it’s not just an ornament, you see; there’s also a note explaining why that particular ornament was chosen and how it relates to whatever happened in our life that year.

Some years it’s straightforward and heartfelt, like my wooden dove signed by the children’s book author Tomie dePaola, chosen because a) Tomie was in town doing book signings, and b) your aunt and I LOVED reading his books.

Others make me groan and laugh at the same time, like my tiny little Wheel of Fortune ornament from 1995. To anyone else it just looks like I was a fan of the show, but it’s actually a reference to the super old-school handheld Wheel of Fortune video game I received as a gift when I was in the hospital after having my appendix removed. With nothing to do for five days except read books and watch bad tv, that game was a godsend. I played it for hours and hours, and now it’s immortalized on our tree.

I have ornaments representing vacations, family traditions, beloved pets, hobbies long since put away as well as ones I still do, and current events from that particular year. Opening up the boxes and reading the accompanying notes written in my dad’s neat block handwriting or my mom’s delicate script is like watching a highlight reel of my entire life.

Before your dad and I lived together and had our own tree, trimming the tree with my family was a collective walk down memory lane. We all have ornaments with notes, and hanging each one sparked a conversation about, “Oh my god, remember when? I’d nearly forgotten about this…”

The year your dad and I got married was the last year I received an ornament from my parents. It was the chance for your dad and I to start our own Christmas traditions, and we have. But this is one we’ve continued, and will for quite some time.

Years from now I hope your ornaments bring you as much joy as mine bring me. I hope you and Natalie laugh as you hang them, carefully choosing which ones to display and which ones to return to their boxes — just for this year; next year will be their time to shine on the tree.

I can’t begin to guess what your ornament collection will look like. I don’t know what life experiences you’ll have, what sports you might play or what books you might adore, or what will be going on in the world that we’ll want to have a reminder of on our tree.

But I can’t wait to find out.

Love always,

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