Every year I go through a ritual by taking out our Christmas ornaments and peering into a box that holds them. I marvel at the ancient, timeless, multigenerational gems, many dating from my earliest childhood . Some of the “newest” items were introduced at the beginning of my marriage and when our children were youngsters.
We own candles that have never felt flames, angels that have never seen flight and Santa Clauses that clearly are fat and jolly. Music boxes have played the same songs for ages and mysteriously some begin playing without winding them up as if they were relieved in finally being liberated for a few weeks again. Perhaps it’s just the air of the season and anxious anticipation of the festivities to come that sets them off. We have a faded Rudolf made of wood whose nose still burns bright red and a half moon with a Santa profile made of paper-mache. It is astonishing to me that it is possible that future grandchildren may someday hold delicate, glass, colored globes with hooks that dazzled my eyes when I was a child. How these have survived are a study onto their own. After being passed down to us from our own parents we preserved them by using the original boxes for some and for others, by wrapping them in faded, decorative kitchen towels that have never been used in a kitchen.
There is a quality to the objects with eyes that initially connects me to my childhood which took me a while to understand. Perhaps its fantasy but it seems that the eyes of the angels, the Santas, figurines of the Nativity and the reindeer are moving, living and actually looking at me. This play on my imagination took me a while to understand but eventually I figure it out. In bygone days when I first looked into the eyes of those objects, I was a believer!
I believed that angels did play trumpets, that reindeer could fly; and even though I was in denial that a fat man could actually fit down a chimney, I was confident that Santa would visit my house while I was asleep and leave me the toys I wished for. Since at childhood my own eyes were actually bigger, perhaps they had a magical ability to perceive life in inanimate objects. Alas, isn’t this the very essence of childhood?
This year I’ve decided to refuse to set up the Christmas tree and decorations around the house. I want my children to do it. They’ve all reached ages where they are no longer “believers.” Therefore, as a parent, I’ll make it my duty to help them begin a new lifetime process.
My wish is they will appreciate the blessings of family life they’ve enjoyed thus far. I also hope that they will feel the pull of nostalgia on their hearts and the yearning for days of innocence. The idea is they will encounter these things as they handle those ornaments. In doing so perhaps they will remember that the holiday season not only held the promise to delight but it was also a time to give thanks. If they will prize the importance of spending time with family and friends , spreading good cheer and giving to strangers as the keys to richly fulfilling their lives I will have succeeded in my intent.
With some luck this defining act of parenthood will be helped along by those little treasures that transcend generations with their magical ability to deliver the eternal messages of peace and good will towards others