Christmas ornaments

Last summer Chris and I were preparing to move into what I consider our forever home. He was commuting over an hour each way to work, so we started looking for somewhere that shorted his time in the car (saving his sanity!) that was also still within a reasonable time frame for me to get to and from the hospital. If we were going to look for a house, I insisted we think long term and try to settle somewhere we want to raise our kids. I wanted good school systems. (I was validated by our choice when in the past year our town was named one of the top 100 towns in the US to live and the school system one of the top 500 in the country- don’t ask me who did the ranking, I prefer the blissful ignorance of not knowing!). We found our home and moved last August, when I was in the first trimester.

At the same time, my parents were moving out of my childhood home, a house they inhabited for the past 25 years. They were packing up a home full of five kids worth of memories, furniture and junk so they could move into a smaller retirement home with no storage. They invited me up (their only child living within driving distance) to ransack their house for anything I wanted to keep. They were buying lots of new furniture so many things were free game. I came away with a patio set, a nice futon, a dresser, a huge old dictionary with stand and a piano (for a friend), among other things. We loaded up a U-haul and drove it home. As part of the clean-out we walked through the attic and I picked up things to keep, reminiscing in the process- an old wooden kids bench, wooden blocks, old clothes. I found boxes with old photos and letters, even boxes from my grandparents, containing photos of my parents, their siblings, letters they wrote from college. I kept them all. The idea of moving these things again once I got home stressed me out a bit, but I couldn’t imagine these things being thrown away. I made it clear I wanted to keep the family history stuff.

The following Christmas, when both my and Chris and my parents were well settled in our respective new homes, I was feeling nostalgic again. Chris and I got a real tree that year- we had two fake trees in the past and it seemed indulgent and wasteful to buy a live one, even though it was how I had grown up. But in this new house, whether it was the idea that this home wanted a live tree or he was trying to please me in an attempt to bring some joy after learning the baby I was carrying would likely die , Chris suggested we get a live tree. We cut one down with my cousin and hauled it home, decorating it with the ornaments we had. Most were Chris’s- his mother had sent a boxful of his childhood ornaments when she moved into her retirement home. I had a few more recent purchases, because my childhood ornaments still decorated the tree at my parents. When trimming the tree I decided I wanted to ask my parents for my ornaments when we saw them that holiday.

To my surprise and dismay, I learned all the childhood ornaments had not been kept in the move. My parents well decorated house now bore a tree with matching ornaments- appropriate for a house with no kids.

“You didn’t say you wanted them when you went through the attic,” my mom explained.

“It was June- I wasn’t thinking about Christmas!” I lamented.

But there was nothing to be done. Chris and I would have to decorate our tree on our own, his childhood ornaments making up the heft of our trimming.

Recently I had brunch with a friend, one well schooled on babyloss, as she coordinates the bereavement program on Labor & Birth at my hospital. One thing she does is makes little worry stones out of colorful clay. While I was hospitalized pregnant with Mabel, the chaplain stopped by and we had a nice chat. She left me with her info and a worry stone, one I recognized to have been made by my friend. I used that stone lots during that time and it even became my visual focal point when I was in the painful throws of labor. After Mabel died I never left the house without it, a mini security blanket. I was horrified during one of my early therapy sessions when I was faithfully rubbing the stone and it broke in half in my hand. “Is it a sign?” I woefully asked my therapist. Hearing this, my friend gave me two more, but I really just held onto the pieces of my broken one, not willing to let them go. One piece sits in my car and I recently have been rubbing it more frequently.

half a worry stone in my car

half a worry stone in my car

At brunch with this friend, she gifted me several things- including more worry stones- in carrot clay colors. But one of the best gifts she gave me was a set of carrots on hooks. My heart leapt when I saw them and I quickly told her the story of the discarded childhood ornaments. My relief was huge, knowing now I had something of my own to contribute to our next tree.

Carrot ornaments

Carrot ornaments

Have you been gifted something especially meaningful? What would be a great gift for someone to give you?

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8 thoughts on “Christmas ornaments

  1. Those carrots on hooks are a wonderful gift, and beautiful tribute to Mabel. It’s stars all the way for me, in tribute to Hugo – I’ve become rather obsessed with them, and have received many as gifts, too xxx

    • I TOTALLY saw a star tonight and thought of you and Hugo! I tried to get my phone out and snap a photo, but I wasnt quick enough. As I left work (in the evening) I looked up and saw the moon (full? almost full?) and clouds were floating by. there was a break in the clouds in the shape of a star. it was beautiful. hi HUgo.

  2. I have been following your story for awhile (after a link the Roo posted). I love how honest you are about Mabel and your experience. I have a friend who lost a baby and has been given a poor prognosis for her third. Do you have any ideas about something I can do for her? I want to be able to help but don’t know what I can do. Thanks.

    • Hi Karianne, thankyou so much for reading- and for you kind words. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. Sometimes life is just plain unfair! I’m sure everyone will handle things different, but I know for me I just wanted to talk a lot- talk about my pregnancy, the diagnosis, my fears. I also wished I took more photos while pregnant- I didnt think I wanted to remember (silly me) in case my baby died. I found these books after Mabel died and I wished I knew about them in pregnancy- they would have been helpful I think.
      Waiting with Gabriel by Amy Kuelbelbeck
      A Gift of Time: Continuing your Pregnancy When your Baby’s life is expected to be brief by Amy Kuelbelbeck and Deborah Davis
      I wish I celebrated my pregnancy more. and best of all, I loved it when people kept checking in, especially after the newness of the news wore off. oh and you could of course refer her here- I’d be happy to connect with her.

  3. The carrots are a very meaningful gift…..that’s a friend that is with you for the long haul. After Jacob died, we had a friend have a small abstract figurine made (from a site on Etsy) that is a mom and dad with baby in blue that has wings. I keep it on my nightstand next to his picture.

  4. Those carrots are lovely! I’m so glad you have these special additions to your tree. (I felt sick reading your story about the childhood ornaments…I am SUCH a sentimental packrat.)

    A few days after S died, my mother gave us a blanket she had purchased when we found out we were pregnant, and which she intended to give us when he was born. It’s really brightly coloured and cheery and has a repeating Russian doll motif. That has probably become our most meaningful item (we don’t really have many), to the point that Russian dolls have sort of become S’s ‘thing’. I like that it’s a regular household item, which means we see and use it every day, like when we’re curled up on the sofa reading a good book, or cuddling or whatever.

  5. Giraffes are Zachary’s thing, so I’ve been gifted several items that contain giraffes or that are giraffe-printed. One of the most special ones is a hand-knit Christmas stocking with the most adorable giraffe face, and Zachary’s name on it. I have also been given 2 bracelets with all of my boys initials on them. I really love having extra options to honor my boys with jewelry. Funny that 2 friends independently came up with this idea.

    Some of the things that mean so much to me are the gifts we received for Zachary, during the 2 weeks that he was alive, and everyone thought he was coming home. It is painful too, but to know those things were given in a time of harmony (and then in a tumultuous time towards the end when people still held on to hope), is still very special to me. Heartbreaking that he won’t use them.

    I absolutely love your carrot ornaments, in memory of Mabel. What a wonderful and meaningful gift, and lovely that they help (a little) re: your lost ornaments.

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