The Christmas Ornament by dixē.flatlin3
My son and I recently unpacked our Christmas trees and decorations. We spent an evening drinking hot chocolate, setting up the decorations and watching The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s a ritual I have had since the mid-90s, no need to exclude the kidlet from my fun.
As we were unpacking the decorations, I came across a familiar box, one that I have lugged around for over three decades. It has not changed much over the years, but this year I was struck by the peculiarity of my having kept an item for so long. Given its roots, why did I carefully tend to this heirloom?
It is simple ornament, a delicate, hand-blown glass orb with a few nibs in the shape of circles. I distinctly recall being highly unimpressed upon receiving it. And yet, I have kept it safe and sound despite its inauspicious roots.
I told my son that I vividly remember the circumstances of receiving the orb. It was a gift exchange in elementary school. Back then, I do not believe that these events were voluntary, and every kid had to draw a name and bring a gift. Or god forbid you did not bring a gift, and then the recipient went without…the horror! This was back in the days when you could only bring Valentines for the kids you like, so gift exchanges were odd. Given this Lord of the Flies setting, I also recall the poverty lines being very distinct in school. We were divided up into the: rich kids, poor kids, in-between kids, immigrant kids, unpopular kids, and the misfits. We were slowly forming the cliques and social groups that would carry over into middle school and beyond.
Why I vividly recall this is likely because the kid who gave me a gift this year was one of the poor, unpopular kids. Now, I fell somewhere into the in-between/misfits group, so I wasn’t high up on the food chain myself. However, I can still remember in detail the soft features of this pale-complected girl with gentle brown eyes and mousy brown hair. But I cannot tell you her name, and I know I do not have any yearbooks to discern who she was.
I sat with my child and showed him the beautiful ornament, which he admired, and I told him I would likely pass it on to him, should it withstand even more time. And I told him its origin story, emphasizing how disappointed I was when I opened the gift, which came in the same plain, brown box that houses it now, wrapped in nothing more than bubble wrap to protect its delicate contents. I could not tell you what anyone else received that day, I just know I thought that a glass ball was lame.
And yet, here we are, more than thirty years later, and that same fucking, glass ball endures. And it allowed me to show my child that one should never be ungracious for anything anyone gives to them, because you never know what will last.