Last year after my wife and I got the lights on the Christmas tree, we let the boys take over and begin decorating. Historically this has involved them putting them on the tree in the same location within a 6 inch radius and me telling them to spread the decorations out. The grownups will put a couple decorations on the tree as well, ones that must be on there; a couple from a honeymoon trip to the Adirondacks, a mini union suit that commemorated baby's first Christmas, etc. Additionally, there's the decorations that have been on my tree since long before I can remember.
You see a tradition in our family was for each year the kids would get a new decoration from Grandma, usually around Thanksgiving or shortly thereafter. So I have decorations going back 43 years, each one with my name and the year on it. Some of them have to stay in the box now, or risk being damaged, but I try to put a few from over the years on the tree no matter what. One of those is particularly special, as represents a very specific memory.
As I recall ( and Mom if I'm recalling this one wrong, I don't want to know ) I was maybe 10 years old, I don't know, shopping with Grandma one year and an ornament caught my eye. A galloping unicorn made of a glass like substance. I can't remember why I was drawn to it, although given my appreciation of fantastical beasts it shouldn't be a surprise. Anyhow, I asked for it, got it, and it became part of the collection. As far as I know it went on the tree every year I can remember after that. Especially after her death in 2010, that ornament is mandatory on the tree, placed by me in front of a light so it shines.
So getting back to last year, there we are, decorating the tree and I reach for the unicorn. Not in the box. I look in the other. Not there either. I search the remaining boxes, and then becoming more frantic, the two decoration boxes again.
I began to think, surely I wouldn't have missed it when we took down the tree last year. Would I ? Even if I missed it in the house, I would have noticed it when I put the tree in one of our bird pens. Right ? What if I didn't ? What brush pile did it end up on ? Ohmygoditslostforever....
Folks, if you'd ever wanted to see a 42 year old man rapidly losing his shit, this would have been the time to see it. I was coming unglued looking for it.
Fortunately my partner "for better or worse" ( or sudden insanity ) found it. Deep breaths, heart rate settled maybe feeling a little foolish, it went on the tree and we went on with Christmas.
The point to all of this is, we all have our traditions, and in those traditions are memories that last long after we've grown and others have gone on. We were blessed to have been raised with values that put emphasis on traditions, or more precisely, the memories that remain long after the material things are gone.
Nevertheless, there is that value attached to small things like a two dollar ornament. Maybe it's something I wouldn't have consciously recognized even ten years ago, but with each passing year do. With each passing year memories fade, it can't be helped, they just do. We forget life's little moments, maybe even memories of people fade. So we treasure those little plastic talismans that bring us not good luck, but good memories that may have otherwise faded.
And we remember all over again.