Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advent 2013


             As we slowly bounced along the single lane highway that cuts precariously across the mountains of Monteverde in Costa Rica, I knew I was being irrational.  We had a long road trip ahead of us that day, but were taking a detour in the opposite direction to a small gift shop in the valley -- for a seven-dollar ornament.

             The ornament was a small, brown sloth made of felt, stuffed with a little cotton, clinging to a tiny branch.  It was made by the local women's cooperative, a group of Costa Rican women hoping to earn extra income for their families.  I simply had to have it.

Christmas tree ornaments have become something of a passion for me in the last decade -- not just pretty ornaments or expensive ornaments.  Rather, I'm interested in ornaments that document something important in our lives.  Over the years, our Christmas tree has become more like a family scrapbook -- a totem of the special times we share.

My first Christmas in Savannah 13 years ago was also the first year I put up my own tree.  I was starting from scratch and invested in some delicate white lights and several boxes of blue and silver ball ornaments.  I hung them proudly and it was a lovely tree there by the window of my apartment.  But it could have been anyone's tree -- a very generic Christmas tree.

The next year, Lee and I were married and we added a few childhood ornaments and some that had been given as wedding gifts.  It was an improvement, but it wasn't until we started traveling together and picking up ornaments that the tree began to really feel like something special -- something uniquely ours.

Now, one of my favorite Christmas traditions is unwrapping each of these mementos.  "Oh, here's the one from Alaska," or "Do you remember that museum in Chicago?"  I particularly enjoy showing the ornaments to our daughter Camille.  These small souvenirs help her stay connected to special events in our family history.  This act of decorating our tree is also an opportunity to give thanks.  Each time I slide a ribbon over another tree branch, I feel thankful for our history, for adventures, for a world to explore, and for my fellow explorers.

This year, I will be so pleased to find just the right branch for our little sloth ornament.  I'll also find room for a few of those blue and silver balls from my first Christmas -- another important marker on our family tree.

The wrapped gifts of the season may go underneath our tree, but the gifts God has given throughout the years are documented on its branches.  To an observer, our tree may look like a mismatched mess, but I think it's beautiful.

- Ginger Heidel


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