Christmas tree ornaments trigger a flood of memories for me. I cherish the tiny circular picture frame of my daughter in her Brownie uniform and the ceramic Snoopy treasured by my son who adored Charlie Brown. I smile when holding a three-inch-long gold-plated Santa sleigh that’s etched with puppy teethmarks, the victim of our young yellow labrador’s foray into, under, over and around the tree.
But my favorite has always been a blue glass ball, about the size and weight of a grapefruit, which hung on my family tree growing up. “It’s made of German lead-crystal,” my mother said.
Unlike the lightweight plastic ornaments so popular today, that shiny crystal ball had such heft it needed to be hung on a thick branch near the top of the tree or else the branch would droop to the floor. Even when securely fastened, mom fretted over its safety. The blue glass ornament had hung on her tree when she was growing up, and I recall her warning us four kids as we blithely tossed tinsel on the tree, “Careful now, don’t break that ornament.”
Years later when I was decorating my first “own” Christmas tree, mom gave me the blue ball. “Take good care of this,” she suggested, “and then give it to your daughter when she has her home.”
I prized that blue ball. I constantly warned my children when we put up our tree, “Careful now, it’s very old and once belonged to Mom-Mom.” One year my words fell on deaf teenage ears. I’m not sure whether it was an errant hacky sack or a mis-directed frisbee, but something dislodged the blue ball from its high branch. It fell from the tree and shattered into countless, unrepairable pieces. The look on my kids’ faces told me punishment was unnecessary.
Years passed and I always missed the blue ball ornament. Part of my traditional Christmas was lacking. Apparently my daughter Alex understood and shared that sentiment.
On the night before she got married 17 years ago, Alex gave each of her bridesmaids huge baskets filled with special goodies. Then she turned to me and said, “Mom, I have a basket for you too.” The basket was utter confection, brimming with aromatic bath salts and scented body lotions, all beautifully wrapped in tinted cellophane and tied with scarlet ribbons.
As I dug deeper into the basket I discovered a small square box covered with pink tissue paper. Inside sat a blue crystal ball ornament, the size and shape of a grapefruit, a clone of the Christmas ornament broken so many years ago. “I’ve looked everywhere for this because it was something I wanted you to have,” she said.
I promised my mother that I’d give the blue Christmas ball ornament to my daughter when she had her own home. Some day she will get the special replacement. Some day, not now. Because to me it represents the spirit, love and tradition of Christmas and I can’t let it go just yet.