This ornament hangs on my tree. It is one of many given to me by my beloved Nana. It was given to her by her mother-in-law, my Great Grandma Hill. There is a story behind this ornament that dates back to my childhood.
The Grandma Hill that I remember was a cantankerous woman. My pop-pop was her third child, born in 1920, so her birth likely dates back to the late 1890’s. She lived near us and my Nana and pop-pop took care of her. She never had much use for girls, and always favored the boy grandchildren in the family. Visiting her house was like an episode of hoarders. Boxes everywhere, all filled with these little balls that she would painstakingly wrap in thread and cover with sequins and pins full of beads. Really, you had to wear shoes in her house and watch where you sat or you could end up with a pin in your foot or bottom!
Grandma Hill had a lot of stories. I listened to a lot of them, but I was really to young too appreciate them. She lived through World War I and World War II. Her house was full of knick-knacks and antiques that I was NOT allowed to touch. For a young girl of six, a visit to her house was torture.
My Grandma Hill passed when I was in my late teens. By then she had moved in. To be honest, as a kid, my goal was just to stay out of her way. After my pop-pop passed and Nana moved in with me, I got these ornaments as hand me downs. My Great-Aunt Lillian (Grandma Hills daughter) also sent some every year as gifts. The funny thing is, I never really appreciated their beauty. To me, they were tied to those days of childhood, when I couldn’t touch anything and didn’t understand how a woman could spend all day making these things.
And then, one year, a friend came over when we were decorating our tree for Christmas. She watched as I opened a box of the ornaments and said “Wow, those are beautiful!”. Her comment stopped me in my tracks! You know how you can look at something so much that it just becomes a part of your life and you don’t really LOOK at it? For the first time, I really studied these little decorated balls. I noticed their colors, and their intricate designs. I realized that these ornaments were a big part of my family history. When I talk to my cousins about growing up, EVERYONE remembers Grandma Hill’s ornaments.
I realized that I could share the story of these ornaments with my children, and show them how they are a link to our past. So I did. Now, these ornaments fill my tree in places of honor. I package them carefully so I can one day pass them on to my children. Unfortunately, the art of making them died out with my grandparents generation, so there won’t be anymore. These are now amongst my most treasured Christmas decorations. I am so thankful that I finally grew to understand their real value.
This experience also made me wonder how often I look at things every day but fail to really SEE them. Life settles into a routine, and so many little things just fade into the background. The thing is, there is so very much beauty in the everyday, you just have to make yourself stop and see it. I find this hard to do, because there are just so many distractions, and duties, and so much busyness during the day that I often move from one task to the next without focusing on the moment, but I am promising myself that this year, I am going to try and find the beauty in the everyday. I don’t want to realize how special something was years later, I want to appreciate it now. And I have these ornaments to thank for my new perspective.
Do you have a special ornament that represents your family? Let me know in the comments.