My desire for documenting my life, specifically anything sentimental and happy is so extreme that I do wonder if it’s something I should unpack in therapy (also I need a therapist, not joking). What is behind my obsession for or need to document my life? Am I trying to prove something to myself? To others? To my future? Rewriting my past? Or is it just about appreciating and celebrating all the moments? For however long I can remember I’ve journaled (thus the birth of this blog because why not journal for millions to read!!!) and have made scrapbooks… Like not just when I was little. I even have a highly uncool college scrapbook. Heck, I made Brian a scrapbook when we were 21 years old of our “first year” as a couple. That’s not normal, guys, I realize that, and yet BOY do I love looking at that scrapbook. I kept every Death Cab For Cutie ticket stub, every birthday card from him, even a business card from the bar where he put on “When A Man Loves a Woman” on the jukebox and I knew that while he was too scared to say it, that he was telling me for the first time that he loved me (it was a well received soft pitch). I get that these things can be captured in photos now, but the tactile experience is far more emotionally satisfying to me and triggers the memory in a way more visceral way.
BUT I HAD NO IDEA THAT YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE COULD BE A LIVE, LIVING, SCRAPBOOK until this year. How? So simple. You just think about what big things happened that year and you buy an ornament that represents it. I get that scrapbooks are hard to keep up with (I have a really good “done is better than perfect” philosophy for my kids’ scrapbooks, no stickers or anything – I just shove things in sleeves). But ornaments? SO EASY AND FUN. You want to decorate your tree anyway. Your kids want to do crafts ANYWAY and once you see the excitement in their eyes as they pull out an ornament and say “Mama, mama, I remember this!!! this is when we went to Disneyland for the first time!!!” IT’S PURE JOY.
Before I get into the ornaments I must give you more of an emotional biography. I was too cool for ornaments, most of my life, and when I got them as a “gift” I would be like “cool, so…. yah, I’ll put this bright yellow rubber duck ornament on my perfectly curated tree”. I just didn’t GET IT. They are busy, often expensive, and ruin the vibe. Then last year as I was helping my friend trim her tree I got it. As she pulled out each ornament she told me a story behind it, and I was like, “Hold up. Wait. I’ve been missing a new memory hoarding opportunity my entire life??”. We didn’t do this as kids, probably because we lived in rural Oregon, before the internet and there were 6 kids which meant a LOT of annual ornaments. So I didn’t know it was a thing. In fact, I remember going to a Christmas store in Boston 15 years ago in August, prepping for a big holiday shoot (always in August), and seeing all the shoppers thinking “um I know why I’M here but WHY THE HELL ARE YOU ALL SHOPPING FOR CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST’. I thought it was SO weird and I definitely judged. I now know they were tourists and their kids were getting their “Boston” ornament (and looking back I’m like WHERE IS MY BOSTON ORNAMENT!!!??)
I may be swinging too far in the other direction, I know, I know, but last year we made so many ornaments as well as I documented the big moments for our family with custom ornaments. The tree is already dripping. But I don’t care. It is so fun for me and the kids, and even Brian was so excited to see our excitement. The kids SQUEAL for hours.
But what do you buy and how? How exactly do you commemorate your life in the form of an object hanging from a string on a branch? SO GLAD YOU ASKED/ARE STILL HERE. Well, there are NO rules, but I’ve created categories of what I like to document in the way of ornaments to help give you inspiration. Also, everything is from Etsy so go support a small business:)
Lifestyle And Passions
I bought a pot ornament for the year when soup became my lifestyle, a stack of books when Charlie started reading, and Birdie picked out a unicorn the year she became OBSESSED with yes, unicorns. This year we got a bike for Charlie because he’s mastered it, an art easel for Birdie, and a typewriter for Brian because he’s writing a novel. This is the year where I realized I was overscheduled and realized that I was happier not being a workaholic… Not sure what that looks like in the way of an ornament. Maybe I’ll shop for something that feels peaceful and calm? I dunno. Last year my friend got me an “Outlander” ornament, I bought myself a cute “Church” ornament because I started going to church and Brian got an awesome Shakespeare ornament because he was in an amazing production of Othello. You get it. Take inventory of your year and think about a way it can be represented in an ornament. My god, that sounds stupid, but just trust me, it’s fun.
World Events and Movements
OOF. WHAT A YEAR AMIRIGHT. A lot happened and buying an ornament sounds stupid, but picture yourself 10 years from now pulling out your Santa with a mask on an ornament and saying, oh right. that was QUITE the year. I bought an RBG, BLM, Pandemic, and Biden/election ornaments.
Big Personal Or Professional Moments
This year we got pups and left our house in LA. Obviously, we need to have custom ornaments made to commemorate these huge life decisions. Did you get engaged? Married? Pregnant? Have a baby? Sell your House? Publish a book? Get a new job? There are so many custom ornament places on Etsy and you send them photos and they do drawings, painting, embroidery, etc. Or just get one that reminds you of the big life moment.
Don’t forget the name of who picked it out, and the date – this is CRUCIAL and if someone gets one for you put their name on the bottom and I PROMISE it will trigger the memory of that time/year. You will forget. We all forget. Your brain generally only remembers the heights of emotions that can permanently imprint. Will I forget that Birdie broke her arm? No. But will I remember that she was 4, that her cast was pink, and that we had to go to the hospital at the beginning of the lockdown which felt terrifying? Probably. GOTTA GO FIND A CAST ORNAMENT. 🙂
It was a big year. If we are lucky we will live ’til next year, commemorating what happened in our lives, what stuck out as important or extra fun, even if it’s in the form of a Christmas ornament cannot be a bad thing. Reflecting on your year, your life, once a year is probably good for everyone.
Now since we, the Hendersons, celebrate Christmas in our house I’d love to hear if there are ways to do this for other non-christian holidays. I know that our audience is diverse so if there are ideas on how to commemorate the years, please leave them in the comments. Sara has now inspired me to write and send Christmas cards, and I’m hoping to start collecting those as well. It’s a thing guys, a WHOLE THING. I can’t wait to show you our “no rules family tree” soon (editing the photos now).
Thanks for listening and bearing witness to the rantings of a middle-aged mom desperate to retain all the memories of this time with her small kids. I hope some of you can relate. xx
Opener Image Credit: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Our Living Room, Dressed Up for the Holidays (With a ‘And How I Feel About It’ Running Commentary)