The Christmas tree is up and you’re taking the ornaments from their boxes. You place each on a branch with care. But there’s always that one ornament that elicits a soft, “Oh…” as you lift it from its protective bed of tissue.
It’s the one your mom always put high in the tree when you were growing up, or the one you made as a kid, still holding together somehow.
Battered or beautiful, it’s the one that just has to be on the tree each year.
We connected with a few people who were willing to share stories of their special ornaments, from comic to heart-warming.
Tim Kazurinsky made us laugh with his skits on “SNL” and is currently cracking up audiences with Marc Grapey in “The Odd Couple” at Chicago’s Northlight Theater, until Dec. 16. So it’s no wonder his Christmas ornament story is a wacky one.
“My wailing baby daughter, Zoe, would chomp on only one pacifier: the Binky. So we took three Binkys on our vacation to Florida,” Kazurinsky said.
But by halfway through the vacation, they were down to one Binky.
“Panic time. Then disaster struck. We were on the beach, my wife cradling baby Zoe, when she pulls the Binky from her mouth. A seagull swoops in, snatches the Binky, and flies off. I lay chase, a la [Bears Hall of Famer] Gayle Sayers — sprinting, hurdling elderly New Yorkers, pursuing said seagull that made off with Binky.
”The seagull looks perplexed, flies out over the water, realizes it is not food, and drops the Binky.”
The antics don't end there. “I dive into the water and rise, holding the treasured Binky. The crowd on the beach applauds. They have all raised children. They know. They just know why a man would do that for one lousy pacifier.
“And today, that Binky is our most treasured Christmas tree ornament.”
Senator-elect Joe Donnelly recalls that each of his two children at 4 years old made Christmas ornaments in their preschool classes by pressing one of their hands onto a small plaster plate.
“The plates both say ‘Merry Christmas,’ and the year, and their name — ‘Molly 1986’ and ‘Joey 1988,’" he said. “When we get those out, it brings back fond memories every year.”
Rick Kaempfer, author, free-lance writer and blogger, couldn’t tell us about just one ornament.
Before he and his wife, Bridget, were married in November 1991, their wedding guests teamed up to deck their halls.
“Because we were getting married so close to Christmas, someone suggested that everyone bring a Christmas ornament in addition to a traditional bridal gift,” he said.
The idea was, Kaempfer explains, that their first Christmas tree together "would be filled with personal memories, even though we had only been married for a month."
“I was touched by that 21 years ago, but I'm even more touched by it now," he said. "When we open our box of Christmas decorations every year, all of those ornaments are still in our collection. With each ornament we put on the tree, we're reminded of the family we're still so lucky to have with us, but we're also reminded of our precious departed grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and friends. Every Christmas season they are with us again, if only on our tree."
“Those aren't just decorations to us — they are memories. It's one of the reasons why the day we decorate the tree is among our most anticipated and cherished days of the year.”
Sen. Dan Coats said no ornaments can match these three: “My favorite Christmas ornaments are the ones made by each of my three kids when they were in kindergarten. They are not the most decorative ornaments on the tree, but they are the ones with the most meaning.”
Fritz Olsen, sculptor, and his Broadway actress wife Martha Cares still treasure an ornament they no longer have – for it has been re-gifted in the best possible way.
Fritz sculpted a translucent onyx evergreen tree for his wife, embellished with red glass beads. “It has wonderful layers of depth and color within the piece, and it’s luminous without any Christmas tree lights,” Cares said.
Last year while contemplating their annual extravaganza charity event benefitting Harbor County (Michigan) Radio, which supports local artists, the couple decided to donate the piece for the silent auction. There were so many bids that more paper was needed to record them.
“The woman who now has the piece absolutely cherishes it, we are told,” said Cares.
Rosemary Riddle Acerra, daughter of the late famed music arranger and composer Nelson Riddle, tells us a favorite ornament is one her own daughter created. Danielle Acerra “painted the Blessed Mother on an ornament. She is now a working artist, and so it has always held a special place in our home.”
So no matter how glamorous or practical that special ornament is, its beauty lies in the hearts of those who hang it.