Christmas of 1993 I was a senior at Spring Arbor University. I lived on Beta 2, and that fall had met the woman I would later marry. Christmas was a very funny time. Micki and I were yet to be engaged, but were dating seriously. She was going to Cozumel, Mexico with some well-funded girlfriends from high school. I was going home to my parent’s new church in Newark, NY.
This particular Christmas, I recall my mother doing something that wasn’t normal. Looking back, that wasn’t really out of the norm. It was her norm. And this year, she was calling for all of us to make one present as well as buy one. It was to “make a memory.” I love that about Mom. So we did. Reluctantly. I don’t recall what else I got for Christmas that year, but I do remember Mom sending home a present for Micki and a present for the both of us to open.
Christmas went well as it usually does. We did our family traditions, opened presents, and enjoyed hanging out. I headed back for SAU a day before Micki was due. Her love for fish and sports found me purchasing a clear baseball aquarium with two goldfish. I had never had fish before, and read up on it. I was too cheap to buy distilled water in the gallon, so read that I could boil the water and wait for it to get to room temperature before I put the fish in. I boiled the water, and waited as long as I could. I thought the water temperature was cool enough, but immediately after I put the fish in the aquarium, they went belly up. Died instantly. Realizing the error of my ways, I went back to Meijer, bought the distilled water, and two more fish. I had the aquarium set up in her room. Along with an Etch-a-Sketch. She guessed the Etch, even though I had disguised the wrapping. Something I would soon learn was a pattern or “gift” in Mick’s life: guessing presents. She came back and loved the aquarium. I waited to tell her about the first crack.
Well, we exchanged gifts, and opened the ones from home. One of the first gifts Micki received from my family was a home made Christmas ornament. Made out of half of a Legs pantyhose egg, some red lace, a barely operational marker, and a ton of hot glue, we opened one of, if not the first Christmas ornament as a couple. It carried with it an inscription: “The World Is Yours.”
We stared at each other in disbelief. The world is yours? What did it mean? What was this message? Was she telling us that we could do anything? Why did she hot glue some stuff together and write this on the plastic? We had a good laugh, and I officially welcomed her into my special family.
Well, the years passed, and every Christmas we pull out that and some other “special” ornaments made by family. Most of the ones we love to remember were made by Mom. And every year we recall the story of “The World Is Yours” as we hang it on our tree. Mom didn’t remember giving us this ornament, or the message. But we have and continue to.
What a difference ten years makes. This October Micki and I celebrated our tenth anniversary. October 1994. Coming up on eleven years since we had received that special ornament. And as we walked into one of the creepiest hotel rooms in South Beach, we saw the words painted on the wall. You can probably guess the irony of the words. Needless to say, before we left to get a new hotel room, we took a picture…which by the way says a thousand words.
From Newark, NY to Spring Arbor, MI, to South Beach, FL over 11 years. Who says life isn’t cyclical? And doesn’t have a sense of irony?
I think as I write this, I have a different perspective. We make fun of the ornament. And what the heck she was thinking. But now as I look at it I remember that it has been on every tree we’ve had since we have been married. And despite its lack of polish or extensiveness of hot glue, it remains something that defines who our family was and who it is. Trying to do somethign special. Making a memory. Making an effort. I’ll bet every family has those kind of ornaments. The ones we put on the back side of the tree. But regardless of where they reside on the tree they live there. And they live there because someone thought to take the time to make it. With heart. And love. Which is really what this season should be about. A subtle and funny reminder for me to keep my focus this season on the things that matter. Even if it takes a hot glue gun to do it.