Irony, an update

Irony is a cruel teacher. A couple hours after I published yesterday’s post on Christmas tree tradition, I prepared to decorate this year’s tree. My husband stacked the containers of ornaments in the back hall, and as soon as I popped the lid of the top one, my heart sank. Mildew. I lifted the lid and slammed it closed a second later. Not ready to believe what I’d seen, I pushed it back out on the porch.

We knew we had a leak in the garage roof, so we’ve stored all our Christmas decorations in plastic bins under a tarp. The lid on this one was still closed tight, and there were no obvious cracks in it or the bin, yet somehow water had entered this one. Where I live, it rarely rains from April to October. We had our leaky garage reroofed in late summer, so for at least seven months fungus had been growing in the container. We sprayed half a can of Lysol before even attempting to look through things. All the boxes fell apart when touched. I attempted to wash off the glass ornaments, but they were so damaged the paint came off immediately. At least seventy purchased ornaments went into the trashcan.

I hated that waste, but that’s not what upset me. The largest box in the container—the one with the thickest growth—contained ALL the handmade ornaments from my children’s and grandchildren’s school days. The kind made mostly of paper and yarn, the most fragile and most loved. My favorite bulb from my own childhood was stored in that box, as were my beautiful hand-painted glass eggs and the tree topper we’d used for decades. And my last golden bird. Gone. Gone. Gone.

Only one thing was salvaged. One. A maroon glazed-clay disk engraved with a star, made by my son, Michael, is the lone survivor. With a new gold ribbon hanger, this one ornament will now represent all my family Christmas memories.

I cried.  Of course. But what’s done is done. I must let it go. During the process of dealing with the damage, not one writerly thought distracted me. But later, after the shock wore off, I started to analyze. I wondered at the coincidence of my writing about memories and tradition so soon before the loss of physical objects that embodied some of mine. Considering the sadness, near grief, I felt when I accepted the destruction of those personal treasures, I glimpsed how truly devastating it must be to suffer the loss of every personal item by fire or flood.

There’s a lesson for me in this event. For me, this year has been a progression of losses, some minor, some not. The pessimist in me prays I’m not being prepared for a greater loss soon. The optimist hopes this was only a reminder to value what’s most important, and let the lesser things go. Any thoughts?


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47 thoughts on “Irony, an update

  1. I can’t imagine how devastating that must have been for you, Linda.

    Yet we are all resilient. We lose, we cry, we pick up the pieces, and yet that time to grieve those loses are a necessity.

    Above it all, one survived. That must mean something. I choose to think it does.I’m convinced you will one day look at that solitary ornament and immediately know its meaning.

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  2. I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s always sad losing such precious sentimental items as ornaments.

    My mom sat down with me when I was 2 or 3 years old and we made Christmas ornaments out of walnuts. Over the years they have broken or fallen apart. I used to look every year to see what was left until I moved out of state. I’m not even sure if any still survive to this day. I am now on a missiopn to find them when I return home this holiday season.

    Again I’m so sorry for your loss.

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  3. Linda, I found your blog just recently through twitter (via Christi Craig and Victoria Flynn), and I’m so glad I did. I’m so sorry to hear about your Christmas ornaments, especially after that beautiful post you wrote about Christmas tree traditions.

    I’ve been collecting tree ornaments since I was a child, so I have some sense of how much they mean to you. You wrote in response to one of the comments that you’ve been “paring away and simplifying your life” these past few years; I would think those actions imbued your ornaments with even more meaning because they were things you chose to keep.

    I’m sure the pin prick will feel more like a big pang at times. I’m glad you were able to salvage the one; it is lovely.

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  4. I had a similar experience yesterday. My grandmother past in October of 2009. Yesterday would have been her 84th birthday.
    On Thanksgiving my Uncle gave my sister my Grandmother’s China, something her and I both worried would get lost in the shuffle of all our family.
    She went to New York the day after Thanksgiving and just yesterday opened the box of China. Broken, broken, BROKEN! My grandmothers china, handed down in our family for generations, broken!

    So sorry for your loss. I am glad you were able to salvage at least one treasure. Now would be a good time to start a new tradition with your sons and grandkids.

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